dpkg [option...] action
This manual is intended for users wishing to understand dpkg's command
line options and package states in more detail than that provided by
It should not be used by package maintainers wishing to understand how
dpkg will install their packages. The descriptions of what dpkg does
when installing and removing packages are particularly inadequate.
dpkg is a tool to install, build, remove and manage Debian packages.
The primary and more user-friendly front-end for dpkg is aptitude(1).
dpkg itself is controlled entirely via command line parameters, which
consist of exactly one action and zero or more options. The action-
parameter tells dpkg what to do and options control the behavior of the
action in some way.
dpkg can also be used as a front-end to dpkg-deb(1) and dpkg-query(1).
The list of supported actions can be found later on in the ACTIONS sec-
tion. If any such action is encountered dpkg just runs dpkg-deb or
dpkg-query with the parameters given to it, but no specific options are
currently passed to them, to use any such option the back-ends need to
be called directly.
INFORMATION ABOUT PACKAGES
dpkg maintains some usable information about available packages. The
information is divided in three classes: states, selection states and
flags. These values are intended to be changed mainly with dselect.
The package is not installed on your system.
Only the configuration files of the package exist on the system.
The installation of the package has been started, but not com-
pleted for some reason.
The package is unpacked, but not configured.
The package is unpacked and configuration has been started, but
not yet completed for some reason.
The package awaits trigger processing by another package.
The package is selected for deinstallation (i.e. we want to
remove all files, except configuration files).
purge The package is selected to be purged (i.e. we want to remove
everything from system directories, even configuration files).
A package marked reinst-required is broken and requires rein-
stallation. These packages cannot be removed, unless forced with
-i, --install package-file...
Install the package. If --recursive or -R option is specified,
package-file must refer to a directory instead.
Installation consists of the following steps:
1. Extract the control files of the new package.
2. If another version of the same package was installed before
the new installation, execute prerm script of the old package.
3. Run preinst script, if provided by the package.
4. Unpack the new files, and at the same time back up the old
files, so that if something goes wrong, they can be restored.
5. If another version of the same package was installed before
the new installation, execute the postrm script of the old pack-
age. Note that this script is executed after the preinst script
of the new package, because new files are written at the same
time old files are removed.
6. Configure the package. See --configure for detailed informa-
tion about how this is done.
Unpack the package, but don't configure it. If --recursive or -R
option is specified, package-file must refer to a directory
Configure a package which has been unpacked but not yet config-
ured. If -a or --pending is given instead of package, all
unpacked but unconfigured packages are configured.
To reconfigure a package which has already been configured, try
the dpkg-reconfigure(8) command instead.
Configuring consists of the following steps:
dpkg --configure --pending.
-r, --remove, -P, --purge package...|-a|--pending
Remove an installed package. -r or --remove remove everything
except conffiles. This may avoid having to reconfigure the pack-
age if it is reinstalled later. (Conffiles are configuration
files that are listed in the DEBIAN/conffiles control file). -P
or --purge removes everything, including conffiles. If -a or
--pending is given instead of a package name, then all packages
unpacked, but marked to be removed or purged in file
/var/lib/dpkg/status, are removed or purged, respectively. Note:
some configuration files might be unknown to dpkg because they
are created and handled separately through the configuration
scripts. In that case, dpkg won't remove them by itself, but the
package's postrm script (which is called by dpkg), has to take
care of their removal during purge. Of course, this only applies
to files in system directories, not configuration files written
to individual users' home directories.
Removing of a package consists of the following steps:
1. Run prerm script
2. Remove the installed files
3. Run postrm script
-V, --verify [package-name...]
Verifies the integrity of package-name or all packages if omit-
ted, by comparing information from the installed paths with the
The output format is selectable with the --verify-format option,
which by default uses the rpm format, but that might change in
the future, and as such programs parsing this command output
should be explicit about the format they expect.
--update-avail, --merge-avail Packages-file
Update dpkg's and dselect's idea of which packages are avail-
able. With action --merge-avail, old information is combined
with information from Packages-file. With action --update-avail,
old information is replaced with the information in the Pack-
ages-file. The Packages-file distributed with Debian is simply
named Packages. dpkg keeps its record of available packages in
A simpler one-shot command to retrieve and update the available
file is dselect update. Note that this file is mostly useless if
you don't use dselect but an APT-based frontend: APT has its own
system to keep track of available packages.
-A, --record-avail package-file...
Update dpkg and dselect's idea of which packages are available
with information from the package package-file. If --recursive
Searches for packages that have been installed only partially on
your system. dpkg will suggest what to do with them to get them
Get list of package selections, and write it to stdout. Without
a pattern, non-installed packages (i.e. those which have been
previously purged) will not be shown.
Set package selections using file read from stdin. This file
should be in the format 'package state', where state is one of
install, hold, deinstall or purge. Blank lines and comment lines
beginning with '#' are also permitted.
The available file needs to be up-to-date for this command to be
useful, otherwise unknown packages will be ignored with a warn-
ing. See the --update-avail and --merge-avail commands for more
Set the requested state of every non-essential package to dein-
stall. This is intended to be used immediately before
--set-selections, to deinstall any packages not in list given to
Searches for packages selected for installation, but which for
some reason still haven't been installed.
Add architecture to the list of architectures for which packages
can be installed without using --force-architecture. The archi-
tecture dpkg is built for (i.e. the output of --print-architec-
ture) is always part of that list.
Remove architecture from the list of architectures for which
packages can be installed without using --force-architecture. If
the architecture is currently in use in the database then the
operation will be refused, except if --force-architecture is
specified. The architecture dpkg is built for (i.e. the output
of --print-architecture) can never be removed from that list.
Print architecture of packages dpkg installs (for example,
Print a newline-separated list of the extra architectures dpkg
is configured to allow packages to be installed for.
--compare-versions ver1 op ver2
Compare version numbers, where op is a binary operator. dpkg
Give help about the --force-thing options.
Give help about debugging options.
Display dpkg version information.
See dpkg-deb(1) for more information about the following
-b, --build directory [archive|directory]
Build a deb package.
-c, --contents archive
List contents of a deb package.
-e, --control filename [directory]
Extract control-information from a package.
-x, --extract archive directory
Extract the files contained by package.
-X, --vextract archive directory
Extract and display the filenames contained by a
-f, --field archive [control-field...]
Display control field(s) of a package.
Display the filesystem tar-file contained by a
-I, --info archive [control-file...]
Show information about a package.
See dpkg-query(1) for more information about the following
-l, --list package-name-pattern...
List packages matching given pattern.
-s, --status package-name...
Report status of specified package.
-L, --listfiles package-name...
List files installed to your system from package-name.
-S, --search filename-search-pattern...
Search for a filename from installed packages.
-p, --print-avail package-name...
Display details about package-name, as found in
/var/lib/dpkg/available. Users of APT-based frontends
should use apt-cache show package-name instead.
All options can be specified both on the command line and in the dpkg
configuration file /etc/dpkg/dpkg.cfg or fragment files (with names
which depended on the removed package.
Switch debugging on. octal is formed by bitwise-orring desired
values together from the list below (note that these values may
change in future releases). -Dh or --debug=help display these
1 Generally helpful progress information
2 Invocation and status of maintainer scripts
10 Output for each file processed
100 Lots of output for each file processed
20 Output for each configuration file
200 Lots of output for each configuration file
40 Dependencies and conflicts
400 Lots of dependencies/conflicts output
10000 Trigger activation and processing
20000 Lots of output regarding triggers
40000 Silly amounts of output regarding triggers
1000 Lots of drivel about e.g. the dpkg/info dir
2000 Insane amounts of drivel
--force-things, --no-force-things, --refuse-things
Force or refuse (no-force and refuse mean the same thing) to do
some things. things is a comma separated list of things speci-
fied below. --force-help displays a message describing them.
Things marked with (*) are forced by default.
Warning: These options are mostly intended to be used by experts
only. Using them without fully understanding their effects may
break your whole system.
all: Turns on (or off) all force options.
downgrade(*): Install a package, even if newer version of it is
Warning: At present dpkg does not do any dependency checking on
downgrades and therefore will not warn you if the downgrade
breaks the dependency of some other package. This can have seri-
ous side effects, downgrading essential system components can
even make your whole system unusable. Use with care.
configure-any: Configure also any unpacked but unconfigured
packages on which the current package depends.
hold: Process packages even when marked "hold".
remove-reinstreq: Remove a package, even if it's broken and
marked to require reinstallation. This may, for example, cause
parts of the package to remain on the system, which will then be
forgotten by dpkg.
conflicts: Install, even if it conflicts with another package.
This is dangerous, for it will usually cause overwriting of some
confmiss: If a conffile is missing and the version in the pack-
age did change, always install the missing conffile without
prompting. This is dangerous, since it means not preserving a
change (removing) made to the file.
confnew: If a conffile has been modified and the version in the
package did change, always install the new version without
prompting, unless the --force-confdef is also specified, in
which case the default action is preferred.
confold: If a conffile has been modified and the version in the
package did change, always keep the old version without prompt-
ing, unless the --force-confdef is also specified, in which case
the default action is preferred.
confdef: If a conffile has been modified and the version in the
package did change, always choose the default action without
prompting. If there is no default action it will stop to ask the
user unless --force-confnew or --force-confold is also been
given, in which case it will use that to decide the final
confask: If a conffile has been modified always offer to replace
it with the version in the package, even if the version in the
package did not change. If any of --force-confmiss,
--force-confnew, --force-confold, or --force-confdef is also
given, it will be used to decide the final action.
overwrite: Overwrite one package's file with another's file.
overwrite-dir Overwrite one package's directory with another's
overwrite-diverted: Overwrite a diverted file with an undiverted
unsafe-io: Do not perform safe I/O operations when unpacking.
Currently this implies not performing file system syncs before
file renames, which is known to cause substantial performance
degradation on some file systems, unfortunately the ones that
require the safe I/O on the first place due to their unreliable
behaviour causing zero-length files on abrupt system crashes.
Note: For ext4, the main offender, consider using instead the
mount option nodelalloc, which will fix both the performance
degradation and the data safety issues, the latter by making the
file system not produce zero-length files on abrupt system
crashes with any software not doing syncs before atomic renames.
bad-verify: Install a package even if it fails authenticity
Ignore dependency-checking for specified packages (actually,
checking is performed, but only warnings about conflicts are
given, nothing else).
--no-act, --dry-run, --simulate
Do everything which is supposed to be done, but don't write any
changes. This is used to see what would happen with the speci-
fied action, without actually modifying anything.
Be sure to give --no-act before the action-parameter, or you
might end up with undesirable results. (e.g. dpkg --purge foo
--no-act will first purge package foo and then try to purge
package --no-act, even though you probably expected it to actu-
ally do nothing)
Recursively handle all regular files matching pattern *.deb
found at specified directories and all of its subdirectories.
This can be used with -i, -A, --install, --unpack and --avail
-G Don't install a package if a newer version of the same package
is already installed. This is an alias of --refuse-downgrade.
Change default administrative directory, which contains many
files that give information about status of installed or unin-
stalled packages, etc. (Defaults to /var/lib/dpkg)
Change default installation directory which refers to the direc-
tory where packages are to be installed. instdir is also the
directory passed to chroot(2) before running package's installa-
tion scripts, which means that the scripts see instdir as a root
directory. (Defaults to /)
Changing root changes instdir to dir and admindir to
Only process the packages that are selected for installation.
The actual marking is done with dselect or by dpkg, when it han-
dles packages. For example, when a package is removed, it will
be marked selected for deinstallation.
Don't install the package if the same version of the package is
times than expected.
Set glob-pattern as a path filter, either by excluding or re-
including previously excluded paths matching the specified pat-
terns during install.
Warning: take into account that depending on the excluded paths
you might completely break your system, use with caution.
The glob patterns use the same wildcards used in the shell, were
'*' matches any sequence of characters, including the empty
string and also '/'. For example, '/usr/*/READ*' matches
'/usr/share/doc/package/README'. As usual, '?' matches any sin-
gle character (again, including '/'). And '[' starts a character
class, which can contain a list of characters, ranges and com-
plementations. See glob(7) for detailed information about glob-
bing. Note: the current implementation might re-include more
directories and symlinks than needed, to be on the safe side and
avoid possible unpack failures, future work might fix this.
This can be used to remove all paths except some particular
ones; a typical case is:
to remove all documentation files except the copyright files.
These two options can be specified multiple times, and inter-
leaved with each other. Both are processed in the given order,
with the last rule that matches a file name making the decision.
Sets the output format for the --verify command.
The only currently supported output format is rpm, which con-
sists of a line for every path that failed any check. The lines
start with 9 characters to report the specific check results, a
'?' implies the check could not be done (lack of support, file
permissions, etc), '.' implies the check passed, and an
alphanumeric character implies a specific check failed; the only
functional check is an md5sum verification denoted with a '5' on
the third character. The line is followed by a space and an
attribute character (currently 'c' for conffiles), another space
and the pathname.
Send machine-readable package status and progress information to
file descriptor n. This option can be specified multiple times.
The information is generally one record per line, in one of the
Sent just before a processing stage starts. stage is one
of upgrade, install (both sent before unpacking), config-
ure, trigproc, disappear, remove, purge.
Send machine-readable package status and progress information to
the shell command's standard input. This option can be specified
multiple times. The output format used is the same as in --sta-
Log status change updates and actions to filename, instead of
the default /var/log/dpkg.log. If this option is given multiple
times, the last filename is used. Log messages are of the form
`YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS status state pkg installed-version' for
status change updates; `YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS action pkg
installed-version available-version' for actions where action is
one of install, upgrade, remove, purge; and `YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS
conffile filename decision' for conffile changes where decision
is either install or keep.
Do not try to verify package signatures.
Do not run any triggers in this run (activations will still be
recorded). If used with --configure package or --triggers-only
package then the named package postinst will still be run even
if only a triggers run is needed. Use of this option may leave
packages in the improper triggers-awaited and triggers-pending
states. This can be fixed later by running: dpkg --configure
Cancels a previous --no-triggers.
HOME If set, dpkg will use it as the directory from which to read the
user specific configuration file.
TMPDIR If set, dpkg will use it as the directory in which to create
temporary files and directories.
PAGER The program dpkg will execute when displaying the conffiles.
SHELL The program dpkg will execute when starting a new shell.
Sets the number of columns dpkg should use when displaying for-
matted text. Currently only used by -l.
Defined by dpkg on the shell spawned on the conffile prompt to
examine the situation. Current valid value: conffile-prompt.
Defined by dpkg on the maintainer script environment to the
(non-arch-qualified) package name being handled.
Defined by dpkg on the maintainer script environment to the
package reference count, i.e. the number of package instances
with a state greater than not-installed. Since dpkg 1.17.2.
Defined by dpkg on the maintainer script environment to the
architecture the package got built for.
Defined by dpkg on the maintainer script environment to the name
of the script running (preinst, postinst, prerm, postrm).
Configuration fragment files.
Configuration file with default options.
Default log file (see /etc/dpkg/dpkg.cfg(5) and option --log).
The other files listed below are in their default directories, see
option --admindir to see how to change locations of these files.
List of available packages.
Statuses of available packages. This file contains information
about whether a package is marked for removing or not, whether
it is installed or not, etc. See section INFORMATION ABOUT PACK-
AGES for more info.
The status file is backed up daily in /var/backups. It can be
useful if it's lost or corrupted due to filesystems troubles.
The following files are components of a binary package. See deb(5) for
more information about them:
To remove an installed elvis package:
dpkg -r elvis
To install a package, you first need to find it in an archive or CDROM.
The available file shows that the vim package is in section "editors":
dpkg -i vim_4.5-3.deb
To make a local copy of the package selection states:
dpkg --get-selections >myselections
You might transfer this file to another computer, and after having
updated the available file there with your package manager frontend of
choice (see https://wiki.debian.org/Teams/Dpkg/FAQ for more details),
apt-cache dumpavail >"$avail"
dpkg --merge-avail "$avail"
you can install it with:
dpkg --set-selections <myselections
Note that this will not actually install or remove anything, but just
set the selection state on the requested packages. You will need some
other application to actually download and install the requested pack-
ages. For example, run apt-get dselect-upgrade.
Ordinarily, you will find that dselect(1) provides a more convenient
way to modify the package selection states.
Additional functionality can be gained by installing any of the follow-
ing packages: apt, aptitude and debsums.
aptitude(1), apt(1), dselect(1), dpkg-deb(1), dpkg-query(1), deb(5),
deb-control(5), dpkg.cfg(5), and dpkg-reconfigure(8).
See /usr/share/doc/dpkg/THANKS for the list of people who have
contributed to dpkg.
Debian Project 2013-07-28 dpkg(1)
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