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Restoring Default Apt Repositories from Command Line in Ubuntu

Ubuntu 20

In this article, we will delve into the process of restoring default Apt repositories from the command line in Ubuntu. This can be a crucial task when you’ve accidentally modified or deleted the /etc/apt/sources.list file, which could disrupt the functioning of your package manager.

Quick Answer

Restoring default Apt repositories in Ubuntu can be done by using the software-properties-common package or by manually editing the sources.list file.

Understanding Apt Repositories

The Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) is a powerful package management system used by Ubuntu and other Debian-based distributions. It allows you to install, update, and remove software packages. The list of repositories or sources from where APT fetches the packages is stored in the /etc/apt/sources.list file.

If this file gets altered or deleted, you may encounter issues while installing or updating software. In such scenarios, restoring the default repositories becomes necessary.

Method 1: Using software-properties-common Package

The software-properties-common package provides an abstraction of the used apt repositories and allows you to easily manage your distribution and independent software vendor software sources.

Step 1: Install software-properties-common

If it’s not already installed, you can install it using the following command:

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common

The sudo command is used to execute the command with root privileges. apt-get install is the command to install a package, and software-properties-common is the package name.

Step 2: Reset the Repositories

To reset the repositories to their default state, run the following command:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure software-properties-common

The dpkg-reconfigure command reconfigures an already installed package using new values for the options it was compiled with. It will open a dialog where you can select the desired repositories.

Method 2: Manually Editing the sources.list File

If you prefer to manually edit the sources.list file, you can follow these steps:

Step 1: Back up the Original File

Before making any changes, it’s a good practice to back up the original file. You can do this using the cp (copy) command:

sudo cp /etc/apt/sources.list /etc/apt/sources.list.backup

This command creates a backup of the original sources.list file and names it sources.list.backup.

Step 2: Comment Out Existing Repositories

The next step is to comment out all the existing repository lines in the file. This can be done using the sed command:

sudo sed -i '/^deb/s/^/#/' /etc/apt/sources.list

The sed command is a stream editor for filtering and transforming text. The -i option is used to edit files in place. The expression '/^deb/s/^/#/' is a regular expression that matches lines starting with “deb” and inserts a “#” at the beginning of those lines, effectively commenting them out.

Step 3: Update the Package Lists

Finally, you need to update the package lists to reflect the changes. This can be done with the apt-get update command:

sudo apt-get update

This command retrieves new lists of packages and updates the package cache on your system.


Restoring the default Apt repositories in Ubuntu is a straightforward process that can be accomplished either by using the software-properties-common package or by manually editing the sources.list file. Always remember to verify the contents of the sources.list file after restoration to ensure it matches the official Ubuntu repositories.

As always, be cautious when making changes to system files and always keep a backup of original files before making any modifications.

What is the purpose of the `/etc/apt/sources.list` file?

The /etc/apt/sources.list file is used to store the list of repositories or sources from where the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) fetches software packages in Ubuntu.

How can I restore the default Apt repositories in Ubuntu?

There are two methods to restore the default Apt repositories. The first method is to use the software-properties-common package, which provides an abstraction of the repositories. You can install it using sudo apt-get install software-properties-common and then reset the repositories with sudo dpkg-reconfigure software-properties-common. The second method is to manually edit the sources.list file by backing up the original file, commenting out existing repositories using sudo sed -i '/^deb/s/^/#/' /etc/apt/sources.list, and then updating the package lists with sudo apt-get update.

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