Many popular programs are available on Linux exclusively as a DEB package. This might worry you if you’ve recently migrated to Arch Linux and aren’t sure how to install your favorite programs.
DEB files are intrinsic to derivatives based on Debian or Ubuntu. However, you can still install them on your Arch-based system in several ways. Let’s review the methods of installing DEB files in Arch Linux.
What is a DEB file?
A DEB or “.deb” file is basically an archive containing scripts, configuration files, and other data needed to install a program. DEB files are primarily designed for use on Debian desktop or Debian-based computers such as Pop! _OS, Ubuntu and MX Linux, to name a few.
If you’re coming from Windows, you can think of DEB files as a Windows executable (EXE) file.
While installing a DEB package on Arch Linux isn’t as simple as running a Windows executable, it’s certainly not rocket science. The installation is quite simple and the steps are easy to follow.
1. Install the program from the AUR
AUR or Arch User Repository is the largest software library among all Linux distributions. In case you can’t find an officially supported package for Arch Linux, the AUR is where you should look before anywhere else.
While it won’t help you install a DEB file, chances are you’ll find an Arch-compatible package for the software you need.
You can install AUR packages manually or through an AUR wizard. We recommend going ahead with yay, a popular and easy to use AUR helper. To get started, just search for the package name with yay :
yay will list all relevant packages. Copy the correct package name and install it by running:
yay -S package_name
This should successfully install the software on your Arch Linux system. To learn more about yay, check out this guide to managing packages with yay.
2. Install DEB packages on Arch Linux with Debtap
If you can’t find an alternative in the AUR, you should opt for Debtap. It is a command line tool that converts a Debian package into an Arch compatible package.
Debtap gets the job done for the most part, but you should always exercise caution as incompatible package updates can break its functionality.
Install Debtap on Arch Linux
To install Debtap, launch the terminal and install it using an AUR wizard:
yay -S debtap
Change to the DEB file directory using the cd command and use Debtap to start converting the package.
Debtap will create a “yourfile.zst” which you can easily install with your package manager, in this case, pacman.
sudo pacman -U yourfile.zst
This should install the package on your Arch Linux machine.
3. Manually Install DEB Packages on Arch
For those who prefer a more hands-on approach, you can manually extract the DEB package and place the contents in the appropriate directories.
Before reading further, note that this is not the recommended way to install DEB packages. Only resort to this method if all alternatives fail.
This method is platform independent, meaning you can apply this method to all distributions, Arch Linux or not.
Start by using the ar command to extract the .deb file in a folder.
ar x /path/to/file
Then move into the folder and extract the archives with the tar command.
tar xvf control.tar.gz
tar xvf data.tar.gz
You will find three new folders: etc, optand usr. Copy the contents of these folders to the appropriate directories. For example, copy the contents of etc folder in the /etc your system directory and do the same for the rest accordingly.
sudo cp ./etc/* /etc/
sudo cp ./opt/* /opt/
sudo cp ./usr/* /usr/
Once all the files have been placed in their place, you can run the shell script inside the /usr/bin folder to run the application. For ease of use, consider creating a desktop shortcut to run this program.
This is quite a tedious method and will not work one hundred percent of the time, so we suggest that you refrain from manual installation and treat it as a last attempt.
You can now install DEB packages on Arch Linux
You can install Debian packages on Arch Linux. However, a package that is not inherently intended for Arch Linux can often break over time when being updated.
With a state-of-the-art distribution, sometimes all it takes is one broken package to bring the whole system down. It is essential to regularly scan for faulty packages, repair them and update the package list of your Linux system.
How to Find and Fix Broken Packages in Linux
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