Rolling Release Distributions: Advantages and Disadvantages

A reader has asked us here in FromLinux let's talk about the Distributions Rolling Release, what are its advantages and disadvantages, so here is this article to talk a little about the subject.

Imagine a rubber on a car that as it progresses, instead of wearing out, it improves and strengthens the rubber without having to be changed for any reason. Now let's replace the car rubber with a GNU / Linux distribution and rubber for its packages.

To understand a little what the Rolling Release, let's take as an example Ubuntu (which obviously does not have this feature). Ubuntu has a release of new versions every 6 months. This is what is called a distribution Point Release, where packages are released from time to time.

In that period of time, there is a marathon update of new packages for the later version, and therefore we can present three problems:

  • We have to change the repositories every 6 months.
  • Installing or updating on the version already installed can cause errors or present problems.
  • Packages from the previous version are quickly becoming outdated.

It is because of that it is always recommended to do a clean installation, from scratch, although generally the most affected are users with versionitis syndrome. So what makes a distro Rolling Release?

Let's take Archlinux as an example. A user installs Archlinux for the first time and you will not need to reinstall unless you have a very serious system problem. Once you install all the packages you need, as they are updated with new versions, you will only have to update them from the repositories, including system packages such as Kernel.

Summing up with a simple example. In Ubuntu if you use Gnome2 with Natty, you would have to install Oneric (the later version) to be able to use Gnome3. In Archlinux, if you installed it using Gnome2, just by updating (whenever available clear) you can install Gnome3 without reinstalling the system and that is what we call Rolling Release, that is, a distribution that releases software updates on the spot.


  • You will always have the latest packages available.
  • No need to reinstall Operating system to have the new packages.
  • If any package has a Bug, the faster it is corrected, the faster you can install it with the solution.


  • Having the latest software can present incompatible dependency problems or errors (although this is usually rare).
  • If the distribution does not release updates followed by the .iso installation, we would have to update a greater number of packages.

Example of distributions Rolling Release sound Gentoo, Arch, Kahel OS, Chakra, Sabayon, Foresight Linux. And some reader may wonder And LMDE not Rolling Release?

With LMDE a very curious thing happens. This distribution is based on Debian Testing that although it seems to have an effect Rolling, Actually, it is not. To understand this a bit, let's look at the sources.list line for Debian Testing:

deb wheezy main contrib non-free
deb testing main contrib non-free

Both currently work for the branch Testing de Debian. The problem is that, if we use the first one, when Wheezy become stable, we would no longer be using Testing. However, if we use the second, we will always be using the version Testing shift.

The effect of Rolling is Debian Testing for the simple fact that packages are updated every day, and whenever we use Testing we do not have to reinstall the system. But the difference is that, Debian Testing only update the latest packages that are added in the repositories of this branch, which do not necessarily have to be in the latest version released by its developer.

Let's take as an example again Gnome. In Debian Testing packets of Gnome 3.0 y Gnome 3.2, but separately, not the Desktop Environment full. Maybe if the Sid branch is used, the effect Rolling be a little better, but it is not recommended. But let's go back to LMDE which has new official repositories, and depending on the one we use, we will have the feeling that it is Rolling o no.

Anyway, I hope I have clarified a little on the subject. However, if you think I am missing something, or that I am in error, leave your comment 😀

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  1.   Courage said

    This is what is called a Point Release distribution

    Isn't it cycling release?

    If the distribution does not launch updates followed by the installation .iso, we would have to update a greater number of packages.

    Uff, this is a problem that you shit. One thing you can do while updating is take a walk with your girlfriend, or with KZKG ^ Gaara and he explains that Arch is the hell of a hahaha

    1.    jdgr00 said

      Point release, cycling release ... they are also called Frozen

      1.    elav <° Linux said


    2.    elav <° Linux said

      I know him as Point Release.

    3.    KZKG ^ Gaara said

      Yup ... that's a negative point, although in the end it doesn't make much sense, because as Rolling is the same, the ISO would be discontinued quickly 😉

    4.    moscosov said

      ... Uff, this is a problem that you shit. One thing you can do while updating is take a walk with your girlfriend, or with KZKG ^ Gaara and he explains that Arch is the hell of a hahaha

      hahahahahahahahaha I laughed at that…. Hahaha

  2.   jdgr00 said

    It is also important to say that generally the Rolling versions are not numbered ... for example Arch is only Arch, there is no Arch 10.04 or Arch 10.10 like Ubuntu ... ..but it is only generally, because for example Sabayon does have numbering (7 recently came out) but it is a rolling

    Good article

    Pure Life

    1.    elav <° Linux said

      Exact, although they can be numbered, just to define certain important cycles. But anyway, you're right.

    2.    KZKG ^ Gaara said

      Good clarification, I did not know this from Sabayon. Parable (based on Arch) also has no version, right? But ... not that Chakra Project does have?

      Greetings and thanks for your comments 😀

      1.    Courage said

        Chakra yes, but I understand that it is not rolling, it is half rolling

        1.    elav <° Linux said

          What difference does it make? It's Rolling 😛

        2.    truko22 said

          Courage is right it is half rolling, it is not rolling. The new versions first go through the unstable repo and then to testing.

      2.    jdgr00 said

        Chakra is rolling, the numbering that it has is snapshots, that is, of the most recent published image of the state in which the distro is in determining moment ...... at this moment it is the September version that is why Chakra says 2011.09 (edn name ). Anyway, Chakra tries to keep its .iso up-to-date, so in a fresh installation it doesn't have to update so much

        1.    KZKG ^ Gaara said

          Oh yeah, it's the same as its parent distro: Arch 🙂
          Thanks for the clarification 😉

  3.   Josh said

    Excellent article, dispels many of my concerns regarding these distributions; maybe later try your luck with arch.
    Greetings and thanks for this information, it is very useful for newbies like me.

    1.    KZKG ^ Gaara said

      Not at all, a pleasure to know that we help you.
      Greetings and welcome to our humble site 🙂

  4.   karlinux said

    I have been a user of Suse, Fedora, Opensuse, Mandrake, Mandriva, Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Mint, Gentoo,…. and ArchLinux, and from experience in distro rolling or whatever you want it to be called, I have not had any dependency problems, in fact I have had more problems updating from one Ubuntu series to another than in ArchLinux, where I am, for example. Unfortunately if Ubuntu did not release versions every 6 months, there would be no news about the new version, and it would not be so "POPULAR", and for the record I am not criticizing it, it is simply a way of promoting itself (pure marketing), I say it because in blogs only read, that if Oneiric is X days away, that if it has already been launched, that if it is in beta, well I think I explain myself, right?
    What is true is that they should, in my opinion, space the versions a bit apart, eg one and not two each year (that's my point of view).

    1.    KZKG ^ Gaara said

      Many say that because they are Rolling they are more unstable, but the truth is that MY experience has told me the opposite, I present much less instability with Arch than I had in Ubuntu, or in Debian when Testing was Squeeze.

      Yes, it's true, Ubuntu with its short development cycle always attracts a lot of attention, which actually doesn't bother me or like me ... come on, I don't care 🙂

      Oh by the way, WELCOME to our site 😀

      1.    karlinux said

        Thanks for the welcome and greetings

  5.   KZKG ^ Gaara said

    With this I hope that our reader (Jesus) is pleased 🙂
    By the way, if someone wants something specific to be discussed, they can tell us through our contact form:

    1.    Jesus said

      Thanks a lot ! This article helped me a lot.

      1.    elav <° Linux said

        Thanks to you for approaching and raising your questions. In all that we can, we will always help.

  6.   jose said

    Hi. Let me ask a question. Nice work with the blog.

    What DEBIAN Rolling Release distributions are there? I mean those tuned by some team, like Canonical.

    PS: and since we are ... and Fedora ?. A Debian 6 Testing would incorporate Gnome 3 already…. Would it be stable at least at the Ubuntu level? I am looking forward to launching Ubuntu because everything they are doing is aimed at Unity, and I do not buy it.

    1.    moscosov said

      Hi, if I'm wrong, the boys correct me but LMDE is something like a rolling Debian tune, the other thing that may interest you is Debian CUT, here is an article about the one written by the team of this blog


      1.    jdgr00 said

        yep… .LMDE is simply Debian Testing with the artwork of the Linux Mint developers… they take a debian Testing they put the mint-updater, the mint-menu, the gtk theme, the wallpaper and voila… .in short they just make it see more pretty, but they don't do anything really important to her. If you take your debian and put the same wallpaper and gtk theme you already have LMDE hehe but with the pride that it is pure Debian xD

    2.    jdgr00 said

      stable at the ubuntu level?

      Look, Ubuntu would be something like an alpha version compared to Debian's stability, that stability makes Debian one of the most used distros on servers.

      do you want to get rid of ubuntu? Excellent, I encourage you, you will not regret it ... I can almost guarantee you that you will not return to her

      1.    moscosov said

        I imagine you feel very macho for using "pure" debian ... pppffff

        1.    Jdgr00 said

          Oops ... you're part of the linux mint team ... sorry, I didn't imagine it ... but take it as constructive criticism for you and your teammates ...

          It was not my intention to hurt their susceptibilities

          a greeting

        2.    Jdgr00 said

          Ah I forgot ... I was not trying to distort your comment, but rather to confirm that it is a tuned version of debian. But giving my opinion that it is only tuned in aesthetics, not in functionality

          Again, sorry for the misunderstanding

  7. said

    Hi, I'm not part of the Linux Mint team, I just dislike fan boy comments.

    No problem.


  8.   kik1n said

    Wow from what I see Everything here uses Arch, GEnial
    I also use Arch, the best in Distros. I have also gone through several distros, U, F, Man, D, OpnS, etc.
    In rolling Release, Arch. Ha since it's the only one I've ever used
    Circle Release OpenSuse and Fedora are great

    1.    KZKG ^ Gaara <° Linux said

      YEAH !!!, there are many of us who use Arch ... haha, here many of us have good taste 😉
      Welcome to our site, we hope that our content is to your liking 😉

      Greetings and once again, welcome 😀

    2.    elav <° Linux said

      Nope, not all of us use Arch ¬¬

      1.    Courage said

        Sure, the exception that proves the rule

      2.    Angel_Le_Blanc said

        hehe, now if you use Arch, although in those days elav used Debian.

  9.   Eduar2 said

    Ah, how much time you have to invest to update it, first in the point release / cycling release you have to download the iso from the cd / dvd. then during the installation they ask you to download some megabytes of files.

    Then in the RR it is only installed once, therefore the great update at the beginning, is not repeated unless you reinstall, and if you have to reinstall it is because you started experimenting and screwed up something and you can't or there is no way to throw it away. behind. Years can go by without having to reinstall, while the point release / cycling release you have to be downloading the isos every 6, 8 or 12 months and if you upgrade, otherwise it gives you errors (generally it does not matter) you still have to download a lot of updates, which with RRs you download little by little. in other words, that "disadvantage" itself is not and in most RR you can get more recent images of the isos.

    Hoygan que buelbe centpre la vurra al wheat with these items.

    1.    Courage said

      What a pity that you have made that phrase bet on hoygan ¬¬

  10.   Daniel said

    A question that occurs to me, I was reading the specifications of sabayon 8 and it says something about extreme-rolling-release, what does that concept mean? thanks in advance but I'm curious, by the way, great page, I love it

  11.   edrp96 said

    The explanation was quite complete, it took me out of all doubt.

  12.   truko22 (@ truko222) said
  13.   Erman said

    I use Jagger edition, a well rolling… rolling stone distro. 🙂

  14.   Ramon said

    Like many of you, I have been through several distros since my beginnings in Linux, and since I discovered "Chakra Linux", I am delighted with this distro, the stability is impressive, I have not had problems in any of the 3 machines in which the I have installed, 100% effective hardware detection (goodbye to my problems with my Broadcom 43xx), continuous updates, etc ...
    In addition, the Bundles system allows you to have any GTK application and CCRs, many of those that are not in the official repositories. Also the new art-work «Dharma» is impressive !!!
    Possibly tomorrow, with more experience (and more courage, why not say it) I dare with Arch, but for now I am staying with Chakra.

  15.   Ariel said

    I use ManjaroLinux, based on arch (that is, I'm just starting to test it) sincerely, I loved it, very fast, easy and above all updatable.
    +100 for the item.

    Thank you!

    1.    yoshy said

      hey I wanted to know how it went with the Manjaro. I really want to change linux 12, not for anything special because my first distro ... as you can see, I am a chicken in this Linux business and I am just getting the hang of it.

      I have read good things about Manjaro and Linux Mint, so I would like your opinion on stability, compatibility with programs and the like

      There is also a Software Center in Ubuntu that has been sooo very useful and I would like to know if there is it in all the distros

      thanks for your attention

  16.   CANDY said

    I find the inconvenience of errors in dependencies when updating new packages is strong, I don't know if they are not tested correctly before releasing them or the quality control is low. I differ in that "it tends to be weird", we found in the Arch and Manjaro forums a lot of posts about it. I jump more with Manjaro that advertises the ease of use, but when you have a dependency problem and you are not a user who is interested in getting into the system thoroughly, the easiest thing is to reinstall.
    I find the Ubuntu development model more consistent and stable, and see that if I don't like any distro, it is precisely orange.

    I do not see the sense of RR at this time, it is not mature enough or maybe I am the problem.

  17.   Francisco said

    friend I think the article was hacked:

    I take advantage and ask you, for a long time I have been using linux mint 14, but I have a bug that I cannot solve, so I am thinking of moving to a rolling release, my fear is possible problems with my hardware and / or peripherals

    I appreciate your comments

  18.   RPMDEB said


    There are quite a few, example PCLinuxOS

  19.   darkar said

    good post