Running sudo apt-get install <PACKAGE> will install the package, its dependencies, and any other recommended packages.

However, there does not seem to be a way to install only the dependencies of a package and exclude the package itself.

How would one go about doing this?

  • Just curious, why do you want to do this? Nov 1, 2011 at 18:01
  • @root45: Well it's a bit of a unique situation: I have the source code to a Python package in the repos. and it isn't starting. I need to install the dependencies for the package without installing the package itself (since I already have the code). Nov 1, 2011 at 18:04
  • 1
    Couldn't you just do a dry-run of apt-get install and look at what is going to get installed, then just install everything but the app you are compiling?
    – duffydack
    Nov 1, 2011 at 18:11
  • 2
    Or just install it and then remove the application (but not its dependencies). And/or install an updated/fixed package after building it.
    – JanC
    Nov 1, 2011 at 18:27
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    I don't think it's that unique of a situation. I just used @htorque's answer to install the development version of R without having to have the main build installed. I suspect any nightly build would benefit from this--there's no reason to not have things like gcc under version control just because you want to build a package from source. Apr 13, 2014 at 9:18

6 Answers 6


This will install all packages in the package's Depends and PreDepends field:

sudo apt-get install $(apt-cache depends <PACKAGE> | grep Depends | sed "s/.*ends:\ //" | tr '\n' ' ')

Basically you ask for all dependencies, filter out the (Pre)Depends, and format that output for apt-get.

One problem are dependencies like

Depends: pulseaudio

or virtual packages like

Depends: <java6-runtime-headless>

So: use with care - it doesn't work in all cases!

  • 2
    There are a lot of cases this doesn't handle, e.g. it will completely break on virtual packages (which are printed in angle brackets). See here for examples: askubuntu.com/questions/25361/… Jan 26, 2012 at 22:06
  • Thanks for the hint, though I'm not really sure how the handle all those issues. :-(
    – htorque
    Jan 26, 2012 at 22:10
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    If I may, I'd like to suggest simpler solution with AWK: sudo apt-get install $(apt-cache depends PACKAGE-NAME-HERE | awk '$1~/Depends/{printf $2" "}') Nov 18, 2015 at 21:12
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    I ran into the virtual package issue you mention above; updating sed in the pipeline to the following worked for me: sed -e "s/.*ends:\ //" -e 's/<[^>]*>//'. In my case, the virtual package in < > was preceded by the package satisfying it, so removing the item in < > worked fine.
    – berto
    Mar 16, 2016 at 14:27

If you don't mind copy/past, just simulate an apt-get install with -s. That way you will see which other packages will get installed and/or upgrade, then you just remove the package name you don't want to install from that list and voila.

sudo apt-get install -s <package>

  • nice, but how to wrap that into sed/awk and parent non -s install command?
    – jangorecki
    Nov 22, 2023 at 18:12

To list all dependencies of a given package not being installed, you could use aptitude

aptitude search '!~i?reverse-depends("^PACKAGE_NAME$")'

To install the dependencies

aptitude search '!~i?reverse-depends("^PACKAGE_NAME$")' -F "%p" | xargs sudo apt-get install


  • List the dependencies

    % aptitude search '!~i?reverse-depends("^mc$")'
    p    mc-data         - Midnight Commander - a powerful file manager -- data files
  • Show only the package name

    % aptitude search '!~i?reverse-depends("^mc$")' -F "%p"
  • Install the dependencies for, e.g. mc

    % aptitude search '!~i?reverse-depends("^mc$")' -F "%p" | xargs sudo apt-get install     
    Reading package lists... Done
    Building dependency tree       
    Reading state information... Done
    The following NEW packages will be installed:
    0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
    Need to get 1.166 kB of archives.
    After this operation, 5.550 kB of additional disk space will be used.
    Get:1 http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ wily/universe mc-data all 3:4.8.13-3 [1.166 kB]
    Fetched 1.166 kB in 0s (1.250 kB/s)
    Selecting previously unselected package mc-data.
    (Reading database ... 606748 files and directories currently installed.)
    Preparing to unpack .../mc-data_3%3a4.8.13-3_all.deb ...
    Unpacking mc-data (3:4.8.13-3) ...
    Processing triggers for doc-base (0.10.6) ...
    Processing 1 added doc-base file...
    Registering documents with scrollkeeper...
    Processing triggers for man-db (2.7.4-1) ...
    Processing triggers for hicolor-icon-theme (0.15-0ubuntu1) ...
    Setting up mc-data (3:4.8.13-3) ...
  • This solution is nice, but, like most of the other answers here, it will incorrectly try to install virtual packages. It also doesn't give apt the package versions, and that can cause problems sometimes. I think you can fix both problems by running aptitude search '!~i?reverse-depends("^PACKAGE_NAME$")' -F "%c %p %V" | awk '($1 != "v") {print $2"="$3}' | xargs sudo apt install instead. Aug 9, 2021 at 22:59

apt-get build-dep <package> will do the trick.

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    That won't work because the package has runtime dependencies that won't be installed with apt-get build-dep. Sep 19, 2012 at 1:35

You can parse the output of an apt install simulation to do this, here's a bash function to do so for you:

apt-install-depends() {
    local pkg="$1"
    apt-get install -s "$pkg" \
      | sed -n \
        -e "/^Inst $pkg /d" \
        -e 's/^Inst \([^ ]\+\) .*$/\1/p' \
      | xargs apt-get install


apt-install-depends mopidy
  • It's worth calling out that this will only find dependencies that are not yet installed on the system. It's not an exhaustive list of dependencies. That might be fine. I just wanted to call it out for others that come across this answer.
    – Taytay
    Mar 24, 2021 at 13:38
  • 2
    I also discovered that this will install the parent package in addition to its dependencies. If you want to avoid that, you will have to explicitly filter it out.
    – Taytay
    Mar 24, 2021 at 14:04

To install dependencies only, you can use apt-cache show package | grep Depends. This will give you a list of dependencies:

apt-cache show apache2 | grep Depends
Depends: apache2-mpm-worker (= 2.2.22-6ubuntu5.1) | apache2-mpm-prefork (= 2.2.22-6ubuntu5.1) | apache2-mpm-event (= 2.2.22-6ubuntu5.1) | apache2-mpm-itk (= 2.2.22-6ubuntu5.1), apache2.2-common (= 2.2.22-6ubuntu5.1)

then you can decide what package install with apt-get. There is also aptitude in the interactive mode, you look for the package select it and then install it's dependencies:

enter image description here

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