I'd like to find a tool that could tell me which Debian packages on my system have been rarely or never used, perhaps by looking at file lists and access times. This is to find candidates for deletion from my nearly full hard drive. I'm not very well informed about the rich ecosystem of desktop GUI tools (I use aptitude); does anyone know if one of those tools, or any other tool, can identify how recently a package has been used?


As already mentioned, popularity-contest should help. It will display the oldest unused packages at the bottom. Uninstall those, but with a watchful eye on whether or not there's stuff depending on them installed.

Here's a snippet of the output:

1294222606 1292570417 vlc /usr/lib/vlc/plugins/gui/libqt4_plugin.so
1294222606 1292570109 xulrunner-1.9.2 /usr/share/xulrunner-1.9.2/chrome/classic.jar
1294222606 1292507839 ttf-dejavu-extra /usr/share/fonts/truetype/ttf-dejavu/DejaVuSans-Oblique.ttf
1294222606 1292507459 x11-utils /usr/bin/xprop

The colums mean atime, ctime, package-name, and file accessed.

One other tool for removing stuff you don't need is deborphan. Running mine gives me:


It means there are no packages depending on those two libraries, implying that I can safely remove them. Newer version of apt-get should make this usage of deborphan less needed, but such orphaned libraries pop up from time to time.

Have a look at this post as well.

  • 1
    Brilliant! I can definitely make use of this! And deborphan proved more useful than I expected. Thanks a lot!! – Norman Ramsey Feb 5 '11 at 22:26

The popularity-contest package is able to collect this information but I do not know if you can directly access it.

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