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# Using the nipkgs unstable channel
There a times when you need to build something from the nix unstable channel. For example the master contains a new package you need, but the next nixpkgs release is somewhere in the future, and you need this package now. In this guide I want to show how to install packages from unstable by using nix-env. Furthermore I hope to give a basic understanding of the channels concept.
### What are nix channels?
A channel is a set of expressions which includes severall build, installation and configuration instructions for packages, services and the system itself. The repository normaly used here is nixpkgs. It is developed at https://github.com/NixOS/nixpkgs.
### What is the nix unstable channel?
The unstable channel is a copy of the NixOS/nixpkgs master. It is pulled from github once in a while and will be available from a mirror on under https://nixos.org/channels/nixpkgs-unstable. Since NixOS uses half-anual stable channels, some changes (especially new features) wont be merged into the stable channels and in order to directly use them, we need to use the unstable channel.