How to install software in Linux (RPM/DEB systems)

In this tutorial, we’ll be covering packages, package managers and how to find, install and remove software for most popular Linux distributions.


Typically when you install software in a Linux system you do so with a package. A package is just a collection of files that make up an application. Additionally, a package contains data about the application as well as any steps required to successfully install and remove that application.

Data / Metadata

The data or metadata that is contained within a package can include such information as the description of the application, the version and the list of dependencies or other packages that this particular application needs in order to function.

Package Manager

A package manager is used to install, upgrade and remove packages. The package manager uses a package’s metadata to automatically install any required dependencies. Package managers keep track of what files belong to what packages, what packages are installed and what versions of those packages are installed.

Installing Software on RPM Distros

Here’s a list of distributions that are based on the RPM package format. RPM stands for RedHat Package Manager.

  • RedHat
  • CentOS
  • Fedora
  • Oracle Linux
  • Scientific Linux


The yum command-line utility is a package management program for those Linux distributions that use rpm packages.

Note: Installing or removing software requires root or superuser privileges.

Find packages to install using yum

yum search string

Display information about a package using yum

yum info [package]

Install a package with yum

yum install [package]

yum will typically ask you to review your request and say yes or no. If you want to continue to automatically answer yes to yum’s question use:

yum install [-y] [package]

Remove a package with yum

yum remove [package]


In addition to the yum command, you can also use the rpm command to interact with the package manager.

List installed packages using rpm

rpm -qa

List the file’s package usign rpm

rpm -qf with path to a file will tell you what file a package belongs to.

rpm -qf /path/to/file

List package’s files

List all the files that belong to that particular package

rpm -ql [package]

Install package using rpm

rpm -ivh package.rpm

Erase (uninstall) pacakge using rpm

rpm -e [package]

Installing Software on DEB Distros

Another popular package format is the Debian package format. In addition to Debian, distributions like Mint and Ubuntu use deb packages.

  • Debian
  • Linux Mint
  • Ubuntu

apt - Advanced Packacking Tool

The Debian-based distributions use a package manager called apt (advanced packaging tool). apt is comprised of a few small utilities with the two most commonly used being apt-cache and apt-get.

Find packages to install using apt-cache

apt-cache search string

Install a package with apt-get

apt-get install [-y] [package]

Remove a package but keep configurations

apt-get remove [package]

Remove a package and delete configurations

apt-get purge [package]

Display information about a package using apt-cache

apt-cache show [package]


In addition to the app utilities, you can use the dpkg command to interact with the package manager.

List installed packages using dpkg

dpkg -l

List file’s package using dpkg

dpkg -S /path/to/file

List all files in a package using dpkg

dpkg -L [package]

Install a package with dpkg

dpkg -i package.deb

Watch the video for live examples of searching, installing and removing some actual software like Dropbox using the above mentioned methods.


Packages are used to install software on Linux system. You can manipulate packages with a package manager. Two of the most popular package formats are RPM and Debian. For RPM-based distributions use the yum and rpm commands to manage packages. For Debian-based distributions use apt and dpkg to manage packages.

Also see: Install deb file from command line

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