This manual is intended for users wishing to understand dpkg's
command line options and package states in more detail than that
provided by dpkg --help.
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.
are dpkg-deb actions, and if they are encountered, dpkg
just runs dpkg-deb with the parameters given to it:
Please refer to dpkg-deb(1) for information about these actions.
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 unpacked and configured OK.
The installation of the package has been started, but not completed for
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
The package is selected for installation.
The package is selected for deinstallation (i.e. we want to remove all
files, except configuration files).
The package is selected to be purged (i.e. we want to remove everything,
even configuration files).
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 | --installpackage_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
dpkg --configure package ... | -a | --pending
Reconfigure an unpacked package. If -a or --pending is
given instead of package, all unpacked but unconfigured
packages are configured.
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.
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
dpkg --update-avail | --merge-availPackages-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-availpackage_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 instead.
Forget about uninstalled unavailable packages.
Erase the existing information about what packages are available.
dpkg -l | --listpackage-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 | --statuspackage-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 | --listfilespackage ...
List files installed to your system from package.
However, note that files created by package-specific
installation-scripts are not listed.
dpkg -S | --searchfilename-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 uses
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 actions.
dpkg -b | --builddirectory [filename]
Build a Debian GNU/Linux package.
dpkg -c | --contentsfilename
List contents of Debian GNU/Linux package.
dpkg -e | --controlfilename [directory]
Extract control-information from a package.
dpkg -x | --extractfilename directory
Extract the files contained by package.
dpkg -f | --fieldfilename [control-field] ...
Display control field(s) of a package.
Display the filesystem tar-file contained by a
dpkg -I | --infofilename [control-file]
Show information about a package.
dpkg -X | --vextractfilenamedirectory
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 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.
Turns on(or off) all force options.
Select packages to install them, and deselect packages to remove them.
Install a package, even if newer version of it is already installed.
Configure also any unpacked but unconfigured packages on which the current
Process packages even when marked "hold".
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, 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.
Turn all dependency problems into warnings.
Don't care about versions when checking dependencies.
Install, even if it conflicts with another package. This is dangerous,
for it will usually cause overwriting of some files.
Always install a missing configuration file. This is dangerous,
since it means not preserving a change (removing) made to the
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.
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.
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 action.
Overwrite one package's file with another's file.
Overwrite one package's directory with another's file.
Overwrite a diverted file with an undiverted version.
Process even packages with the wrong architecture.
PATH is missing important programs, so problems are likely.
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 do nothing)
-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
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 already
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 PACKAGES
for more info.
The following files are components of a binary package. See deb(5)
for more information about them:
Define this to something if you prefer dpkg starting a new
shell rather than suspending itself, while doing a shell escape.
The program dpkg will execute while starting a new shell.
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
cd /cdrom/hamm/hamm/binary/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
Ordinarily, you will find that dselect(8) provides a more
convenient way to modify the package selection states.