How To Find And Fix Broken Packages On Linux

In the dynamic Linux world, package managers play a vital role in system stability and software efficiency. From basic single-board computers to complex server farms, Linux package managers are the sentinels of order, delivering software packages accurately and efficiently.

Broken packages are usually caused by outdated repositories, incomplete installations or deletions, and sometimes conflicts in dependencies. These broken packages can leave even experienced Linux administrators perplexed with issues like software malfunctions and incomplete installations.

In this lesson, my primary objective is to provide you with the knowledge and tools to become an efficient package manager surgeon. I aim to provide you with a comprehensive guide to identifying broken packages and fixing them to improve your system’s vitality.

Understanding Package Management

Definition of Package Management in Linux

Instead of browsing the internet yourself, and searching to download software manually, package managers take care of the heavy lifting, ensuring that these programs are downloaded from reliable sources, installed correctly, and updated.

The Role Of Package Managers

Package Managers come in different variants, depending on their distribution. Debian and its derivatives use the Advanced Package Tool (APT), Red Hat-based systems lean on Yellowdog Updater Modified (YUM); and Arch Linux uses the robust Pacman

Some of the responsibilities of package managers are:

  • Dependency Resolution:Package Managers help identify and fetch the required dependencies for any given software package.
  • Installation and Deletion:Package Managers help handle the installation and removal of software packages.
  • Update Management:Making sure your software is up-to-date is crucial for security and efficient performance. Package Managers do this by automatically installing updates, ensuring that your system is using the latest version of software.

Identifying Broken Packages

Dealing with broken packages is very similar to playing puzzles with missing pieces. This can be a daunting task. I hope to shed some light on how to recognize these problems and how to identify them.

Common Symptoms of Broken


  • Error messages:The most evident sign of a broken package is an error message. These errors may indicate missing dependencies, conflicts, or corruption in the package
  • Incomplete installation:When a software installation is prematurely stopped or encounters an error, it could lead to functionality gaps and conflicts.
  • Software malfunctions:Broken packages can cause installed software to behave unexpectedly, resulting in crashes, freezes, or other abnormal behavior.


Linux provided us with the tools needed to identify package issues.

For Debian/Ubuntu (APT):

dpkg: This command-line tool can help you identify broken packages with the following command:

dpkg --audit

apt-get: To check for and fix broken packages, you can use:

sudo apt-get check
sudo apt-get -f install

For Red Hat-based systems (YUM or DNF):

yum or dnf: These package managers provide a check command to identify and correct problems with RPM packages:

sudo yum check

For Arch Linux (Pacman):

pacman: This package manager offers a Qk command to check the system for package issues:

sudo pacman -Qk

Using Graphical Package Managers for Identification

If you don’t like using the command line, well, Linux has actually got you covered. Introducing the user-friendly Graphical Packages:

Synaptic Package Manager (for Debian/Ubuntu):

Synaptic provides a graphical interface to check and fix broken packages. You can use it to search for broken packages and resolve them interactively.

  • Yum Extender (for Red Hat-based systems): Yum Extender (yumex-dnf) offers a user-friendly interface to search for and resolve package problems.
  • Pamac (for Arch Linux): Pamac, the default graphical package manager for Arch Linux, allows you to identify and repair broken packages effortlessly.

Diagnosing the Cause of Broken Packages on Linux

To effectively troubleshoot, you need to understand the root cause/causes of broken packages.

Possible Reasons Behind Broken Packages

  • Dependency Conflicts:This is one of the major causes of broken packages. This happens when a software package relies on multiple versions of the same library. These conflicts could result in improper installation and updating.
  • Interrupted Installations:When the installation of software is abruptly stopped, certain files and configurations could be missing.
  • Software Repository Problems:If your package managers employ outdated repositories, it can cause broken packages.
  • File System Corruption:These happen only on rare occasions, but corrupted system files can lead to abnormal behaviors and errors.

Analyzing Error Messages for Troubleshooting

Below is an outline for analyzing error messages:

Step 1:

Start by carefully reading the error message. This can give you clues like specific package names, file paths, and dependencies.

Step 2:

Copy and paste the error message into Google and check online forums like Stack Overflow. The chances that other programmers have encountered that problem are very high.

Step 3:

Checking through system logs, such as “/var/log/dpkg.log”. (Debian/Ubuntu)or “/var/1og/yum . log” (Red Hat-based systems), you might find additional information that could be useful.

Step 4:

Use Package Manager Tools: Employ package manager commands like apt, dnf, or pacman with options like -f install to attempt automatic repair of broken packages. These commands often provide more detailed error messages.

Fixing Broken Packages

Now, I will take you through the importance of updating your package database and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to fix broken packages using package manager commands.

In addition, I will also show you advanced techniques for resolving complex problems that may require more advanced intervention.

Updating the Package Database

I cannot overemphasize the importance of updating your package database. Outdated packages often resort to errors when attempting to install software.

Updating your package database is quite easy. Use the following command:

Debian/Ubuntu (APT):

sudo apt-get update

Red Hat-based systems (YUM or DNF):

sudo yum update

Arch Linux (Pacman):

sudo pacman -Syu

Now that your package database is up to date, let’s proceed with the steps to fix broken packages.

Step 1:

Resolve dependencies. Dependencies are the software or libraries that a particular software package relies on to function. When these dependencies are unresolved, they lead to broken packages.

Debian/Ubuntu (APT):

sudo apt-get -f install

Red Hat-based systems (YUM or DNF):

sudo yum check

Arch Linux (Pacman):

sudo pacman -Syu

Step 2:

After resolving the dependencies, the next step is to reinstall the packages.

Debian/Ubuntu (APT):

sudo apt-get --reinstall install package-name

Red Hat-based systems (YUM or DNF):

sudo yum reinstall package-name

Arch Linux (Pacman):

sudo pacman -S package-name

Step 3:

Cleaning package cache ls help remove accumulated package caches that are in your system.

Debian/Ubuntu (APT):

sudo apt-get clean

Red Hat-based systems (YUM or DNF):

sudo dnf clean all

Arch Linux (Pacman):

sudo pacman -Sc

Advanced Techniques for Complex Problems

If after following the steps listed above, you still have the same problems, you can use some of these techniques for more troubleshooting:

Force Installation:

Use the --force or --nodeps option with package manager commands to forcibly install or remove packages, even if it may result in unresolved dependencies.

Manual Package Extraction:

When everything doesn’t seem to be working, you can manually extract the package contents and place them where needed.

Please note that this should only be a last resort.

Preventing Future Issues

Fixing Broken Packages is essential, but preventing these kinds of issues from occurring in the first place is a better stance to take.

Best Practices for Avoiding Broken Packages

Regularly updating the system:

Just like you regularly update your smartphone, updating your Linux system is essential to preventing broken packages in the future. Regularly update your package database using the appropriate package manager commands (e.g., apt-get update && apt-get upgrade for Debian/Ubuntu, yum update for Red Hat-based systems, pacman -Syu for Arch Linux).

Stick To Reliable Repositories:

Using third-party packages can sometimes provide additional features, it is advised to use reliable repositories. These repositories undergo rigorous testing, to ensure compatibility and stability.

Automated Tools for Package Maintenance

To ease the process of updating your system and software packages while minimizing the chances of getting broken packages, consider using automated tools.


A useful tool available on Ubuntu that automates the installation of security updates. It helps ensure that critical updates are promptly applied, reducing the chances of vulnerability.

To install and configure Unattended-Upgrades, you can use the following command:

sudo apt-get install unattended-upgrades

The configuration file for Unattended-Upgrades can be found in “/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/50unattended-upgrades.”


In conclusion, I cannot overemphasize to you the significance of maintaining a healthy package system. It is core to your Linux system’s stability, security, and functionality. By employing the troubleshooting and prevention techniques I have outlined in this lesson, you empower yourself to use Linux efficiently.

Should you encounter challenges that go beyond the scope of this article, remember that the Linux community is a vast reservoir of knowledge and expertise. Explore forums, online communities, and documentation specific to your Linux distribution for advanced troubleshooting and tailored solutions.

Happy Troubleshooting!

By: Abraham Dahunsi
Originally published at: Hackernoon


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