How do I find a list of packages that are outdated and need to be upgraded using aptitude?

I am using Ubuntu 10.04.

4 Answers 4


update-manager (sitting in System -> Administration) should probably be your first port of call. Though if you want a command-line version:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

aptitude and synaptic can also tell you.

  • Please change this to say "dist-upgrade". Just doing "upgrade" can end up skipping new kernels, new libraries, etc. It's almost never right to just use "upgrade".
    – Kees Cook
    Nov 3, 2010 at 17:22
  • 2
    Fair point. As an explanation for others, upgrade will only upgrade installed packages. For things like kernels (installed as a dependency of the metapackage linux-image) each kernel version has its own package name (eg: linux-image- This is common in packages where having multiple versions available is desirable. apt-get upgrade would therefore not upgrade you to linux-image- if and when linux-image changed its dependencies because ....8 is a new package. dist-upgrade would.
    – Oli
    Nov 3, 2010 at 18:04

Another way to achive that from the command line is that of apt-show-versions.
The man page states:

apt-show-versions parses the dpkg status file and the APT lists for the installed and available package versions and distribution and shows upgrade options within the specific distribution of the selected package.

Once you've installed the package:

$ sudo apt-get install apt-show-versions

the only thing you have to do is:

$ sudo apt-show-versions -u

Hope that helps


Aptitude doesn't handle package installation as well as apt-get, so I would recommend sticking with apt-get. To get a list of packages that need to be installed, I would use the --dry-run option:

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade --dry-run | grep ^Inst | cut -d" " -f2
  • 1
    What's wrong with aptitude? I use it for most of my package selections both on my desktop and on my servers.
    – Oli
    Nov 3, 2010 at 18:06
  • Nothing is strictly wrong with aptitude, but since the Update Manager and apt-get share a development history, it's usually easier to get support for problems with apt-get than aptitude. In the past, aptitude's conflict resolver has been much better, but the gap there has been closing. It's a matter of taste. :)
    – Kees Cook
    Nov 3, 2010 at 19:51

In synaptic: from left "Status" and select "installed (upgradable)", or just use update-manager which shows all needed updates.

Synaptic: System->Administrator->Synaptic Package manager

Update manager: System->Administrator->Update manager

  • "upgradeable (upstream)" is something entirely different...
    – JanC
    Nov 3, 2010 at 17:22

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