Upgrade Sarge to Etch

Before upgrading your system, it is strongly recommended that you make a full backup, or at least back up any data or configuration information you can’t afford to lose. The upgrade tools and process are quite reliable, but a hardware failure in the middle of an upgrade could result in a severely damaged system

The main things you’ll want to back up are the contents of /etc, /var/lib/dpkg and the output of dpkg --get-selections “*” (the quotes are important).

The upgrade process itself does not modify anything in the /home directory. However, some applications (e.g. parts of the Mozilla suite, and the GNOME and KDE desktop environments) are known to overwrite existing user settings with new defaults when a new version of the application is first started by a user. As a precaution, you may want to make a backup of the hidden files and directories (“dotfiles”) in users’ home directories. This backup may help to restore or recreate the old settings. You may also want to inform users about this.

Any package installation operation must be run with superuser privileges, so either login as root or use su or sudo to gain the necessary access rights.

Unofficial sources and backports

If you have any non-Debian packages on your system, you should be aware that these may be removed during the upgrade because of conflicting dependencies. If these packages were installed by adding an extra package archive in your /etc/apt/sources.list, you should check if that archive also offers packages compiled for etch and change the source line accordingly at the same time as your source lines for Debian packages.

Adding APT sources

The default configuration is set up for installation from main Debian Internet servers, but you may wish to modify /etc/apt/sources.list to use other mirrors, preferably a mirror that is network-wise closest to you.

For example, suppose your closest Debian mirror is http://mirrors.kernel.org/debian/. When inspecting that mirror with a web browser or FTP program, you will notice that the main directories are organized like this:


To use this mirror with apt, you add this line to your sources.list file

deb http://mirrors.kernel.org/debian etch main contrib

Note that the `dists’ is added implicitly, and the arguments after the release name are used to expand the path into multiple directories.

After adding your new sources, disable the previously existing “deb” lines in sources.list by placing a hash sign (#) in front of them.

Upgrading packages

The recommended way to upgrade from previous Debian GNU/Linux releases is to use the package management tool aptitude. This program makes safer decisions about package installations than running apt-get directly.

Next you should double-check that the APT source entries (in /etc/apt/sources.list) refer either to “etch” or to “stable”. There should not be any sources entries pointing to sarge. Note: source lines for a CD-ROM will often refer to “unstable”; although this may be confusing, you should not change it.

Once you’ve updated your sources.list in /etc/apt you can upgrade from Sarge to Etch by running:

# apt-get update

# apt-get install aptitude

# aptitude -f --with-recommends dist-upgrade

Sponsored Link

17 thoughts on “Upgrade Sarge to Etch

  1. What about clamav – I have it now from volatile. What happens to clamav when I get it from etch?

  2. Hi Hasso,

    If you install it from third party source list it doesn’t upgrade and some of the applications will work and some of them doesn’t


  3. you have to check the volatile source list if they have any updates for etch otherwise definitely it will not update clamav

  4. dist-upgrading – the recommended way, with aptitude – broke my X, finally had to re-install from scratch.
    Very simple, indeed – maybe for a debian guru …

  5. Isn’t it better to point sources.list at “etch” instead of “testing”? After all, if you point to “testing”, you get an unexpected, unplanned upgrade when etch becomes stable…

  6. I have a 2.6.8 custom kernel. I do not use udev. Will I be ok to upgrade sarge to etch without having to update my kernel or go udev? Also do I need to upgrade aptitude first?

  7. @Sam

    If you are using Custom kernel you need to be very careful before upgrading take complete image backup and then do or if you have test system test first and then go for live.

    Hope this helps

  8. Upgrade went perfectly! Thanks.

    I also tried upgrading the kernet to 2.6, however,then the xircom pcmcia network card stopped work, so I will continue to use the 2.4 kernel.

  9. I did a dist-upgrade to testing from Sarge any my system got hosed. I did pretty much what you did and ended up with a spaghetti of unresolved dependencies. Finally re-installed but left my /home partition alone so most of my data was saved. However it is still a pain to install all the other apps I had from scratch. Also the now I seem to have problems in building various ruby gems for a Rails application because of gcc-4.1 – or rather because it is so strict many packages fail to compile. Still have a long ways to go to get it where it was with Sarge…which though was rock solid was so outdated that I had so many packages which needed to be updated. SO sort of a catch-22 situation.

  10. I did exactly that (dist-upgrade), and what I have now is a total mess. Aptitude says ” depends on x11-common but x11-common won’t be installed” etc.etc.etc. For example, sylpheed crashes instantly (I suspect it could be inconsistent glib/gtk or something like that).

    Now I plan to manually uninstall all the software except for the very base system and then install it incrementally. It’s just a pain. If I knew better, I would do a clean etch install as well, preserving my /home and /usr/local. *angry*

    What I cannot get, it is why the apt removed my old fonts I got used to? There can’t be any binary dependencies in fonts!

  11. undebugger: you can use apt on the command line to specify a solution! the ‘depends’ message is giving you a clue. you just have to give apt a little prodding in the right direction. refer oftenly to the apt-get manual page. also remember, going from sarge to etch you are upgrading X from the old XFree86 to Xorg, so it might be a little bumpy.

  12. I performed a remote upgrade from Sarge to Etch like you suggested on a lightly loaded server apache2 samba rsync and it worked OK. The only problem was at the ‘# apt-get install aptitude’ stage it removed the running kernel and didn’t replace it. Just check that you have a kernel installed before rebooting:)

  13. Tony, I got the warning about the running kernel image being removed. So I chickened out and ran ‘apt-get -f install’ without any packages first. That upgraded a couple of things, and then I could install aptitude without removing my kernel image. Safer, I thinK!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *