How to find which package a binary file belongs to on Debian/Ubuntu

Last updated on November 24, 2020 by Dan Nanni

If you are managing software on Debian/Ubuntu using apt-get package management, there may be cases where you want to remove or upgrade a software package that contains an existing binary file on your system. So given an existing binary file (e.g., /usr/lib/postgresql/8.4/bin/postgres), how can you find out which package provides the binary file?

This is when apt-file can help you, which is a command-line utility developed for that very purpose. First, install apt-file as follows.

$ sudo apt-get install apt-file
$ sudo apt-file update

In order to find out which package /usr/lib/postgresql/8.4/bin/postgres belongs to, do the following.

$ sudo apt-file search /usr/lib/postgresql/8.4/bin/postgres
postgresql-8.4: /usr/lib/postgresql/8.4/bin/postgres

The above output tells you that the binary file comes from a package called postgresql-8.4.

To remove the found package, as well as its dependencies that were installed along with it but are no longer used by anything else on the system, do the following.

$ sudo apt-get autoremove postgresql-8.4

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