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? – Kris Harper Nov 1 '11 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). – Nathan Osman Nov 1 '11 at 18:04
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    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 '11 at 18:11
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    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 '11 at 18:27
  • I need the ability to do this so I can build and install a source package that isn't already built for my architecture. apt-get build-dep installs build dependencies, so apt-get -b source works, but runtime dependencies aren't installed, so dpkg -i *.deb fails. – Trevor Robinson Jan 26 '12 at 22:03

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!

| improve this answer | |
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    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/… – Trevor Robinson Jan 26 '12 at 22:06
  • Thanks for the hint, though I'm not really sure how the handle all those issues. :-( – htorque Jan 26 '12 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" "}') – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Nov 18 '15 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 '16 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>

| improve this answer | |

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. – Nathan Osman Sep 19 '12 at 1:35

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) ...
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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
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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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