I want to get the list of installed packages to perform a fresh installation.

There are many ways of getting these e.g. https://wiki.debian.org/ListInstalledPackages but all produce impractically long lists including dependencies and system packages.

How can I get a list of user installed packages?

1 Answer 1


All actions performed by apt are logged in /var/log/apt/ but this too has excessive detail and many logs are compressed.

The following script produces a list of actions and the dates on which they were performed.

I have modified my apthist script to show only user installed packages.

#Print apt-get history EXCEPT for upgrades
# 2017-08-06
# 2020-10-07    Include packages installed by packagekit
# 2020-12-04    delete lines containing 'apt upgrade' and preceding line

for logf in $(ls /var/log/apt/history.log.*.gz | sort -rV) ; \
 do zcat $logf | grep -E -A 1 "Start-Date:|Commandline:" | sed -e '/Requested-By:/d' ; done \
  | tac | sed -e '/^--/d' -e '/apt .*upgrade/{N;d;}' | tac

# Include most recent
grep -E  -A 1  "Start-Date:|Commandline:" /var/log/apt/history.log | sed -e '/Requested-By:/d' \
  | tac | sed -e '/^--/d' -e '/apt .*upgrade/{N;d;}' | tac
  1. Below is a script I use to list apt history. This is still handy if you are interested in upgrades.
# Print apt-get history
# 2020-10-07    Include packages installed by packagekit
for logf in $(ls /var/log/apt/history.log.*.gz | sort -rV) ; do zcat $logf | grep -E -A 1 "Start-Date:|Commandline:" | sed -e '/Requested-By:/d' ; done
# Include most recent# grep -E "Start-Date:|Commandline:" /var/log/apt/history.log
grep -E  -A 1  "Start-Date:|Commandline:" /var/log/apt/history.log | sed -e '/Requested-By:/d'

There are some limitations;

  1. only the last 12 months are shown (because the logs are rotated monthly and only the 12 most recent are kept) but this can be extended by editing /etc/logrotate.d/apt

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