pacman/Tips and tricks

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Related articles

See pacman for the main article.

For general methods to improve the flexibility of the provided tips or pacman itself, see Core utilities and Bash.

Cosmetic and convenience

Graphical front-ends

  • Discover — A collection of package management tools for KDE, using PackageKit.
https://projects.kde.org/projects/kde/workspace/discover || discover
  • GNOME packagekit — GTK based package management tool
http://www.freedesktop.org/software/PackageKit/ || gnome-packagekit
  • GNOME Software — Gnome Software App. (Curated selection for GNOME)
https://wiki.gnome.org/Apps/Software || gnome-software
  • pcurses — Package management in a curses frontend
https://github.com/schuay/pcurses || pcurses
  • tkPacman — Depends only on Tcl/Tk and X11, and interacts with the package database via the CLI of pacman.
http://sourceforge.net/projects/tkpacman || tkpacmanAUR

Utilities

  • Arch-Update — Update indicator for Gnome-Shell.
https://github.com/RaphaelRochet/arch-update || gnome-shell-extension-arch-updateAUR
  • Lostfiles — Script that identifies files not owned by any package.
https://github.com/graysky2/lostfiles || lostfilesAUR
  • Pacmatic — Pacman wrapper to check Arch News before upgrading, avoid partial upgrades, and warn about configuration file changes.
http://kmkeen.com/pacmatic || pacmatic
  • pacutils — Helper library for libalpm based programs.
https://github.com/andrewgregory/pacutils || pacutils-gitAUR
  • pkgfile — Tool that finds what package owns a file.
http://github.com/falconindy/pkgfile || pkgfile
  • pkgtools — Collection of scripts for Arch Linux packages.
https://github.com/Daenyth/pkgtools || pkgtoolsAUR
  • repoctl — Tool to help manage local repositories.
https://github.com/cassava/repoctl || repoctlAUR
  • repose — An Arch Linux repository building tool.
https://github.com/vodik/repose || reposeAUR
  • srcpac — Simple tool that automates rebuilding packages from source.
https://projects.archlinux.org/srcpac.git || srcpac
  • snap-pac — Make pacman automatically use snapper to create pre/post snapshots like openSUSE's YaST.
https://github.com/wesbarnett/snap-pac || snap-pacAUR

Maintenance

Tango-view-fullscreen.pngThis article or section needs expansion.Tango-view-fullscreen.png

Reason: Usage= introduced with pacman 4.2, see [1] (Discuss in Talk:Pacman/Tips and tricks#)
Note: Instead of using comm (which requires sorted input with sort) in the sections below, you may also use grep -Fxf or grep -Fxvf.

See also System maintenance.

Listing packages

You may want to get the list of installed packages with their version, which is useful when reporting bugs or discussing installed packages.

  • List all explicitly installed packages: pacman -Qe.
  • List all explicitly installed native packages (i.e. present in the sync database) that are not direct or optional dependencies: pacman -Qent.
  • List all foreign packages (typically manually downloaded and installed): pacman -Qm.
  • List all native packages (installed from the sync database(s)): pacman -Qn.
  • List packages by regex: pacman -Qs regex.
  • List packages by regex with custom output format: expac -s "%-30n %v" regex (needs expac).

With size

To get a list of installed packages sorted by size, which may be useful when freeing space on your hard drive:

  • Install expac and run expac -H M '%m\t%n' | sort -h.
  • Run pacgraph with the -c option.

To list the download size of several packages (leave packages blank to list all packages):

$ expac -S -H M '%k\t%n' packages

To list explicitly installed packages not in base nor base-devel with size and description:

$ expac -H M "%011m\t%-20n\t%10d" $(comm -23 <(pacman -Qqen | sort) <(pacman -Qqg base base-devel | sort)) | sort -n

By date

To list the 20 last installed packages with expac, run:

$ expac --timefmt='%Y-%m-%d %T' '%l\t%n' | sort | tail -20

or, with seconds since the epoch (1970-01-01 UTC):

$ expac --timefmt=%s '%l\t%n' | sort -n | tail -20

Not in a specified group or repository

Note: To get a list of packages installed as dependencies but no longer required by any installed package, see #Removing unused packages (orphans).

List explicitely installed packages not in the base or base-devel groups:

$ comm -23 <(pacman -Qeq | sort) <(pacman -Qgq base base-devel | sort)

List all installed packages unrequired by other packages, and which are not in the base or base-devel groups:

$ comm -23 <(pacman -Qqt | sort) <(pacman -Sqg base base-devel | sort)

As above, but with descriptions:

$ expac -HM '%-20n\t%10d' $(comm -23 <(pacman -Qqt | sort) <(pacman -Qqg base base-devel | sort))

List all installed packages that are not in the specified repository repo_name

$ comm -23 <(pacman -Qtq | sort) <(pacman -Slq repo_name | sort)

List all installed packages that are in the repo_name repository:

$ comm -12 <(pacman -Qtq | sort) <(pacman -Slq repo_name | sort)

Listing files owned by a package with size

This one might come in handy if you have found that a specific package uses a huge amount of space and you want to find out which files make up the most of that.

$ pacman -Qlq package | grep -v '/$' | xargs du -h | sort -h

Identify files not owned by any package

If your system has stray files not owned by any package (a common case if you do not use the package manager to install software), you may want to find such files in order to clean them up. The general process for doing so is:

  1. Create a sorted list of the files you want to check ownership of:
    $ find /etc /opt /usr | sort > all_files.txt
  2. Create a sorted list of the files tracked by pacman (and remove the trailing slashes from directories):
    $ pacman -Qlq | sed 's|/$||' | sort > owned_files.txt
  3. Find lines in the first list that are not in the second:
    $ comm -23 all_files.txt owned_files.txt

This process is tricky in practice because many important files are not part of any package (e.g. files generated at runtime, custom configs) and so will be included in the final output, making it difficult to pick out the files that can be safely deleted.

Tip: The lostfilesAUR script performs similar steps, but also includes an extensive blacklist to remove common false positives from the output.

Removing unused packages (orphans)

For recursively removing orphans and their configuration files:

# pacman -Rns $(pacman -Qtdq)

If no orphans were found, pacman errors with error: no targets specified. This is expected as no arguments were passed to pacman -Rns.

Note: As of pacman 4.2.0, -Qt lists only true orphans. To include packages which are optionally required by another package, pass the -t flag twice (i.e., -Qtt).

Merge-arrows-2.pngThis article or section is a candidate for merging with pacman#Installation reason.Merge-arrows-2.png

Notes: Should be described on the main page as a prevention. (Discuss in Talk:Pacman/Tips and tricks#)

Note that the -Rns (or -Rnc) option will remove only direct dependencies but not optional dependencies that were explicitly installed (without --asdeps option).

Although it is not a requirement, but only for better system maintenance whenever you are installing optional dependencies try to install them with --asdeps option. Doing this doesn't affect anything in runtime or installation. It only affects when you have removed a package and there were optional dependencies. Then if you remove orphans it will also remove leftover optional dependencies if they were installed using --asdeps option. So while you are installing optional dependencies, use the following command:

# pacman -S --asdeps <packages that are optional dependencies>

Removing everything but base group

If it is ever necessary to remove all packages except the base group, try this one liner:

# pacman -R $(comm -23 <(pacman -Qq | sort) <((for i in $(pacman -Qqg base); do pactree -ul "$i"; done) | sort -u))

The one-liner was originally devised in this discussion, and later improved in this article.

Getting the dependencies list of several packages

Dependencies are alphabetically sorted and doubles are removed.

Note: To only show the tree of local installed packages, use pacman -Qi.
$ pacman -Si packages | awk -F'[:<=>]' '/^Depends/ {print $2}' | xargs -n1 | sort -u

Alternatively, with expac:

$ expac -l '\n' %E -S packages | sort -u

Listing changed backup files

If you want to backup your system configuration files you could copy all files in /etc/, but usually you are only interested in the files that you have changed. Modified backup files can be viewed with the following command:

# pacman -Qii | awk '/^MODIFIED/ {print $2}'

Running this command with root permissions will ensure that files readable only by root (such as /etc/sudoers) are included in the output.

Tip: See #Listing all changed files from packages to list all changed files pacman knows, not only backup files.

Back-up the pacman database

The following command can be used to back up the local pacman database:

$ tar -cjf pacman_database.tar.bz2 /var/lib/pacman/local

Store the backup pacman database file on one or more offline media, such as a USB stick, external hard drive, or CD-R.

The database can be restored by moving the pacman_database.tar.bz2 file into the / directory and executing the following command:

# tar -xjvf pacman_database.tar.bz2
Note: If the pacman database files are corrupted, and there is no backup file available, there exists some hope of rebuilding the pacman database. Consult Pacman tips#Restore pacman's local database.
Tip: The pakbak-gitAUR package provides a script and a systemd service to automate the task. Configuration is possible in /etc/pakbak.conf.

Check changelogs easily

When maintainers update packages, commits are often commented in a useful fashion. Users can quickly check these from the command line by installing pacologAUR. This utility lists recent commit messages for packages from the official repositories or the AUR, by using pacolog <package>.

Installation and recovery

Alternative ways of getting and restoring packages.

Installing packages from a CD/DVD or USB stick

Merge-arrows-2.pngThis article or section is a candidate for merging with #Custom local repository.Merge-arrows-2.png

Notes: Use as an example and avoid duplication (Discuss in Talk:Pacman/Tips and tricks#)

To download packages, or groups of packages:

# cd ~/Packages
# pacman -Syw base base-devel grub-bios xorg gimp --cachedir .
# repo-add ./custom.db.tar.gz ./*

Then you can burn the "Packages" folder to a CD/DVD or transfer it to a USB stick, external HDD, etc.

To install:

1. Mount the media:

# mkdir /mnt/repo
# mount /dev/sr0 /mnt/repo    #For a CD/DVD.
# mount /dev/sdxY /mnt/repo   #For a USB stick.

2. Edit pacman.conf and add this repository before the other ones (e.g. extra, core, etc.). This is important. Do not just uncomment the one on the bottom. This way it ensures that the files from the CD/DVD/USB take precedence over those in the standard repositories:

/etc/pacman.conf
[custom]
SigLevel = PackageRequired
Server = file:///mnt/repo/Packages

3. Finally, synchronize the pacman database to be able to use the new repository:

# pacman -Syu

Custom local repository

Use the repo-add script included with Pacman to generate a database for a personal repository. Use repo-add --help for more details on its usage. Simply store all of the built packages to be included in the repository in one directory, and execute the following command (where repo is the name of the custom repository):

$ repo-add /path/to/repo.db.tar.gz /path/to/*.pkg.tar.xz
Note: A package database is a tar file, optionally compressed. Valid extensions are “.db” or “.files” followed by an archive extension of “.tar”, “.tar.gz”, “.tar.bz2”, “.tar.xz”, or “.tar.Z”. The file does not need to exist, but all parent directories must exist. Furthermore when using repo-add keep in mind that the database and the packages do not need to be in the same directory. But when using pacman with that database, they should be together.

To add a new package to the database, or to replace the old version of an existing package in the database, run:

$ repo-add /path/to/repo.db.tar.gz /path/to/packagetoadd-1.0-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz

repo-remove is used in the exact same manner as repo-add, except that the packages listed on the command line are removed from the repository database.

Once the local repository database has been created, add the repository to pacman.conf for each system that is to use the repository. An example of a custom repository is in pacman.conf. The repository's name is the database filename with the file extension omitted. In the case of the example above the repository's name would simply be repo. Reference the repository's location using a file:// url, or via FTP using ftp://localhost/path/to/directory.

If willing, add the custom repository to the list of unofficial user repositories, so that the community can benefit from it.

Network shared pacman cache

If you happen to run several Arch boxes on your LAN, you can share packages so that you can greatly decrease your download times. Keep in mind you should not share between different architectures (i.e. i686 and x86_64) or you will run into problems.

Read-only cache

If you are looking for a quick and dirty solution, you can simply run a standalone webserver which other computers can use as a first mirror: darkhttpd /var/cache/pacman/pkg. Just add this server at the top of your mirror list. Be aware that you might get a lot of 404 errors, due to cache misses, depending on what you do, but pacman will try the next (real) mirrors when that happens.

Read-write cache

Tip: See pacserve for an alternative (and probably simpler) solution than what follows.

In order to share packages between multiple computers, simply share /var/cache/pacman/ using any network-based mount protocol. This section shows how to use shfs or sshfs to share a package cache plus the related library-directories between multiple computers on the same local network. Keep in mind that a network shared cache can be slow depending on the file-system choice, among other factors.

First, install any network-supporting filesystem; for example sshfs, shfs, ftpfs, smbfs or nfs.

Tip:
  • To use sshfs or shfs, consider reading Using SSH Keys.
  • By default, smbfs does not serve filenames that contain colons, which results in the client downloading the offending package afresh. To prevent this, use the mapchars mount option on the client.

Then, to share the actual packages, mount /var/cache/pacman/pkg from the server to /var/cache/pacman/pkg on every client machine.

Dynamic reverse proxy cache using nginx

nginx can be used to proxy requests to official upstream mirrors and cache the results to local disk. All subsequent requests for that file will be served directly from the local cache, minimizing the amount of internet traffic needed to update a large number of servers with minimal effort.

Warning: This method has a limitation. You must use mirrors that use the same relative path to package files and you must configure your cache to use that same path. In this example, we are using mirrors that use the relative path /archlinux/$repo/os/$arch and our cache's Server setting in mirrorlist is configured similarly.

In this example, we will run the cache server on http://cache.domain.local:8080/ and storing the packages in /srv/http/pacman-cache/.

Create the directory for the cache and adjust the permissions so nginx can write files to it:

 # mkdir /srv/http/pacman-cache
 # chown http:http /srv/http/pacman-cache

Next, configure nginx as the dynamic cache (read the comments for an explanation of the commands).

Finally, update your other Arch Linux servers to use this new cache by adding the following line to the mirrorlist file:

/etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist
Server = http://cache.domain.local:8080/archlinux/$repo/os/$arch
...
Note: You will need to create a method to clear old packages, as this directory will continue to grow over time. paccache (which is included with pacman) can be used to automate this using retention criteria of your choosing. For example, find /srv/http/pacman-cache/ -type d -exec paccache -v -r -k 2 -c {} \; will keep the last 2 versions of packages in your cache directory.

Synchronize pacman package cache using BitTorrent Sync

BitTorrent Sync is a new way of synchronizing folder via network (it works in LAN and over the internet). It is peer-to-peer so you do not need to set up a server: follow the link for more information. How to share a pacman cache using BitTorrent Sync:

  • First install the btsyncAUR package from the AUR on the machines you want to sync
  • Follow the installation instructions of the AUR package or on the BitTorrent Sync wiki page
    • set up BitTorrent Sync to work for the root account. This process requires read/write to the pacman package cache.
    • make sure to set a good password on btsync's web UI
    • start the systemd daemon for btsync.
    • in the btsync Web GUI add a new synchronized folder on the first machine and generate a new Secret. Point the folder to /var/cache/pacman/pkg
    • Add the folder on all the other machines using the same Secret to share the cached packages between all systems. Or, to set the first system as a master and the others as slaves, use the Read Only Secret. Be sure to point it to /var/cache/pacman/pkg

Now the machines should connect and start synchronizing their cache. Pacman works as expected even during synchronization. The process of syncing is entirely automatic.

Preventing unwanted cache purges

By default, pacman -Sc removes package tarballs from the cache that correspond to packages that are not installed on the machine the command was issued on. Because pacman cannot predict what packages are installed on all machines that share the cache, it will end up deleting files that should not be.

To clean up the cache so that only outdated tarballs are deleted, add this entry in the [options] section of /etc/pacman.conf:

CleanMethod = KeepCurrent

Recreate a package from the file system

To recreate a package from the file system, use bacman (included with pacman). Files from the system are taken as they are, hence any modifications will be present in the assembled package. Distributing the recreated package is therefore discouraged; see ABS and Arch Rollback Machine for alternatives.

Tip: bacman honours the PACKAGER, PKGDEST and PKGEXT options from makepkg.conf. Custom options for the compression tools can be configured by exporting the relevant environment variable, for example XZ_OPT="-T 0" will enable parallel compression for xz.

An alternative tool would be fakepkgAUR. It supports parallelization and can handle multiple input packages in one command, which bacman both does not support.

List of installed packages

Tango-view-fullscreen.pngThis article or section needs expansion.Tango-view-fullscreen.png

Reason: Optional dependencies that are not required by any other package (comm -13 <(pacman -Qdtq) <(pacman -Qdttq)) are ignored by this procedure. (Discuss in Talk:Pacman/Tips and tricks#)
Tip:
  • These tasks can be automated, see plist-gistAUR or bacpac for examples.
  • To skip already installed packages, use --needed.

Keeping a list of native, explicitly installed packages can be useful to speed up installation on a new system.

$ pacman -Qqen > pkglist.txt

To install packages from the list backup, run:

# pacman -S - < pkglist.txt

In case the list includes foreign packages, such as AUR packages, remove them first:

# pacman -S $(comm -12 <(pacman -Slq | sort) <(sort pkglist))

To remove all the packages on your system that are not mentioned in the list.

# pacman -Rsu $(comm -23 <(pacman -Qq | sort) <(sort pkglist))

Listing all changed files from packages

If you are suspecting file corruption (e.g. by software/hardware failure), but are unsure if files were got corrupted, you might want to compare with the hash sums in the packages. This can be done with pacutilsAUR:

# paccheck --md5sum --quiet

For recovery of the database see #Restore pacman's local database. The mtree files can also be extracted as .MTREE from the respective package files.

Note: This should not be used as is when suspecting malicious changes! In this case security precautions such as using a live medium and an independent source for the hash sums are advised.

Reinstalling all packages

To reinstall all native packages, use:

# pacman -Qnq | pacman -S -

Foreign (AUR) packages must be reinstalled separately; you can list them with pacman -Qmq.

Pacman preserves the installation reason by default.

Restore pacman's local database

See Pacman/Restore_local_database.

Recovering a USB key from existing install

If you have Arch installed on a USB key and manage to mess it up (e.g. removing it while it is still being written to), then it is possible to re-install all the packages and hopefully get it back up and working again (assuming USB key is mounted in /newarch)

# pacman -S $(pacman -Qq --dbpath /newarch/var/lib/pacman) --root /newarch --dbpath /newarch/var/lib/pacman

Viewing a single file inside a .pkg file

For example, if you want to see the contents of /etc/systemd/logind.conf supplied within the systemd package:

$ tar -xOf /var/cache/pacman/pkg/systemd-204-3-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz etc/systemd/logind.conf

Or you can use vim to browse the archive:

$ vim /var/cache/pacman/pkg/systemd-204-3-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz

Find applications that use libraries from older packages

Even if you installed a package the existing long-running programs (like daemons and servers) still keep using code from old package libraries. And it is a bad idea to let these programs running if the old library contains a security bug.

Here is a way how to find all the programs that use old packages code:

# lsof +c 0 | grep -w DEL | awk '1 { print $1 ": " $NF }' | sort -u

It will print running program name and old library that was removed or replaced with newer content.

Performance

Database access speeds

Pacman stores all package information in a collection of small files, one for each package. Improving database access speeds reduces the time taken in database-related tasks, e.g. searching packages and resolving package dependencies. The safest and easiest method is to run as root:

# pacman-optimize

This will attempt to put all the small files together in one (physical) location on the hard disk so that the hard disk head does not have to move so much when accessing all the data. This method is safe, but is not foolproof: it depends on your filesystem, disk usage and empty space fragmentation. Another, more aggressive, option would be to first remove uninstalled packages from cache and to remove unused repositories before database optimization:

# pacman -Sc && pacman-optimize

Download speeds

Note: If your download speeds have been reduced to a crawl, ensure you are using one of the many mirrors and not ftp.archlinux.org, which is throttled since March 2007.

When downloading packages pacman uses the mirrors in the order they are in /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist. The mirror which is at the top of the list by default however may not be the fastest for you. To select a faster mirror, see Mirrors.

Pacman's speed in downloading packages can also be improved by using a different application to download packages, instead of Pacman's built-in file downloader.

In all cases, make sure you have the latest Pacman before doing any modifications.

# pacman -Syu

Powerpill

See Powerpill.

wget

This is also very handy if you need more powerful proxy settings than pacman's built-in capabilities.

To use wget, first install the wget package then modify /etc/pacman.conf by uncommenting the following line in the [options] section:

XferCommand = /usr/bin/wget -c -q --show-progress --passive-ftp -O %o %u

Instead of uncommenting the wget parameters in /etc/pacman.conf, you can also modify the wget configuration file directly (the system-wide file is /etc/wgetrc, per user files are $HOME/.wgetrc.

aria2

aria2 is a lightweight download utility with support for resumable and segmented HTTP/HTTPS and FTP downloads. aria2 allows for multiple and simultaneous HTTP/HTTPS and FTP connections to an Arch mirror, which should result in an increase in download speeds for both file and package retrieval.

Note: Using aria2c in Pacman's XferCommand will not result in parallel downloads of multiple packages. Pacman invokes the XferCommand with a single package at a time and waits for it to complete before invoking the next. To download multiple packages in parallel, see Powerpill.

Install aria2, then edit /etc/pacman.conf by adding the following line to the [options] section:

XferCommand = /usr/bin/aria2c --allow-overwrite=true --continue=true --file-allocation=none --log-level=error --max-tries=2 --max-connection-per-server=2 --max-file-not-found=5 --min-split-size=5M --no-conf --remote-time=true --summary-interval=60 --timeout=5 --dir=/ --out %o %u
Tip: This alternative configuration for using pacman with aria2 tries to simplify configuration and adds more configuration options.

See OPTIONS in man aria2c for used aria2c options.

  • -d, --dir :The directory to store the downloaded file(s) as specified by pacman.
  • -o, --out: The output file name(s) of the downloaded file(s).
  • %o: Variable which represents the local filename(s) as specified by pacman.
  • %u: Variable which represents the download URL as specified by pacman.

Other applications

There are other downloading applications that you can use with Pacman. Here they are, and their associated XferCommand settings:

  • snarf: XferCommand = /usr/bin/snarf -N %u
  • lftp: XferCommand = /usr/bin/lftp -c pget %u
  • axel: XferCommand = /usr/bin/axel -n 2 -v -a -o %o %u