Defining "update" and "upgrade" for Whonix wiki.

New definitions for update and upgrade are needed for the Whonix wiki.

When users are instructed to update their systems, this is the reason they are given.

All packages must stay up-to-date for security purposes.

1. Update the Package Lists

Check package lists on at least a daily basis and keep the host operating system updated

With the current documentation it might not be clear to some users:

  • What happens when I update?
    • What does it actually mean when I "Check the package lists"?
    • What am I downloading onto my system if anything?
  • What happens when I upgrade?
    • Are these newer versions of the same package or completely new packages.
    • Do these packages include security updates?
  • What is the difference between update and upgrade

While the answer to these question might be easy for some users. It may not be for others. These questions were asked on other forums and a large majority of those threads ended with someone posting this:

From the debian man pages


update is used to resynchronize the package index files from their sources. The indexes of available packages are fetched from the location(s) specified in /etc/apt/sources.list. For example, when using a Debian archive, this command retrieves and scans the Packages.gz files, so that information about new and updated packages is available. An update should always be performed before an upgrade or dist-upgrade. Please be aware that the overall progress meter will be incorrect as the size of the package files cannot be known in advance.


dist-upgrade in addition to performing the function of upgrade, also intelligently handles changing dependencies with new versions of packages; apt-get has a “smart” conflict resolution system, and it will attempt to upgrade the most important packages at the expense of less important ones if necessary. The dist-upgrade command may therefore remove some packages. The /etc/apt/sources.list file contains a list of locations from which to retrieve desired package files. See also apt_preferences(5) for a mechanism for overriding the general settings for individual packages.

Then everyone agrees that those are the correct definitions and the thread is marked as solved. But I wonder how many of those people actually understand what is written in those two man pages? I would guess not everyone.

The task at hand is to come up with better definitions. So lets try for:

  • Keeping these definitions short ( if possible )
  • Using synonyms. Same meaning but easier to understand?
  • Technically correct
  • Easy for less experienced users to understand
  • Anything else??

This is what I have. Can this be improved or do you have a different idea for definitions?


Updates the system packages list with information on new and updated packages that are currently available for download.

Upgrade: (dist-upgrade)

Installs the newest versions of the current packages installed on the system.

Upgrade: (upgrade)?

Should this be defined? Users also ask what the difference between dist-upgrade and upgrade.

Note: Moderators feel free to edit this post.

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What about “update Tor Browser”? Is it

  • Update Tor Browser
  • Upgrade Tor Browser


By the way Ubuntu has a do-release-upgrade tool.

do-release-upgrade - upgrade operating system to latest release

Debian also calls it release upgrade. (Chapter 4. Upgrades from Debian 10 (buster)) So we can safely introduce the terminology release upgrade as well for the Whonix 14 -15 upgrade.

No, I see little point in using apt-get upgrade since apt-get dist-upgrade works great for years.

Tor Project uses “Update” Tor Browser whether its a security “update” or manually updating to the latest release.

Tails refers to it as “Upgrading” the Tor Browser.

I think going with Tor Project is a safe bet. “Update Tor Browser”

This fit since Whonix is now a rolling release.

I’ll go ahead and add the definitions to the wiki unless there are any objections:

Update :

Updates the system packages list with information on new and updated packages that are currently available for download.

Upgrade: ( dist-upgrade )

Installs the newest versions of the current packages installed on the system.

Surprised @torjunkie hasn’t chimed in on this. :slight_smile:

I’ll also see if any wiki chapters use the term upgrade Tor Browser (incorrect)

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Oh I noticed, but long ago saw the two terms are used interchangeably over at Torland, Debianland, Whonixland etc. :slight_smile:

So I didn’t worry about it and happy you’re having a look.

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