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What Happens When You Run “apt-get install” Command?

Ubuntu 19

In the world of Linux, apt-get install is a commonly used command. But what exactly happens when you run this command? This article will delve into the intricate details of the apt-get install command, explaining its functionality and the processes it triggers.

Quick Answer

When you run the "apt-get install" command in Linux, several processes are triggered. First, the command checks for any missing dependencies and prompts you to install them. Then, it downloads the package from the specified repository and verifies its integrity. Next, the package is extracted and installed on your system, with any pre and post-installation scripts executed. Finally, any trigger actions that affect other packages are handled.

Introduction to apt-get install

The apt-get install command is a powerful tool used in Debian-based Linux distributions like Ubuntu. It is part of the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT), which handles the installation, upgrade, and removal of software on your system. When you run apt-get install <package-name>, you’re instructing the system to install a specific software package.

The Process of apt-get install

Dependency Checking

The first step in the process is dependency checking. Every software package has dependencies, which are other packages that need to be installed for it to function correctly. When you run apt-get install, it checks for these dependencies. If any are missing, it will prompt you to install them as well.

Package Download

Once all dependencies are accounted for, apt-get proceeds to download the package. It retrieves the package from the repository specified in your system’s sources list, typically located at /etc/apt/sources.list. The downloaded packages are stored in the /var/cache/apt/archives/ directory.

Package Verification

Following the download, apt-get performs a package verification. This step ensures the integrity of the downloaded packages using checksums. If the verification fails, apt-get will not proceed with the installation.

Package Extraction and Installation

The next step is package extraction and installation. This task is handled by dpkg, the Debian package management system that apt-get is built upon. dpkg extracts the contents of the package and copies them to the appropriate locations on your system.

Pre/Post Installation Scripts

During the installation process, dpkg executes any pre-installation (preinst) and post-installation (postinst) scripts provided by the package maintainer. These scripts can perform various tasks such as configuring the package, setting up permissions, or starting services.

Trigger Actions

Lastly, dpkg handles trigger actions. These are actions triggered by the installation of a package that affect other packages. These actions can include updating configuration files or restarting services.

Understanding Maintainer Scripts

To better understand the installation process, you can view the content of the maintainer scripts. Navigate to the /var/lib/dpkg/info/ directory and look for files with names like <package-name>.preinst, <package-name>.postinst, <package-name>.prerm, and <package-name>.postrm. These scripts, usually written in shell script format, provide insight into the actions taken during the package installation and removal process.


The apt-get install command is a vital tool for managing software on Debian-based Linux distributions. Understanding its inner workings can help you troubleshoot issues and gain a deeper understanding of your system’s software management. Remember, it’s always important to ensure that your system’s package lists are up-to-date before installing new software. You can do this by running the apt-get update command.

In the future, you may find yourself using the apt command, which is being introduced as a replacement for apt-get starting from Ubuntu 14.04. While apt provides a more user-friendly interface, it still performs similar actions under the hood.

By understanding the processes that occur when you run apt-get install, you’ll be better equipped to manage your Linux system effectively.

What is the difference between `apt-get install` and `apt install`?

apt-get install and apt install are both used to install software packages on Debian-based Linux distributions. The main difference is that apt is a newer, more user-friendly command introduced as a replacement for apt-get starting from Ubuntu 14.04. apt provides a more streamlined and intuitive interface while still performing similar actions under the hood.

How do I update the package lists before installing new software?

To update the package lists, you can run the apt-get update command. This command refreshes the repository metadata, ensuring that you have the latest information about available software packages. It is always recommended to run apt-get update before installing new software to ensure that you are installing the most up-to-date versions.

Can I install multiple packages at once using `apt-get install`?

Yes, you can install multiple packages at once using apt-get install. Simply list the package names separated by spaces after the apt-get install command. For example, to install packages A, B, and C, you would run apt-get install A B C.

How can I view the content of the maintainer scripts?

To view the content of the maintainer scripts, navigate to the /var/lib/dpkg/info/ directory and look for files with names like <package-name>.preinst, <package-name>.postinst, <package-name>.prerm, and <package-name>.postrm. These files contain the maintainer scripts written in shell script format. You can use a text editor or the cat command to view their contents.

What should I do if the package installation fails?

If the package installation fails, there could be various reasons. One common solution is to run apt-get update to ensure that you have the latest package lists. Additionally, you can check for any error messages displayed during the installation process and search for solutions online. It’s also a good idea to check if your system meets the package’s system requirements. If all else fails, you can seek help from the Linux community or the package’s official support channels.

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