How to Fix Broken Packages in Ubuntu?


Broken packages are a common issue for Ubuntu users, and they can cause a lot of trouble. When a package is broken, it means that there is an error in the installation process or post-installation scripts. This results in a situation where the package cannot be installed, upgraded, or even removed from your system.

Broken packages can cause programs to malfunction and leave the system unstable, which can result in loss of data and other problems. It is crucial to fix broken packages as soon as possible to avoid further issues with your system stability.

Identifying Broken Packages

Using the Terminal to check for broken packages

The Terminal is a powerful tool that can be used to check for broken packages in Ubuntu. To do so, open the Terminal and use the following command −

sudo apt-get check 

This command will scan the system for any broken dependencies or missing files required by installed packages. If there are any issues, a message will appear listing the problematic packages and dependencies that need to be fixed. Additionally, another useful command is −

sudo dpkg --audit 

This command checks for any inconsistencies in installed packages and their files. It identifies missing files or incorrect permissions on certain files.

Using Synaptic Package Manager to identify broken packages

Synaptic Package Manager is a graphical user interface (GUI) tool that can also be used to identify broken packages in Ubuntu. To use it, open Synaptic from the Applications menu, then click on "Status" on the left-hand side of the window and select "Broken".

This will display a list of all the broken package dependencies on your system. The list displays each package’s name along with its current state (broken) and a brief explanation of why it's broken.

Fixing Broken Packages

Once you have identified the broken packages on your Ubuntu system, it's time to fix them. There are two main ways you can go about fixing broken packages: by using the Terminal and its command-line interface or by using Synaptic Package Manager, which provides a more user-friendly graphical interface.

Using the Terminal to Fix Broken Packages Using apt-get and dpkg Commands

One way to fix broken packages is by using the Terminal. This method is particularly useful for those who are comfortable with using a command-line interface. Here are the steps −

  • Open up your Terminal and enter the following command −

sudo apt-get update 

    This will ensure that your package lists are up-to-date.

  • If there are any updates available, run this command next −

sudo apt-get upgrade

    This will update all installed packages on your system.

  • If you still have broken packages after running an upgrade, you can try to fix them with this command −

sudo apt-get install -f 

    The "-f" flag stands for "fix" and will attempt to correct any issues with dependencies or missing files.

  • If none of these commands work, you may need to use another tool called dpkg.

Here's how −

  • Type in this command −

sudo dpkg --configure -a  

    This will configure all previously installed but unconfigured packages.

  • If there were any issues with dependencies during installation, run this command next −

sudo apt-get install -f

Using Synaptic Package Manager to Fix Broken Packages

Synaptic Package Manager is a graphical tool that allows you to fix broken packages in a more user-friendly way. Here's how −

  • Open up Synaptic Package Manager by searching for it in your application menu or typing "sudo synaptic" in the Terminal.

  • Click on the "Status" button on the bottom left-hand corner of the window.

  • Select "Broken Dependencies" from the filter options. This will display all packages with broken dependencies.

  • Right-click on any package with broken dependencies and select "Mark for Reinstallation".

  • Click on the "Apply" button in Synaptic Package Manager. This will reinstall all marked packages, including those with missing dependencies.

Removing Broken Packages

Sometimes, fixing a broken package is not possible, and removing the package becomes necessary. In such cases, it's essential to remove the broken package completely from the system before attempting to install it again. Leaving remnants of a broken package on the system can lead to further issues during installation or upgrades.

There are two primary methods for removing broken packages in Ubuntu: using the Terminal and using Synaptic Package Manager. Both methods work effectively, and it comes down to personal preference which method you choose.

Using the Terminal

To remove a broken package using the Terminal, you first need to identify its name. You can do this by running either of these commands −

sudo dpkg --list | grep -i 
sudo apt list --installed | grep -i 

Once you have identified the package name, use one of these commands to remove it −

sudo apt-get remove -f 
sudo dpkg --remove --force-remove-reinstreq 

The first command uses apt-get remove with the force (-f) option to uninstall any remaining files associated with the package. The second command uses dpkg with force-remove-reinstreq option that forces removal of files even if they are marked as essential or already installed.

Using Synaptic Package Manager

If you prefer using GUI over Terminal Commands, you can use Synaptic Package Manager tool for removing packages. Open Synaptic Package Manager from Ubuntu Dash or Menu and search for your desired program/package that needs removal.

Once identified, right click on it and select "Mark for Complete Removal". This will not only delete all dependencies but also configurations files related to that program/package.

Preventing Broken Packages in the Future

Best practices for avoiding future issues with package management

Preventing broken packages in Ubuntu is a crucial step to avoid issues that may arise from package management. Although it may be impossible to avoid all problems, there are several best practices you can follow to minimize the risk. The first practice is to always install software from official Ubuntu repositories only.

This applies even when using a third-party tool like apt-fast or aptitude, which should always use the official Ubuntu sources. Another best practice for avoiding future broken packages in Ubuntu is to perform regular system updates.

Keeping software up-to-date

One of the most common causes of broken packages in Ubuntu is outdated software. In addition to keeping your system updated, it's essential to keep all installed applications up-to-date as well. While this can be done manually by checking for new releases periodically, using tools like Aptitude or Synaptic Package Manager can make the process much easier.

Avoiding third-party repositories

Although third-party repositories may provide access to additional software not available on official Ubuntu repositories, they can also be risky and cause conflicts with existing packages on your system leading to broken packages. To avoid such issues, you should only install applications from trusted third-party sources and ensure they have been designed explicitly for use with Ubuntu.

Properly removing software

Another common cause of broken packages in Ubuntu is improper removal of installed applications. When uninstalling software in Ubuntu, you should always use the standard package management tools such as Synaptic Package Manager or the Terminal instead of manually deleting files from your file system.


Broken packages can cause inconvenience and frustration for Ubuntu users. However, with the right tools and knowledge, fixing these packages can be a straightforward process. By using the Terminal or Synaptic Package Manager to identify and fix broken packages, Ubuntu users can take control of their package management system.

And by following best practices for package management such as keeping software up-to-date, avoiding third-party repositories, and properly removing software when necessary, users can prevent future issues with broken packages. Remember to always check for broken packages before installing new software or updating existing programs.

Updated on: 05-Jun-2023

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