dpkg - a medium-level package manager for Debian
dpkg [options] 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. For
detailed information about this, please refer to the Package Management
System topic under debian-faq in the GNU Info system. For information
about creating Debian packages, see the Debian Package Management Tools
topic in the same place.
dpkg is a medium-level tool to install, build, remove and manage Debian
GNU/Linux packages. The primary and more user-friendly front-end for
dpkg is dselect(8). 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 be also be used as a front-end to dpkg-deb. The following are
dpkg-deb actions, and if they are encountered, dpkg just runs dpkg-deb
with the parameters given to it:
-X, --vextract, and
Please refer to dpkg-deb(1) for information about these actions.
INFORMATION ABOUT PACKAGES [Toc] [Back]
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.
PACKAGE STATES [Toc] [Back]
The package is unpacked and configured OK.
The installation of the package has been started, but not completed
for some reason.
The package is not installed on your system.
The package is unpacked, but not configured.
The package is unpacked and configuration has been started, but
not yet completed for some reason.
Only the configuration files of the package exist on the system.
PACKAGE SELECTION STATES [Toc] [Back]
The package is selected for installation.
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, even configuration files).
PACKAGE FLAGS [Toc] [Back]
hold A package marked to be on hold is not handled by dpkg, unless
forced to do that with option --force-hold.
A package marked reinst-required is broken and requires reinstallation.
These packages cannot be removed, unless forced with
dpkg -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 package.
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 information
about how this is done.
dpkg --unpack package_file ...
Unpack the package, but don't configure it. If --recursive or -R
option is specified, package_file must refer to a directory
dpkg --configure package ... | -a | --pending
Reconfigure an unpacked package. If -a or --pending is given
instead of package, all unpacked but unconfigured packages are
Configuring consists of the following steps:
1. Unpack the configuration files, and at the same time back up
the old configuration files, so that they can be restored if
something goes wrong.
2. Run postinst script, if provided by the package.
dpkg -r | --remove | -P | --purge package ... | -a | --pending
Remove an installed package. -r or --remove remove everything
except configuration files. This may avoid having to reconfigure
the package if it is reinstalled later. (Configuration
files are the files listed in the debian/conffiles control
file). -P or --purge removes everything, including configuration
files. 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,
Removing of a package consists of the following steps:
1. Run prerm script
2. Remove the installed files
3. Run postrm script
dpkg -p|--print-avail package
Display details about package, as found in /var/lib/dpkg/avail-
dpkg --update-avail | --merge-avail Packages-file
Update dpkg's and dselect's idea of which packages are available.
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
Packages-file. The Packages-file distributed with Debian
GNU/Linux is simply named Packages. dpkg keeps its record of
available packages in /var/lib/dpkg/available.
dpkg -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
or -R option is specified, package_file must refer to a directory
Forget about uninstalled unavailable packages.
Erase the existing information about what packages are available.
dpkg -l | --list package-name-pattern ...
List packages matching given pattern. If no package-name-pattern
is given, list all packages in /var/lib/dpkg/available. Normal
shell wildchars are allowed in package-name-pattern. (You will
probably have to quote package-name-pattern to prevent the shell
from performing filename expansion. For example, dpkg -l
'libc5*' will list all the package names starting with "libc5".)
dpkg -s | --status package-name ...
Report status of specified package. This just displays the entry
in the installed package status database.
dpkg -C | --audit
Searches for packages that have been installed only partially on
your system. dpkg will suggest what to do with them to get them
dpkg --get-selections [pattern...]
Get list of package selections, and write it to stdout.
Set package selections using file read from stdin.
Searches for packages selected for installation, but which for
some reason still haven't been installed.
dpkg -L | --listfiles package ...
List files installed to your system from package. However, note
that files created by package-specific installation-scripts are
dpkg -S | --search filename-search-pattern ...
Search for a filename from installed packages. All standard
shell wildchars can be used in the pattern.
Print target architecture (for example, "i386"). This option
Print GNU version of target architecture (for example, "i486").
Print host architecture for installation.
dpkg --compare-versions ver1 op ver2
Compare version numbers, where op is a binary operator. dpkg
returns success (zero result) if the specified condition is satisfied,
and failure (nonzero result) otherwise. There are two
groups of operators, which differ in how they treat a missing
ver1 or ver2. These treat no version as earlier than any version:
lt le eq ne ge gt. These treat no version as later than
any version: lt-nl le-nl ge-nl gt-nl. These are provided only
for compatibility with control file syntax: < << <= = >= >> >.
dpkg --command-fd <n>
Accept a series of commands on input file descriptor <n>. Note:
additional options set on the command line, and thru this file
descriptor, are not reset for subsequent commands executed during
the same run.
Display a brief help message.
Give help about the --force-thing options.
dpkg -Dh | --debug=help
Give help about debugging options.
dpkg --licence | dpkg --license
Display dpkg licence.
Display dpkg version information.
See dpkg-deb(1) for more information about the following
dpkg -b | --build directory [filename]
Build a Debian GNU/Linux package.
dpkg -c | --contents filename
List contents of Debian GNU/Linux package.
dpkg -e | --control filename [directory]
Extract control-information from a package.
dpkg -x | --extract filename directory
Extract the files contained by package.
dpkg -f | --field filename [control-field] ...
Display control field(s) of a package.
dpkg --fsys-tarfile filename
Display the filesystem tar-file contained by a
dpkg -I | --info filename [control-file]
Show information about a package.
dpkg -X | --vextract filename directory
Extract and display the filenames contained by a
All options can be specified both on the commandline and in the dpkg
configuration file /etc/dpkg/dpkg.cfg. Each line in the configuration
file is either an option (exactly the same as the commandline option
but without leading dashes) or a comment (if it starts with a #).
Change after how many errors dpkg will abort. The default is 50.
When a package is removed, there is a possibility that another
installed package depended on the removed package. Specifying
this option will cause automatic deconfiguration of the package
which depended on the removed package.
-Doctal | --debug=octal
Set 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
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 specified
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.
auto-select(*): Select packages to install them, and deselect
packages to remove them.
downgrade(*): Install a package, even if newer version of it is
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.
remove-essential: Remove, even if the package is considered
essential. Essential packages contain mostly very basic Unix
commands. Removing them might cause the whole system to stop
working, so use with caution.
depends: Turn all dependency problems into warnings.
depends-version: Don't care about versions when checking dependencies.
conflicts: Install, even if it conflicts with another package.
This is dangerous, for it will usually cause overwriting of some
confmiss: Always install a missing configuration file. This is
dangerous, since it means not preserving a change (removing)
made to the file.
confnew: If a conffile has been modified 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 always keep the old
version without prompting, unless the --force-confdef is also
specified, in which case the default action is preferred.
confdef: If a conffile has been modified always choose the
default action. 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
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
architecture: Process even packages with the wrong architecture.
bad-path: PATH is missing important programs, so problems are
not-root: Try to (de)install things even when not root.
Ignore dependency-checking for specified packages (actually,
checking is performed, but only warnings about conflicts are
given, nothing else).
--new | --old
Select new or old binary package format. This is a dpkg-deb(1)
Don't read or check contents of control file while building a
package. This is a dpkg-deb(1) option.
Do everything which is supposed to be done, but don't write any
changes. This is used to see what would happen with the specified
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 actually
-R | --recursive
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.
--root=dir | --admindir=dir | --instdir=dir
Change default directories. admindir defaults to /var/lib/dpkg
and contains many files that give information about status of
installed or uninstalled packages, etc. instdir defaults to /
and refers to the directory where packages are to be installed.
instdir is also the directory passed to chroot(2) before running
package's installation scripts, which means that the scripts see
instdir as a root directory. Changing root changes instdir to
dir and admindir to dir/var/lib/dpkg.
-O | --selected-only
Only process the packages that are selected for installation.
The actual marking is done with dselect or by dpkg, when it handles
packages. For example, when a package is removed, it will
be marked selected for installation.
-E | --skip-same-version
Don't install the package if the same version of the package is
Send package status info to file descriptor <n>. This can be
given multiple times. Status updates are of the form `status:
<pkg>: <pkg qstate>'.
Configuration file with default options.
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 following files are components of a binary package. See deb(5) for
more information about them:
ENVIRONMENT VARIABLES [Toc] [Back]
Define this to something if you prefer dpkg starting a new shell
rather than suspending itself, while doing a shell escape.
SHELL The program dpkg will execute while starting a new shell.
COLUMNS [Toc] [Back]
Sets the number of columns dpkg should use when displaying formatted
text. Currently only used by -l.
To list packages related to the editor vi:
dpkg -l '*vi*'
To see the entries in /var/lib/dpkg/available on two packages:
dpkg --print-avail elvis vim | less
To search the listing of packages yourself:
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 install it there
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 packages.
Ordinarily, you will find that dselect(8) provides a more convenient
way to modify the package selection states.
dselect(8), dpkg-deb(1), deb(5), and deb-control(5)
--no-act usually gives less information than might be helpful.
See /usr/share/doc/dpkg/THANKS for the list of people who have
contributed to dpkg .
Debian Project April 12, 1998 DPKG(8)
[ Back ]