I want to update my sources.list file with the fastest server from the command line in a fresh Ubuntu Server install. I know this is trivially easy with the GUI, but there doesn't seem to be a simple way to do it from from the command line?

  • 3
    In regular expressions, the . character means any character. If you want it to match a ., you need to escape it with \, so us.archive[..] should be us\.archive[..] – Egil May 4 '11 at 7:13
  • Related: askubuntu.com/questions/37753/… – Jorge Castro Apr 6 '12 at 19:13
  • 2
    In my case I had to replace the # signs with slashes (/). Otherwise I got sed: -e expression #1, char 53: unterminated s' command`. – Ethan Leroy Oct 18 '13 at 21:18
  • @EthanLeroy same here with Ubuntu 12.04.3 – logoff Jan 10 '14 at 11:44
  • Should be slash not hash. – Matt H May 19 '14 at 22:20

12 Answers 12

up vote 20 down vote accepted
Pakket netselect-apt

    dapper (net): Choose the fastest Debian mirror with netselect 
    [universe]
    0.3.ds1-5: all
    hardy (net): Choose the fastest Debian mirror with netselect 
    [universe]
    0.3.ds1-11: all
Pakket apt-spy

    dapper (admin): writes a sources.list file based on bandwidth tests 
    [universe]
    3.1-14: amd64 i386 powerpc

Not included in newer Ubuntu due to secturity issues it seems: see: Bug report

But .. I normally just use ping to find out the speed of a connection to some location. Amount of hops and latency.

  • 3
    netselect-apt doesn't seem to be available in Ubuntu 12.04 – offby1 Nov 6 '13 at 23:22
  • correct: see here bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/netselect/+bug/337377 – Rinzwind Nov 7 '13 at 7:41
  • 7
    This is not the most upvoted, or the best answer any more, check next one – ntg Jun 10 '15 at 7:54
  • Which answer is the "next one" might have changed. – gmatht Jan 24 '17 at 4:46
  • apt-spy is gone at debian 9, but netselect-apt is OK – netawater Nov 21 '17 at 16:05

You don't have to do any searching anymore - as ajmitch has explained, you can use deb mirror to have the best mirror picked for you automatically.

apt-get now supports a 'mirror' method that will automatically select a good mirror based on your location. Putting:

deb mirror://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt precise main restricted universe multiverse
deb mirror://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt precise-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb mirror://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt precise-backports main restricted universe multiverse
deb mirror://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt precise-security main restricted universe multiverse

on the top in your /etc/apt/sources.list file should be all that is needed to make it automatically pick a mirror for you based on your geographical location.

Lucid (10.04), Maverick (10.10), Natty (11.04), and Oneiric (11.10) users can replace precise with the appropriate name.

  • Great tip. Just note that after making the change you need to run sudo apt-get update before doing any apt-get install for it to use your closest mirror. – Simon East Jun 29 '13 at 17:03
  • 2
    Related: askubuntu.com/q/319433/11244 – Till Jul 18 '13 at 15:45
  • 22
    Nice tip, but unhelpful in my case. It works on geolocation, giving me the local server, which is waaaayy slower where I am. The network temporal distance is the important factor here, not spatial distance. – jarondl Jul 31 '13 at 8:24
  • in fact, for example here in Italy this way put in use a mirror that has slow downloading... – Pisu Jul 15 '15 at 7:11
  • 1
    currently broken: bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/apt/+bug/1613184 – marathon Aug 31 '17 at 18:34

Here's one way that will always work, using good old netselect and some grep magic:

The terminal-addict's "find best server" hack!

  • Download and dpkg -i netselect for your architecture from the Debian website. (it's about 125 KB, no dependencies)
  • Find the fastest Ubuntu mirrors from your location, either up-to-date or at most six hours behind with this (I'll explain it below, sorry it doesn't split up nicely in Markdown)

    sudo netselect -v -s10 -t20 `wget -q -O- https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+archivemirrors | grep -P -B8 "statusUP|statusSIX" | grep -o -P "(f|ht)tp://[^\"]*"`
    
  • netselect:

    1. -v makes it a little verbose -- you want to see progress dots and messages telling you different mirrors mapping to the same IP were merged :)
    2. -sN controls how many mirrors you want at the end (e.g. top 10 mirrors)
    3. -tN is how long each mirror is speed-tested (default is 10; the higher the number, the longer it takes but the more reliable the results.)
  • This is the backquotes stuff (don't paste, just for explanation)

    wget -q -O- https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+archivemirrors
    | grep -P -B8 "status(UP|SIX)" 
    | grep -o -P "(f|ht)tp://[^\"]*" 
    
    1. wget pulls the latest mirror status from https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+archivemirrors.
    2. The first grep extracts mirrors that are up-to-date or six-hours behind, along with 8 lines of previous context which includes the actual ftp/http URLs
    3. The second grep extracts these ftp/http URLs
  • Here's a sample output from California, USA:

    60 ftp://mirrors.se.eu.kernel.org/ubuntu/
    70 http://ubuntu.alex-vichev.info/
    77 http://ftp.citylink.co.nz/ubuntu/
    279 http://ubuntu.mirrors.tds.net/pub/ubuntu/
    294 http://mirror.umd.edu/ubuntu/
    332 http://mirrors.rit.edu/ubuntu/
    364 ftp://pf.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/
    378 http://mirror.csclub.uwaterloo.ca/ubuntu/
    399 ftp://ubuntu.mirror.frontiernet.net/ubuntu/
    455 http://ubuntu.mirror.root.lu/ubuntu/
    
    • The "ranks" are an arbitrary metric; lower is usually better.
    • If you're wondering why the kernel.org Sweden-EU mirror and an NZ mirror are in the top three from California, well, so am I ;-) The truth is that netselect doesn't always choose the most appropriate URL to display when multiple mirrors map to a single IP; number 3 is also known as nz.archive.ubuntu.com!
  • 8
    netselect picks mirrors that have low udp or icmp latency. It doesn't necessarily pick mirrors that can give more bandwidth. – Tobu Oct 13 '13 at 19:40
  • @pix I approved your edit, but it's not command substitution that results in newlines being replaced. It's the subsequent field splitting that removed the newlines. Command substitution only removes trailing newlines. – muru Feb 21 '17 at 9:23
  • @muru thanks, I just learned something :) – pix Feb 22 '17 at 3:17

Oneliner that select best (by download speed) mirror based on mirrors.ubuntu.com for yours ip.

curl -s http://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt | xargs -n1 -I {} sh -c 'echo `curl -r 0-102400 -s -w %{speed_download} -o /dev/null {}/ls-lR.gz` {}' |sort -g -r |head -1| awk '{ print $2  }'
  • 2
    To have more options replace at the end: sort -gr | head -3. – Pablo Bianchi Mar 4 '17 at 1:55
  • 1
    Currently, curl -s http://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt returns only one line: http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ which defeats the purpose of choosing among several. :-/ – Stéphane Gourichon Jun 26 '17 at 13:35
  • yes, so this method is NG. – netawater Nov 18 '17 at 4:58
  • I found the curl part of this answer helpful because curl -r 0-102400 -o /dev/null [server_url]/ls-lR.gz where [server_url] is the base mirror URL listed in mirrors.txt, allows a speed comparison of the first ~100K of the index file from the mirror. – jamesc Mar 12 at 12:57
  • This tests transfer speed, which is definitely an improvement over netselect. It's only downloading 10k from each server, which may not be a great representation of steady transfer speed on faster connections, though. Increase that 102400 to test with a larger download – Phil Miller Jun 8 at 21:41

Here is a Python script I wrote that finds mirrors with the lowest TCP latency.

The script also provides bandwidth and status data taken from launchpad, and will generate a new sources.list file automatically or using a mirror chosen from a list.

A usage example that lets you choose from 5 US mirrors with the lowest latency to your machine:

$ apt-select --country US -t 5 --choose
  • 3
    I want to let you know that I've made a debian package with your script that is ready to be used in a very easy and straightforward way: github.com/brodock/apt-select/releases/tag/0.1.0 – Gabriel Mazetto Nov 3 '15 at 4:25
  • this is a perfect solution, as I've tried the other methods. to make noob friendly, I've written a post detailing this method:. blog.kmonsoor.com/… – kmonsoor Oct 11 '16 at 19:14
  • This is great, since netselect isn't available in newer versions of Ubuntu – Tek Feb 18 at 7:23
  • Please show how to use it in your post – Jonathan Oct 31 at 6:21
  • @Jonathan done. Full usage is in the README at the first link. – John B Nov 1 at 0:07

I developed a simple ping-based nodejs script that tests the servers listed on mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt and returns the fastest one:

sudo npm install -g ffum
ffum

Please let me know if you find it useful or have any suggestions (=

  • ffum does not work: Connection error. – James Fu Jul 10 '13 at 8:48
  • It doesn't work: Empty output. – Juan Simón Aug 27 '13 at 1:06
  • git clone the repo and run node ffum – Michael Aug 7 '14 at 3:58
  • Awesome, works for me! I had a bug where it was looking for node instead of nodejs... also would be cool to have some verbose of each tested archive speed. – tweak2 Aug 27 '14 at 16:57

I know this doesn't directly answer the OP's question, but there's a button in the desktop/GUI version of Ubuntu that finds the best mirror for you. It seemed to work pretty well, so I looked into it briefly, but didn't have time to follow up.

The reason I bring it up is because I think it would be pretty straight forward and usable to make it into a command line utility.

If anyone is interested, the test seems to be located in:

/usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/softwareproperties/MirrorTest.py

Again, that's about as far as I got, but I figured I'd leave this here in case anyone wanted it. I'll probably pick back up on it when I have a little more time.

  • On 18.04, this script detects when it is invoked as an application (as main) from a terminal....and just prints its results to the terminal. Make sure to give it enough time to complete. $ python3 /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/softwareproperties/MirrorTest.py >> [top 5 omitted] and the winner is: ny-mirrors.evowise.com – PatKilg Jun 9 at 18:07

I use the following to auto select mirrors (and disable deb-src)

sudo sed -i -e 's%http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu%mirror://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt%' -e 's/^deb-src/#deb-src/' /etc/apt/sources.list

If you want a utility to do this you could implement such a utility as a simple bash script like the following. This might be useful if you want to use the utility without needing pip/nodejs.

#!/bin/bash
if [ -z "$1" ]
then
    echo Usage:  sudo $0 http://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt
    echo OR consider one of...
    for mirror in `wget http://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt -O - 2> /dev/null`
    do 
        (
            host=`echo $mirror |sed s,.*//,,|sed s,/.*,,`
            echo -e `ping $host -c1 | grep time=|sed s,.*time=,,`:'  \t\t'$mirror
        ) &
        done
    wait
    exit 1
fi

OLD_SOURCE=`cat /etc/apt/sources.list | grep ^deb\ | head -n1 | cut -d\  -f2`

[ -e  /etc/apt/sources.list.orig ] || cp /etc/apt/sources.list /etc/apt/sources.list.orig

cp /etc/apt/sources.list /etc/apt/sources.list.tmp
sed "s,$OLD_SOURCE,$1," < /etc/apt/sources.list.tmp > /etc/apt/sources.list

The other answers, including the accepted answer, are no longer valid (for Ubuntu 11.04 and newer) because they recommended Debian packages such as netselect-apt and apt-spy which do not work with Ubuntu.

There are two different working answers to this question below:

  1. Use apt-get's mirror: method

    This method asks the Ubuntu server for a list of mirrors near you based on your IP, and selects one of them. The easiest alternative, with the minor downside that sometimes the closest mirror may not be the fastest.

  2. Command-line foo using netselect
    Shows you how to use the netselect tool to find the fastest recently updated servers from you -- network-wise, not geographically. Use sed to replace mirrors in sources.list.

Use sed to replace mirrors in sources.list

Since some sources use addition folders as part of their path it might be better to use the alternate separator syntax.

sudo sed -i 's%us.archive.ubuntu.com%mirrors.gigenet.com/ubuntuarchive/%' /etc/apt/sources.list

The easiest and efficient way to get the fastest mirror is to use the apt mirror:// source, see

https://mvogt.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/the-apt-mirror-method/

nice terminal program here:

# apt-get install netselect-apt

Available Options

stable|testing|unstable|experimental|woody|sarge|etch|sid Specify which distribution of Debian to use. By default stable is used.

-s, --sources
While generating OUTFILE include also deb-src lines to use with ‘‘apt-get source’’ to obtain Debian source packages.

-i, --infile INFILE
Use INFILE instead of mirrors_full for reading mirror list. The file must be in the same format as mirrors_full.

-o, --outfile OUTFILE
Use OUTFILE instead of sources.list.

-n, --nonfree
Include also non-free section while generating OUTFILE.

-f, --ftp
Use FTP mirrors instead of HTTP and generate OUTFILE accordingly.

Examples

If you want non-free repos use the following command

# netselect-apt -n
  • that program is for Debian, not Ubuntu. – Juan Simón Aug 27 '13 at 1:07

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