What are Backports
When Ubuntu releases a new version of its OS every 6 months, that release is largely frozen in time. While the software that is part of that release will get bug fixes and security patches, new major releases of software and the new features that come with them will not be available.
That’s where Ubuntu Backports comes in. Backports offers a way to selectively provide newer versions of software for older Ubuntu releases. Most commonly, the Backports team will provide new versions of standalone applications which can be safely updated without impacting the rest of the system.
Security Support for Backports
Unlike the packages released with Ubuntu, Backports do not come with any security support guarantee. The Ubuntu Security Team does not update packages in Backports. When a package which has been backported receives a security update, it is the responsibility of the person who requested and performed the backport for that package to maintain it with later patches for bug fixes and security updates.
Stability of Backports
When using Backports, it is important to understand that there is an inherent risk in backporting software. Although backported packages are tested by the community before they are included in the repository, there are very occasionally bad interactions with the older software on your system that are overlooked.
Additionally, the very nature of Backports means that backported packages will change the behavior of the package in ways that may be unfamiliar to users of the older versions, and may be incompatible with configuration format and other options of the older versions.
You must determine whether apt should automatically install packages from Backports, or only install packages from Backports when they are manually requested. The Ubuntu Backporters Team recommends the latter option, which is the default.
When Backports Are Installed
There are two primary configurations for when the Ubuntu package manager will install packages from Ubuntu Backports. By default, apt will only install packages from Ubuntu Backports when they are explicitly requested, however you can configure apt to always install packages from Ubuntu Backports.
Manually Installing Packages from Backports
By default, apt-get will not install packages from Backports; there are two ways to manually install packages from Backports, shown below.
Option 1: install the package from Backports, resolve its dependencies from other configured pockets (e.g. Release, Updates, Security).
To do that append /RELEASE-backports to the package name (replacing RELEASE with your release name, and PACKAGE with the package name to install). For example:
apt-get install PACKAGE/RELEASE-backports
Option 2: install both the package and its dependencies from Backports.
To do that specify -t RELEASE-backports option (replacing RELEASE with your release name, and PACKAGE with the package name to install). For example:
apt-get install -t RELEASE-backports PACKAGE
If you are unsure of your release name, you can check it with:
Automatically Installing Packages from Backports
If you want apt-get to always install packages from Backports if available, you can use the apt preferences configuration shown below. After adding that, you can simply install packages as you normally would. The dependencies of the packages being installed will be resolved from Backports.
As root, edit /etc/apt/preferences.
Add the following text (replacing RELEASE with your release name):
Package: * Pin: release a=RELEASE-backports Pin-Priority: 500
Requesting New Backports
If you would like to request a new backport, please see our documentation on the backport process.