How do I get a list of files that were or will-be installed when I apt-get a package? Conversely, can I find what package(s) caused a particular file to be installed?


6 Answers 6


Note: in the following commands, a command beginning with 'root#' means it needs to be run as root.

To find which files were installed by a package, use dpkg -L:

$ dpkg -L $package

apt-file can tell you which files will be installed by a package before installing it:

root# apt-get install apt-file
root# apt-file update
$ apt-file list $package

Or if you have the package as a .deb file locally already, you can run dpkg on it:

$ dpkg --contents $package.deb

To find which package provides a file that is already on your system, use:

$ dpkg -S /path/to/file

To find which package provides a file that is not currently on your system, use apt-file again:

$ apt-file search /path/to/file
  • 12
    Keep in mind that while this will get you most of what you need it will not give you everything. Several packages create configuration files as part of their setup scripts. These files will not be reported by dpkg.
    – Zoredache
    Dec 23, 2009 at 17:33
  • 2
    The dollar is meant to be understood as a variable, meaning you need to replace $package with the actual name of the package.
    – raphink
    Jan 15, 2017 at 23:37
  • 2
    conffiles of a package (if any) are listed by command dpkg --status $package. For the reverse operation use grep $filename /var/lib/dpkg/info/*.conffiles.
    – Uwe Geuder
    Mar 8, 2018 at 17:38
  • 1
    bit late Q - - what does sudo apt-file update do ??
    – samshers
    Aug 21, 2020 at 10:01
  • 2
    @confiq if you don't have apt-file, run sudo apt-get -y install apt-file then run sudo apt-file update. After that you can use the tool as described above.
    – Speeddymon
    Jan 10, 2022 at 18:24

Here is a function that should do it for you without the need to downloading the package to disk. This solution also doesn't require any third party programs (like apt-file) or anything outside of a minimum debian/ubuntu install.

# Function that gets the package layout of a remote package from 
# apt/apt-get/aptitude/synaptic/etc...
apt_list () 
    # Build array of packages 
    local packages=("$@");
    # Iterate package indexes up to the length of the array minus 1
    for pkg in $(seq 0 1 $((${#packages[@]}-1)));
        # Pretty little separator in case you are examining the 
        # contents of multiple packages.
        echo -e "\n#### ${packages[$pkg]} ####\n";
        # Pipe steps (in order)
        # Print the url to the .deb package remote location from sources.list
        # delimit by single quotes and select only the url
        # pipe the url to xargs after a curl silent follow redirects 
        # insecure (no cert checking some may wish to take the -k off 
        # the curl command.
        # use dpkg -c to check the contents of the downloaded package in stdin
        # Use perl to remove dots after modification timestamp on sysroot
        apt-get download -o Dir::Cache::archives="./" --print-uris ${packages[$pkg]}\
        | awk -F\' '{print $2}' | xargs -I '{}' curl -skL '{}' |\
         dpkg-deb -c /dev/stdin | perl -ne 's,(:\d\d )[.]/,$1/,g;print';
        # Line break so the last package name doesn't wind up on same line as PS1
    # end loop

Then use apt_list <package name1> [package name 2]

e.g. apt_list curl wget

In regard to your second question you can use dpkg -S /path/to/isntalled/file or if you are trying to view the contents of an already downloaded/local .deb file with dpkg --contents </path/to/deb/file>. As for reverse checking files from packages where you don't know the name of the package that owns said file, a third party solution apt-file (a software package that indexes the contents of packages in your available repositories and allows you to search for a particular file among all available packages), is available. This is like yum provides on rhel based systems like CentOS) would be the best bet.


dpkg -S /path/to/file/in/question

As far as I'm concerned, dpkg is the low-level tool that apt-get depends on.

  • Yes, dpkg is the command that adds and removes software and files from you mcomputer. apt (incl. Apt-get, aptitude, synaptic, etc.) is the programme that calls dpkg May 9, 2010 at 12:06

If you have installed dlocate, you can use dlocate -L the same way as dpkg -L. It works exactly the same in this case, but has a number of other options.


Another option for those of you who using Linux Mint:

apt content <packageName>
  • E: Invalid operation content Nov 8, 2023 at 21:17
  • hm, it works on my system. what apt version do you use? you can check apt version with 'apt show apt' command. mine is 2.4.10
    – folivore
    Nov 12, 2023 at 22:02
  • apt --version gives apt 2.4.10 (amd64). I don't see content documented anywhere. Do you have apt aliased to anything? (type -a apt) Nov 13, 2023 at 4:58
  • 22:14:~$ type -a apt apt is /usr/local/bin/apt apt is /usr/bin/apt apt is /bin/apt
    – folivore
    Nov 25, 2023 at 20:22
  • hm... 22:23:~$ which apt /usr/local/bin/apt 22:23:~$ file /usr/local/bin/apt /usr/local/bin/apt: Python script, ASCII text executable
    – folivore
    Nov 25, 2023 at 20:24

The apt-file command needs to download a database that can be 100's of MB and take several minutes. If you're only interested in one or two packages, it's quicker to download the deb file(s) and view the contents using standard tools.

# change to a directory where you have write permission
cd /tmp

# download the package's .deb file, e.g. for dbab
apt download dbab

# print the files that will be installed by the package
dpkg -c dbab_1.5.8-1_all.deb

Furthermore, you can extract the control files from the package, and see what the scripts will do on installation or removal. Particularly, the post-install script may be of interest.

# this will extract the control files to a new dir, ctrl-files
dpkg -e dbab_1.5.8-1_all.deb ctrl-files

# then they can be viewed, e.g.
more ctrl-files/postinst

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