How do I upgrade from Jessie to Buster without reinstalling all my software?

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Thu Apr 18 15:55:47 UTC 2019

Tim here.  It depends on how far behind you are and what weird
things you've done.

If you're on Jessie, upgrading to Stretch should be pretty easy,
following the directions.  I think it goes something like

1) Make sure you're up to date

  # apt-get update
  # apt-get upgrade
  # apt-get dist-upgrade

2) backup your /etc/apt/sources.list file and modify it so that it
points at "stretch" instead of jessie

  # sed -i.bak '/jessie/{h;s/^/#/p;x;s/jessie/stretch/g}' /etc/apt/sources.list

(you can do this in your favorite text editor instead; the sed
command copies each line containing "jessie", commenting out the
original with a leading "#" and then changing "jessie" to "stretch")

3) update your package list and your distribution:

  # apt-get update
  # apt-get dist-upgrade

There's a more hand-holdy document at

in case you want the extra precautions.

If you're more than one release behind, you'll want to upgrade to
each intermediate release if possible.  I have one blasted machine
that fell so far behind that it's likely better to repave it with
Stable or Testing because of some expired-GPG-key issues.

Alternatively, if you've taken a recent backup of your data and you
trust it, you can take a snapshot of your currently-installed
packages, blow away the machine with a fresh install of
Current/Testing and then reinstall those packages:

  oldmachine$ dpkg --get-selections > packages.txt

then backup that packages.txt file, reinstall, then mark those
packages for installation:

  newmachine$ dpkg --set-selections < packages.txt

and install them:

  newmachine$ apt-get dselect-upgrade

The nice thing about this is that you can audit the packages.txt file
if you want and winnow out any you don't really care about (when I do
this I usually find some that I installed to try but never really
continued using, so I like to purge them out).  The apt-get will
install any missing dependencies that you might have nuked

Just a couple ideas,


On April 17, 2019, Linux for blind general discussion wrote:
> Hello.
> I have a lot of software. Reinstalling it would be a real pain. Can
> I upgrade to Stretch or Buster without doing that? How?
> Thanks,
> John
> -- 
> John J. Boyer
> Email: john.boyer at
> website:
> Status: Company dissolved but website and email addresses  live.
> Location: Madison, Wisconsin, USA
> Mission: developing assistive technology software and providing
> STEM services that are available at no cost
> _______________________________________________
> Blinux-list mailing list
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