How to Install, Remove, and Update Software on Arch Linux

How to Install, Remove, and Update Software on Arch Linux

Want to install packages on Arch Linux but don’t know how? Many people run into this issue when they first move to Arch. However, you can easily manage packages on your Arch-based system using the Pacman package manager.

Pacman stands for Package Manager, combines a simple binary package format with an easy-to-use build system.

It is the default command-line package management tool in Arch Linux and its derivatives. You can easily install, remove, update, and upgrade packages and all required dependencies with it.

Pacman aims to manage software packages quickly. Moreover, Pacman is one of the primary distinctions between Arch Linux and other major Linux distros such as Red Hat, Ubuntu, Debian, etc.

This guide applies to Arch Linux and all the other Arch-based Linux distros such as Manjaro, EndeavourOS, Garuda Linux, etc., using Pacman as the package manager.

So, let’s see how to use Pacman to install, remove, update, and query packages in Arch Linux with simple examples.

Refresh Package Lists

Like in all Linux operating systems, we must update the package lists before installing any packages or updating the system.

sudo pacman -Sy
Pacman - Refresh Package Lists on Arch Linux

Searching for Package

To search for a specific package, for example, vlc, from a sync database (remote server), run:

sudo pacman -Ss vlc
Pacman - Searching for Package on Arch Linux

Getting Information About Package

To display the detailed information of the given package from the sync database, for example for nginx, run:

pacman -Si nginx
Pacman - Getting Information About Package

Installing a Package with Pacman

Installing a package with Pacman is easy. Just run the following command:

sudo pacman -S vlc
Installing a Package with Pacman on Arch Linux

As a result, this process will automatically identify all the necessary dependencies and take care of them.

Installing a Local Package

Pacman stores all downloaded packages in /var/cache/pacman/pkg folder.

In case you want to install the locally downloaded package, for example, vlc, located in /var/cache/pacman/pkg/ directory, go to the folder where the package is located and enter the following command:

cd /var/cache/pacman/pkg/
sudo pacman -U vlc-3.0.11-2-x86_64.pkg.tar.zst

Update/Upgrade a Package

To update a single package, for example, rsync, run:

sudo pacman -S rsync
Pacman - Update/Upgrade a Package on Arch Linux

To update all packages in your system, just run:

sudo pacman -Syu
Pacman - Update/Upgrade Arch Linux System

Sometimes you want to upgrade the packages, but you want it to stay at an older version (because you know the newer version has removed a feature or is broken).

So, if the vlc package was causing the problem, you could use the following command for this:

sudo pacman -Syu --ignore=vlc

Remove a Package with Pacman

To remove a package with all its dependencies, run the following command:

sudo pacman -Rs vlc
Remove a Package with Pacman on Arch Linux

This command will altogether remove the vlc package and all dependencies. While removing packages, Pacman will keep the critical configuration files with the extension .pacsave.

In addition, if you no longer want them and want to free up the hard drive, you can remove the package along with all its configuration files with the command:

sudo pacman -Rns vlc
Remove a Package with Pacman on Arch Linux

Remove Orphaned (Unused) Packages

As you might know, there will still be some orphaned (unused) packages in your Arch Linux after removing a package. These orphaned packages are not required anymore, so we can get rid of them to free up some space.

To remove these packages, run:

sudo pacman -Rns $(pacman -Qdtq)
Remove Orphaned (Unused) Packages on Arch Linux

If no orphans were found, the output is:

Remove Orphaned (Unused) Packages on Arch Linux

Searching for Already Installed Packages

Sometimes you want to check for a specific package if it is installed locally. In this case, you can do it using the command below:

pacman -Qs vlc
Pacman - Searching for Already Installed Packages

You can view a list of all the packages installed on your system using the following command:

pacman -Q

Find All Files Owned by a Package

You can find all the files that are installed by a specific package using the following command:

pacman -Ql vlc
Pacman - Find All Files Owned by a Package

This returns the package name and the path to files that it owns.

Find the Package Owner of the File

If you want to check the location of the binary executable file owned by a package, use the -Qo flag.

pacman -Qo /usr/bin/vlc
Pacman - Find the Package Owner of the File

Download a Package

Sometimes, you might want to download a package and keep it in your cache without installing it. For example, you might plan to use the downloaded packages. To do so, run:

pacman -Sw vlc
Pacman - Download a Package

The above command will only download the vlc package and keep it in the cache folder. Pacman stores all downloaded packages in /var/cache/pacman/pkg folder.

Clean-Up Package Cache

All packages that we downloaded during the installation will be stored in the cache directory, i.e., /var/cache/pacman/pkg/. If you don’t remove them periodically, it will slowly eat up your hard drive space, and sooner or later, you could end up with low disk space.

So it is good to remove the cache periodically. To remove all the cached packages that are not currently installed and the unused sync database, execute:

sudo pacman -Sc
Pacman - Clean-Up Package Cache

In addition, if you want to remove all files from the cache, use the clean c switch twice. Of course, this is the most aggressive approach and will leave nothing in the cache folder:

sudo pacman -Scc
Pacman - Clean-Up Package Cache

Conclusion

Arch Linux is one of the most reputed and famous Linux distributions. This guide has covered most of the commands you need to know when using Pacman.

Hopefully, it was helpful in your journey with Arch-based distros.

You can find detailed documentation about the Pacman package manager in the official Arch Linux Wiki.

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