How To Upgrade A Debian Etch System (Server & Desktop) To Debian Lenny

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme

This article shows how you can upgrade a system running Debian Etch to Debian Lenny. It is intended for both server and desktop systems.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

You should take a backup of your Debian Etch system (you can find some suitable tutorials for this in the Backup category), just in case something goes wrong (but the upgrade worked fine for me).


2 Install The Latest Etch Updates

Before we upgrade to Lenny, we install the latest updates for Etch.

Make sure that your /etc/apt/sources.list uses etch, not stable (because lenny is the new stable), e.g. as follows:

vi /etc/apt/sources.list 
deb etch main
deb-src etch main

deb etch/updates main contrib
deb-src etch/updates main contrib

Then install the updates as follows:

aptitude update
aptitude upgrade


3 Modify /etc/apt/sources.list To Use Lenny

After we have installed the latest Etch updates, we open /etc/apt/sources.list...

vi /etc/apt/sources.list

... and replace all etch references with lenny:

deb lenny main
deb-src lenny main

deb lenny/updates main contrib
deb-src lenny/updates main contrib

Then update the packages database:

aptitude update


4 Doing The Upgrade

Next we install the Lenny versions of dpkg, aptitude, and apt because their Etch versions are often unable to handle the upgrade to Lenny:

aptitude install dpkg aptitude apt  

Then we do a minimal system upgrade (because a full upgrade might cause some conflicts at this stage):

aptitude upgrade


If this is a desktop system, you should now check if the package libfam0c102 is installed:

dpkg -l libfam0c102 | grep ^ii

If it is, install its Lenny version now:

aptitude install libfam0


Afterwards, we can start the full distribution upgrade:

aptitude full-upgrade

(This command is the same as aptitude dist-upgrade.)

Afterwards, reboot the system:


After the reboot, check your new kernel:

uname -r

It should display Lenny's 2.6.26 kernel, e.g.:

server1:~# uname -r

And /etc/debian_version should now contain 5.0:

cat /etc/debian_version

server1:~# cat /etc/debian_version


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13 Comment(s)

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By: Pablo77

Hi Raymond

If you are using VMware to run Lenny I suggest editing your vmx config file of the virtual machine and change

scsi0.virtualDev = "lsilogic"


scsi0.virtualDev = "buslogic"


Reboot and enjoy!


By: Patrick

From the debian documentation:


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.

By: Anonymous

Works perfect for me, i do it trough ssh.

 Just a little worried after reboot, the machine takes 15 minutes to come back online but after that all works fine.


By: Anonymous

Etch to Lenny upgrade worked perfectly for me.

I used apt-get dist-upgrade, just use what you prefer.

By: Milos

I have upgraded without changing stable to etch.


#aptitude update
#aptitude upgrade

#aptitude dist-upgrade


Everything works fine.


By: Ilde Giron

Thank you to Debian's great developers for doing such a great job.
And of course, thanks a lot to Falko for this guide. It was concise and clear.
Best regards.


Just upgraded my ispconfig2 old trusty etch server. Worked like a dream! I don't seem to need to do any post-configuration (kept the customised config files). More tweaks may be needed, but mail and web services are back online within a half hour! Why do I choose to do these things on Friday afternoon. Thanks for giving me a weekend Falko!


On ISPconfig2 server after updating from etch to lenny, mail authentification gets broken:

postfix/smtpd[25111]: warning: SASL authentication failure: cannot connect to saslauthd server: Permission denied

to fix this,  add the postfix user to the sasl group

adduser postfix sasl

/etc/init.d/postfix restart
/etc/init.d/saslauthd restart


By: Anonymous

Thanks a million for this tip, I had to do an emergency upgrade from Etch to Lenny and was getting the SASL Authentication failured. This fixed it for me. to fix this, add the postfix user to the sasl group adduser postfix sasl /etc/init.d/postfix restart /etc/init.d/saslauthd restart

By: Guss

Why not apt-get dist-upgrade?

By: Raymond Pettersen

I followed this tutorial on a Debian Etch server. The lenny kernel would not boot the root filesystem afterwards. The boot procedure halted. However the older kernel still boots fine.

 I thought it was a grub issue, but the disk configurations look identical (dev/sda1)

By: blocker fan

Thanks for the hint blocker =).

By: Anonymous

I've followed the instructions given here and they seemd to work but after rebooting and checking #uname -r gives 2.6.24-etchnhalf.1-686 while #cat /etc/debian_version gives 5.0 ! So the kernel isn't uppgraded