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I have an old machine running Debian etch that I want to upgrade to lenny without reinstalling. How can I do this?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Debian project release fairly detailed upgrade instructions as part of the release notes for each release.

See Section 4 is what you are looking for. is the HTML-section-per-page version of i386 (use the previousl link to find the right version if you use a different architecture).

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To upgrade the Linux Debian Stable Etch to Lenny, just need to follow these two steps.

Edit sources.list

cp /etc/apt/sources.list /etc/apt/sources.list.backup

sudo vi /etc/apt/sources.list

and change all words etch to lenny, or stable to testing

Update and upgrade

sudo aptitude update

sudo aptitude install apt dpkg aptitude

sudo aptitude full-upgrade

that is all, this also work if you want to go from lenny to sid, just change your sources.list accordingly.

It is also better if you start your Debian Linux in text mode, so GDM or KDM could be restarted without problems.

Sources :

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I'm not very sure about this, but I think you have to be careful to check if there are any uncommented lines in sources.list that have "testing", "stable" instead of an actual ubuntu version. – nagul Aug 17 '09 at 15:22
@Joe: Debian Etch is old stable and Lenny is (now) stable. So your general idea is correct, but if you want to use keywords (stable, testing, unstable) instead of names (Etch, Lenny, Sid), then lenny = stable. Please fix that and I'll remove my downvote. – Telemachus Aug 18 '09 at 20:55
@Nagul: Debian is not Ubuntu, and Etch and Lenny are the names of Debian releases. There's nothing wrong with using the names "testing" or "stable", provided that you know what release is what. As Joe's post shows, however, there's a danger that you think something is testing when it's actually stable. – Telemachus Aug 18 '09 at 20:57
@Joe: Also, now that I notice it: most Debian installations do not have sudo enabled à la Ubuntu. So instead of doing sudo vim, you would normally get root privileges with su and then start your editor of choice - vim of course being the right choice. – Telemachus Aug 18 '09 at 21:01

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