How safe are Testing / Unstable branches in practice, can branches be switched on demand?

After learning of a decision to skip the Plasma 5.25 release which may leave Manjaro stranded on 5.24 for months, I’m constrained for the first time to consider switching to the Unstable branch. It’s something I’m nervous about since as the name implies it’s unstable, I can’t afford taking massive risks with my system. I have a few essential question I’d like to ask about the process and what to expect.

The most obvious question is how stable are Testing and Unstable in practice. They’re less safe than the tested branch obviously, but what problems do people actually experience and how bad are they? Does Unstable at least tend to guarantee your machine will boot, it won’t be to a black screen, sound and other devices are still detected, and generally you can run stuff without something horrifying suddenly happening after an upgrade? If you’re an user let me know the most common issues you typically experience.

Something else I wish to understand: Is it easy to safely switch back and forth between Stable Testing and Unstable, without issues being caused by stuff like downgrading when going from Unstable back to Stable? In the event that something in Unstable leaves me with a non-booting system, is it as easy as using a recovery console (if I get past GRUB) or booting the ISO and chroot-ing into the install then using pacman to move back to Stable like nothing happened?

Something I’ve been thinking of doing in my scenario: I’d temporarily switch to Unstable, do a “pacman -Syu” to update the system to it, then switch back to Stable with package downgrading disabled: Would this allow me keep newer versions of packages till each one slowly reaches stable over the coming months? Only issue I see here is library incompatibilities: Some packages would expect dependencies versioned in the past / future which could cause serious breakage, thus I’ll probably go for fully switching between branches.

While I dont know if its safe to switch to testing and Unstable, my advice is to use timeshift or some other backup/restore software to create a backup before doing so. Then create backups frequently. That way if you find it isnt for you, restoring your system to before switching or after a bad upgrade is relatively easy.


I use both testing and unstable on two main installs and regarding KDE Plasma this is the only thing i encountered as an issue in 2 years or so:

Other than that there is nothing to break any workflow, just minor functionality differences.


Thank you, that’s encouraging to hear! I’ll probably make the change then.

Funny thing: I was on openSUSE before switching to Manjaro an year or more ago. At some point I made the switch from the stable Leap to the rolling release Tumbleweed which has the latest versions of everything updated daily. I was concerned I put myself in a bad spot, yet in years of using it I don’t believe I ever had issues that didn’t happen in the stable version too. I did get scary occurrences like the boot loader breaking once, but that happened even when upgrading between stable releases.

You just answered your own question. :wink:

Each distro is different, though apart from packaging and the testing procedure the rules tend to be similar. I know Arch goes for even more cutting edge than openSUSE Tumbleweed, but it’s a solid distro with experience so I know it wouldn’t blindly compile snapshots if things didn’t work at all.

For now I’m trying Unstable in a Virtualbox install: Switching is definitely super easy and I don’t see any obvious problems! If all goes well for a few days at least I might do it on main as well.

What is in 5.25 that is important to you? Twice I have gone a year with out upgrades, once with Chakra when it stopped being developed and then Kubuntu LTS which by design is slow to update. When I did update there were some new things but the reality, not a lot of changes. My spreadsheets, web surfing etc never suffered. On the other hand I ran Sidux which constantly required me to fix various things. I learned a lot, but frankly I just don’t want to spend that much time fixing my computer when I could be doing work. So again think why you need the latest and greatest.

Mostly interested in the new accent color features which make everything look very beautiful… or at least will once the bugs are ironed out. Also the floating panel that’s an exciting new visual feature.

Other than that I constantly hope each KDE release may finally fix monitor standby not working with many monitors (screen immediately wakes up after going to sleep) which has been a problem for years now that still couldn’t get resolved. It’s an issue on both X11 and Wayland but on WL it doesn’t work even with KScreen2 disabled so I’ve been stuck on X mainly for that reason.

Speaking of Wayland and monitors, it also says you can now pick officially unsupported screen resolutions. My monitor supports 1080p @144 Hz on both DisplayPort and HDMI, but on HDMI the driver caps it to 120 Hz by default: On X11 you need to use a custom modeset command but on WL there’s been no solution yet, was curious to see if this may provide one.

I know I said in my first post to this thread that I didnt know if its safe to switch to testing and Unstable. But I feel that I can add something at this point. There is something to be said for stability. I have been running linux for 17 years. In the past I tried arch, multiple times. Each time I would have a major bug that fubared the OS before 6 months were finished. I was constantly fixing bugs, so much that I did little else. Manjaro stable finally has been working longer than any Arch install I have ever done. My advice is that if there is a possibility of running Testing instead of Unstable, pick Testing. You will still get newer packages, but also an extra layer of stability to avoid OS stopping bugs. You may also avoid fixing bugs more than using your computer for work or fun.

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Yeah, that’s what I’ve been concerned about. When was the last time you tried Unstable, and what were the worst issues you remember running into with it?

Testing isn’t an option for what I want: Plasma 5.25 isn’t there either, only in Unstable. I’m testing Unstable in VirtualBox and at a first glance it’s working perfectly, but you never know when things break.

I’m also running on the idea that if something bad happens I can just log in from a recovery console and revert to Stable if Pacman doesn’t get broken: I’ll test that too in BVox tomorrow just to see it in action, after that I think I should be set. I should also start setting up Timeshift to actually take snapshots.

If nothing breaks for some time, I may just go ahead and stay on Unstable forever. Albeit something tells me I’ll inevitably regret that decision someday when I least expect it :stuck_out_tongue:

I have never ran Manjaro unstable, but I have ran Arch 5 times in the past. Arch = Manjaro unstable since one is imported into the other. While its been a few years since I ran Arch, no Arch install lasted for more than 6 months before an update rendered the OS unusable. I was also constantly fixing bugs to the point that was pretty much all I had time for.
That may not happen to you. You may not have the same issues. Also if you religiously make backups you may avoid the updates that make the OS unusable, and weekly backups are available. But if you find its more of a problem than its worth, if you make a timeshift backup before switching, you can always go back.


This is not true. Manjaro unstable is more likely to break, since it uses some own/custom packages. But this will (usually) be stated in unstable announcements.

Then you were clearly doing something wrong, again and again. If some manual intervention is needed, they (arch) also have it in their announcement.

I have more “bugs” on a laptop with manjaro installed than on arch - but I’m not blaming either one. It might very well be hardware’s fault or whatever (I’m looking at you QCA9377, you stupid chip :smiley:).

Anyway, I wouldn’t say you need to “constantly fix bugs” for any OS/distro. If you do, then you need to take a step back and reevaluate your own actions. (or ditch some hardware)

As for the original question, for OP: As long as you have backups, some live iso ready, and a bit of common sense, then you have nothing to fear. 99% of “catastrophic” problems are reversible anyway, you just need to be calm and not do anything stupid.

And if you are in that other 1%, well… you have backups right? :stuck_out_tongue:

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I was forced from the very stable Testing branch to Unstable which seems perfectly stable to get the PLasma 5.25.2 update that should of dropped to Testing already. Other than a minor issue yesterday that resolved itself I’m really liking the Unstable branch.

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In my opinion Manjaro unstable works great - been using it for my LInux journey - but if you are the type that experiments with themes and what not - be prepared - The more you tinker - the bigger the likelihood of need to ‘fix’ something.

Creating an Arch system from ground requires knowledge of which packages you need and doing so a long step towards stability and no need for ‘fixing’

I have been on a long interesting journey for the past 6-7 years - one of the lessons I have learned is - stay as close to upstream as possible - tinkering and tweaking and trying this theme and that theme - is eventually going to bring trouble to your doorstep.

Unstable is not Arch - but is as close to Arch you will get on Manjaro.

All Arch derivatives suffers from the news interest - like wasps is attracted to sugar in September.

And then comes all the issues - you can just check the other popular versions - Garuda and EndeavorOS - the forum has almost the same issues as Manjaro.

  • my graphics don’t work after update
  • display manager doesn’t start after update
  • black screen after update

And many of those getting the issues ask in the forum - not always polite - some times even hostile - like a sum of money had been exchange in turn of service - but in fact when you tinker and tweak you get issues over time - perhaps - and even likely with Gnome and Plasma - an extension or global theme which is not up-to-date with latest upstream tend to cause issues - some times even irreparable.


This is so true. And it’s also one of the hardest things for a beginner to avoid. I mean look at all that candy. :stuck_out_tongue:

I started out using stable and switched to testing then to unstable and haven’t had to reinstall Manjaro on this computer in almost 3 years .I don’t do as much as some do other than I use virtualbox and samba for file sharing .I also do a lot of web browsing and I do pay attention here in the forum if there’s a major update that causes issues but I really haven’t had any.For my part unstable has been a very solid system.

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Thanks again everyone. One thing I realize I haven’t asked explicitly: I understand even Unstable snapshots undergo some minimal automated testing before being published, is that correct? As in the compiler at least checks that “okay… I get past GRUB2, the login screen shows up, a login can be preformed and you reach your DE, there’s video on the screen and audio devices are detected”. A non-booting system due to GRUB breakage or bad firmware is my only real fear: If a GUI element is a few pixels off or a menu entry renders twice in a row that’s definitely something I can wait on for a few days.

I also just discovered Matray which wasn’t there when I installed Manjaro but seems to come preinstalled now. At first it seemed like overkill, but especially on Unstable it will be useful to have that in the tray so I can read any news on upcoming snapshots.

There is no automated testing you envision on any branch. :stuck_out_tongue: Even if it was, what help would that be to a million of custom systems with specific packages and specific settings?

Neither on Arch or Manjaro? It would at least catch generic boot issues that aren’t driver dependent.

Not sure what those are. :stuck_out_tongue:

Someone probably tested new grub code before it was released. And then some people got it in arch testing. And when their PCs booted then all the others got it, including manjaro. And then you come into play. Now you will test it for others. And so on and so forth until it lands in some LTS distro down the line. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, it’s kind of human-automated. :smiley: