How to Upgrade to Gnome 40 on Debian 11 Bullseye

Many Debian 11 users know that Gnome 38 is the default version of the codename Bullseye operating system. However, as much hype has been built around the new Gnome 40 desktop, many would be looking for an opportunity to install and test or permanently use the most recent on offer from Gnome.

Gnome 40 introduces many changes from visual changes, new apps, and overhaul back-end changes to improve performance. Overall, it is vastly different from what previous Gnome versions have looked before.

In the following tutorial, you will learn how to install the new Gnome desktop on your Debian 11 Bullseye operating system.


It is recommended to install GNOME 41 on Debian 11, and this can be achieved by visiting our tutorial on how to Install GNOME 41 on Debian 11.


  • Recommended OS: Debian 11 Bullseye
  • User account: A user account with sudo or root access.

Updating Operating System

First, before anything, update your Debian operating system to make sure all existing packages are up to date:

sudo apt update && sudo apt full-upgrade -y

Upgrade to Debian 11

Check out our tutorial if you are still on Debian 10 and want to upgrade to Debian 11 to install Gnome 40.

Upgrading Gnome 40 on Debian 11

To install the latest version of Gnome on your Debian 11 operating system, you will need to enable experimental support. This is a straightforward process, and once done, you can install the latest version that Gnome has to offer.

Enable Experimental Repository

First, open up your terminal (CTRL+ALT+T), then you need to enable the experimental repository in sources.list as follows:

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

You may need to use the su command to access root if you have not set up sudoers.


Now inside the sources.list file, add the following line:

deb experimental main

Now save the file (CTRL+O), then exit (CTRL+X).

Lastly, update your repository list:

sudo apt update

Now proceed to the installation part of the tutorial once complete.

Upgrade Gnome 40 & Dependencies

Now that you have the correct source to install the latest Gnome desktop, use the following command in your terminal to start the installation:

sudo apt -t experimental install gnome-session gnome-shell gnome-backgrounds gnome-applets gnome-control-center mutter gjs

As you can see, the command uses -t experimental to install the latest Gnome software from the experimental repository you added.

Once the Gnome Session manager has completed installing, reboot your Debian 11 operating system:

sudo reboot

Once you log back on, confirm the upgrade has been successful by typing the following command in your terminal:

gnome-shell --version

Example output:

GNOME Shell 40.2

Congratulations, you have upgraded to the latest Gnome 40 build.

How to Future Update Gnome 40

To update Gnome, all you need to do is run your normal apt update command as below:

sudo apt update

As you have installed Gnome from the experimental repository, any new updates to it will be picked up along with any other updates to your standard system packages. If updates are available, use the normal upgrade command:

sudo apt upgrade

Comments and Conclusion

In the tutorial, you have learned about Debian’s experimental repository, installing it, and pulling the latest Gnome desktop. Overall, Gnome 40 will look very different once you change from the default 38 in Debian 11 to 40. Some of the noticeable changes are rounded window corners, smoother animations which give it a more modern look amongst many other changes.

For more information about the new features, visit the official Gnome 40 release page.


Like to get automatic updates? Follow us on one of our social media accounts!