Kali Branches

What is a branch?

A branch is an alternative version of some software, in this case of the Kali OS. Kali Linux has multiple branches which allows for users to decide how up to date their packages will be. Kali Linux is similar to Debian in many regards, one of which is the use of branches.

You may have multiple branches enabled at once. However, switching branches may introduce problems, as packages may be at different versions, and unavailiable or unstable in certain cases.

Please see the network sources page for how to switch branches. For an example of how to use multiple branches, please see our NVIDIA GPU Drivers guide.

Kali branches

First are the main branches, which are the most frequently used, and the most stable. These are often seen as “safe”.

  • kali-rolling is the main default branch that most should be using. It is being continuously updated, as it pulls from kali-dev after ensuring questionable packages are stable and combining them with packages from kali-rolling-only. From time to time, a package bug may slip into here, due to bugs in debian-testing.
  • kali-last-snapshot is a branch of Kali that can be used if users want a more standard feeling of software control. For every new release, we freeze the code and merge kali-rolling into kali-last-snapshot, at which point users will get all of the updates between versioned releases (i.e. 2019.3 -> 2019.4). This often is more stable, as packages are not updated (until the next release as it’s a “Point Release”) and go thought our release testing. This is the “safest” option.

Next are those that you will likely not need except in very special cases:

  • kali-experimental is a staging area for work-in-progress packages.
  • kali-bleeding-edge contains packages that are automatically updated from the upstream git repositories. This branch has the potential to be very unstable.

Development

  • kali-dev is the development version of Kali. It is created by combining three other branches: kali-dev-only, kali-debian-picks and debian-testing. Its mainly used for merging Debian’s updates with the changes maintained by Kali.
  • kali-dev-only is the development distribution with Kali-specific packages. This branch is auto-merged into kali-dev.
  • kali-rolling-only is a repository for packages that need to quickly reach kali-rolling.

Branches used to assist with other branches

  • kali-debian-picks contains packages cherry-picked from debian-experimental and debian-unstable. It is auto-merged into kali-dev.
  • debian-testing is a mirror of Debian’s testing distribution. This is used to build kali-dev.
  • debian-experimental and debian-unstable are partial mirrors for specific packages that we want to cherry-pick.

Mapping

Below is a diagram showing the relationship between the branches.

debian-experimental -> debian-unstable -> debian-testing -> kali-dev -> kali-rolling -> kali-last-snapshot
      |                      |                              ^   ^         ^       |
      v                      v                              |   |         |       v
      ---------------------------------> kali-debian-picks -|   |         |       --> kali-bleeding-edge
                                                                |         |                  ^
kali-experimental -> kali-dev-only -----------------------------|         |                  |
                                                                          |               Upstream
kali-rolling-only --------------------------------------------------------|

Debian’s Relation

Debian has three main options:

Stable is the “safe” Debian branch. Around every two months, it is updated with a “Point Release”, which is often just security updates. Packages don’t generally get a version upgrade during this time, due to potential incompatibility and thus instability. This is the Debian equivalent of kali-last-snapshot.

Testing is the closest thing there is to a Debian “rolling” distribution, where “rolling” means that as soon as a package update is available, it’s pushed out. Kali has used this branch as a starter for kali-rolling since January 2016.

Unstable is just after Debian’s package development happens. The packages have been created, but not fully tested. Kali doesn’t have an equivalent, as it is a rolling distribution.

For more information about how Kali relates to Debian, please see our policy page on the matter.