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Removing Packages on Ubuntu: A Comprehensive Guide

It's just as important to know how to remove packages from your Ubuntu system as it is to add them. Whether you're tidying up, freeing up space, or addressing software conflicts, package removal is a vital skill. In this article, we'll delve into the process of package removal using various tools available in Ubuntu.

Listing Installed Packages Using dpkg

Before removing, you may want to see a list of installed packages:

dpkg --list

This command provides a comprehensive list. To find a specific package, you can pipe the output to grep:

dpkg --list | grep [package-name-or-search-term]


To see if the text editor "nano" is installed:

dpkg --list | grep nano

Listing Installed Packages with apt

While dpkg provides a way to see all installed packages, if you're looking for a more user-friendly and concise output, you might prefer using apt.

Displaying a List of All Installed Packages:

apt list --installed

This command will show you a list of all packages that have been installed on your system. Each entry will include the package name, version, and architecture.

Searching for a Specific Installed Package:

You can also combine the apt list command with grep to search for a specific package:

apt list --installed | grep [package-name-or-search-term]


To check if the text editor "nano" is installed using apt:

apt list --installed | grep nano

This will return the nano package entry if it's installed, along with its version and architecture details.

Removing a Package

To remove a package but leave its configuration files (in case you might want to reinstall it later):

sudo apt remove [package-name]


To remove the text editor "nano" but keep its configuration files:

sudo apt remove nano

Completely Removing a Package

If you wish to remove a package and its configuration files:

sudo apt purge [package-name]

Or you can use:

sudo apt --purge remove [package-name]


To completely remove "nano" and its configuration files:

sudo apt purge nano

Removing Unused Dependencies

When you install packages, they often come with dependencies—other packages that need to be installed for them to work. When you remove the original package, the dependencies don't automatically get removed. To remove these unused packages:

sudo apt autoremove

Cleaning the Package Cache

APT keeps a cache of downloaded packages. Over time, this cache can grow significantly. To clear out the package files (.deb) of the old versions of apps:

sudo apt autoclean

For a more aggressive cleanup, which removes all downloaded package files from the cache:

sudo apt clean

apt autoclean vs. apt clean

In Ubuntu and other Debian-based systems, the Advanced Package Tool (apt) provides mechanisms to manage installed packages and their cached versions. Two useful commands in this context are apt autoclean and apt clean. Here's how they differ:

1. apt autoclean:

  • Function: This command clears out the local repository of downloaded package files, but it only removes package files that can no longer be downloaded (due to being outdated or removed from the repositories). This helps free up space while ensuring that you still have access to recently used package archives in case they're needed again.
  • Use Case: When you want to perform a moderate cleanup and remove only obsolete package files but retain the ones that might still be useful.

2. apt clean:

  • Function: A more aggressive cleanup command, apt clean clears out all package files from the local repository, regardless of their status. This means every downloaded .deb file in the cache will be removed, leaving the cache directory empty.
  • Use Case: When you want a comprehensive cleanup, freeing up maximum space, and you're okay with re-downloading any package files in the future if needed.

In summary, while both commands serve to clean up the package cache, apt autoclean is a more conservative approach, removing only obsolete package files, whereas apt clean clears everything, providing a complete cleanup of cached package files.


Regular maintenance of your Ubuntu system includes being aware of the software installed and ensuring that you remove unnecessary or outdated software. By mastering the commands mentioned above, you can keep your system lean, efficient, and free from clutter.

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