Get access to packages from the Debian unstable branch

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Originally by TcT and edited by frontalot and Hans-Gran Puke from

Unstable Packages

It is often useful to have access to the Debian unstable branch because it has some interesting packages like PHP5 and rTorrent (a C++ Torrent client which is much less CPU intensive than the original bittorrent and also easier to use from console). Using the unstable packages saves you the time to compile these packages your self. The good thing is you don't have to change your whole installation to unstable you can simply use your stable or testing repository and just use the packages not in there from the unstable repository.

And it's easy

  • Edit or create the file /etc/apt/apt.conf and add those 2 lines:
APT::Default-Release "stable";

Note: If you upgraded your distro to "testing", you'll want to use "testing" instead of "stable" here.

  • Edit /etc/apt/sources.list and add the following lines:
deb unstable main
deb-src unstable main

you can find alternates closer to you on the web. For example those 2 lines:

deb unstable main contrib non-free
deb-src unstable main contrib non-free

are just as good!

  • Replace with any mirror you are using.
  • Run apt-get update to update the list of packages. Now you can access the unstable packages. If you want to install or use rTorrent just type:
apt-get -t unstable install rtorrent

If you wish to grab the "testing" version, use:

apt-get -t testing install rtorrent

Note: If you get an error like this later (after you added the repositories to your sources.list):

W: Couldn't stat source package list unstable/main Packages
(/var/lib/apt/lists/ - stat (2 No such file or directory)</pre>

it means that you need to add the following line to the /etc/apt/apt.conf:

APT::Cache-Limit 18582912;