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Whenever I type into the terminal the command:

sudo dpkg -r '/home/brentonhorne/Downloads/virtualbox.deb'

I receive the error:

dpkg: error: --remove needs a valid package name but '/home/brentonhorne/Downloads/virtualbox.deb' is not: illegal package name in specifier '/home/brentonhorne/Downloads/virtualbox.deb': must start with an alphanumeric character

Type dpkg --help for help about installing and deinstalling packages [*];
Use `dselect' or `aptitude' for user-friendly package management;
Type dpkg -Dhelp for a list of dpkg debug flag values;
Type dpkg --force-help for a list of forcing options;
Type dpkg-deb --help for help about manipulating *.deb files;

Options marked [*] produce a lot of output - pipe it through `less' or `more' !

How do I get around this problem?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

You're not supposed to pass a deb file to dpkg -r. You should specify only package names to be removed. Once you've install a deb file, information about it is included in dpkg database (/var/lib/dpkg/), and you can use dpkg -r package-name or apt-get remove package-name.


sudo dpkg -r virtualbox-4.1


sudo apt-get remove virtualbox-4.1

Replace "4.1" with the actual VirtualBox version.

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OK, but this is a deb file not provided in the software centre, this is one I downloaded from the net. I ran it (your code) and it failed – Brenton Horne Dec 15 '12 at 16:02
It doesn't matter. dpkg -i takes a full filename. dpkg -r takes the package name. For example, if you had a package called foo_bar_0.2-0ubuntu1.deb, "dpkg -i foo_bar_0.2-0ubuntu1.deb" and "dpkg -r foo_bar". – mfisch Dec 15 '12 at 16:04
Once you've install a deb file, information about it is included in dpkg database. You should remove ANY package using dpkg -r or apt-get remove. – Eric Carvalho Dec 15 '12 at 16:05
Oh it seems it did work earlier when I removed virtualbox when I installed it by means of the software centre so thanks I'll accept your answer. – Brenton Horne Dec 15 '12 at 16:08
@BrentonHorne VirtualBox's package names includes version numbers so you have to specify it, like: dpkg -r virtualbox-4.1. Run dpkg -l | grep virtualbox to check the exact package name. – Eric Carvalho Dec 15 '12 at 16:14

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