At some moment

apt-get install

autocomplete was broken

It was very useful to me to see packages name with Tab press

How to repair this autocomplete?

  • Please edit your question to add more information. What does it do now when you press tab? Is there an error? Please include it.
    – Oli
    Dec 9, 2011 at 10:21
  • What package you were trying to find? Is it available via apt-cache search mypkg I am using Kubuntu on Oneiric i see it working well.
    – koolhead17
    Dec 9, 2011 at 11:18
  • For example I press tab after sudo apt-get install ruby, and terminal display me all packages with ruby: ruby-mysql, ryby-dev, etc. Dec 9, 2011 at 11:51
  • Yes, and what do you see instead when you press tab?
    – Oli
    Dec 9, 2011 at 11:56
  • I see folders list, like cd +[TAB] Dec 9, 2011 at 11:59

4 Answers 4


As stated in the comments to the other answer, first make sure that bash-completion is installed:

sudo apt-get install bash-completion

and apparently for @diapir, it helped to reinstall it:

sudo apt-get install --reinstall bash-completion

However, for me, the problem was not that bash-completion was not installed or broken, the problem was that I had accidently deleted my .bashrc file. You can get a new one by copying it from /etc/skel:

cp /etc/skel/.bashrc ~/
  • 2
    Thanks, the bashrc tip solved the problem for me as well. The use of sudo on the chmod command is unnecessary though, right? Dec 24, 2012 at 4:32
  • 2
    the file located in /etc/ is 0644/-rw-r--r-- with user:group = root:root, and when copied to your user folder, will automatically go to user:user
    – Kevin
    May 28, 2014 at 17:07
  • cp /etc/skel/.bashrc ~/ helped me solve this problem. Nov 15, 2015 at 8:54
  • Reinstall and copied /etc/skel/.bashrc helped me, thank you!
    – Sergey
    Apr 27, 2016 at 10:19
  • I just needed to reinstall bash-completion after upgrading from Debian 9 to Debian 10 Aug 10, 2021 at 21:13

Type the following command:

sudo -H gedit /etc/bash.bashrc

Look for these lines:

# enable bash completion in interactive shells
# if ! shopt -oq posix; then
#  if [ -f /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion ]; then
#    . /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion
#  elif [ -f /etc/bash_completion ]; then
#    . /etc/bash_completion
#  fi
# fi

Uncomment some lines, to make it look like this:

# enable bash completion in interactive shells
if ! shopt -oq posix; then
  if [ -f /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion ]; then
    . /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion
  elif [ -f /etc/bash_completion ]; then
    . /etc/bash_completion

Save, close terminal, then reopen it.

I have this issue after installing 13.04, and that's how I resolve it.

  • this was the only thing that worked for me. thank you.
    – this.foo
    Nov 27, 2015 at 7:40
  • Worked for me on Elementary OS LoKi Apr 5, 2017 at 14:43

Note that output of this command:

apt-config dump | grep "Dir::Cache"

Should be something like this:

Dir::Cache "var/cache/apt";
Dir::Cache::archives "archives/";
Dir::Cache::srcpkgcache "srcpkgcache.bin";
Dir::Cache::pkgcache "pkgcache.bin";

If value of Dir::Cache::pkgcache is empty, apt will not be able to auto complete package names. Take a look at your /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/ files and search for this key to be sure that it's not set to empty string.

grep -r pkgcache /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/

Also take a look at this answer.

  • 3
    Looks like this (and the link) is the correct answer if you have this issue inside a docker container.
    – Alan Wang
    Feb 24, 2020 at 14:00
  • this still works tysm! just do rm /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/docker-clean
    – Dave Ankin
    Feb 14, 2021 at 15:45

Download the latest stable release from http://bash-completion.alioth.debian.org/

sudo make install


if [ -f /etc/bash_completion ]; then
  . /etc/bash_completion

to ~/.bashrc

  • bash-completion is in packages - is there any reason you did it manually? The package should do pretty much exactly this :)
    – Caesium
    Dec 10, 2011 at 12:46
  • :) as always, sitting, reading manuals, configure, and then it turns out that this soft is exists in the repository Dec 10, 2011 at 12:57
  • 4
    sudo apt-get install --reinstall bash-completion did it for me.
    – diapir
    Apr 30, 2012 at 0:48
  • 2
    @diapir, I have the same problem, but only reinstall does not working. I have to apply the lines in bashrc file.
    – Anwar
    May 13, 2012 at 17:09

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