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Find all manually installed packages within ubuntu

Feb 20 2018

The Problem

If you plan to migrate your Ubuntu machine from one hardware to another then you can follow the following approach:

  1. Perform a complete backup your home directory
  2. Extract the list of manually installed packages
  3. Set up a new vanilla Ubuntu on the same or another hardware
  4. Restore the contents of your home directory
  5. Re-install all missing packages

Now - where is the problem ? ... If you don't have a list of your previously installed packages, then it is not possible to use the new box as you have used the old ones - just because some of the programs that you are used to are missing.

The Solution

The solution is (as outlined above) to have a list of packages which were installed on the old computer. Forunately it is a one-liner to get this list:

$comm -23 <(apt-mark showmanual | sort -u) <(gzip -dc /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz | sed -n 's/^Package: //p' | sort -u)

This code snippet works by fetching the list of manually installed packages by getting a list of packages installed right after a fresh install. Afterwards, this list is compared to the list of currently installed packages. The difference between these lists is the manually installed packages.

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