How to get rid of Debian and Ubuntu GNU / Linux obsolete configuration files and system directories

I've been using Debian GNU / Linux on my Thinkpad laptop for almost 3 years and half. Initially the Debian version which I had installed was a stable Debian Lenny. As I was mostly dissatisfied of the old versions of the programs, I migrated to testing / unstable
Testing / unstables shipped program versions were a bit better but still back in the day I wanted to get advantage of the latest program versions so for a while I switched to unstable .
Later I regretted for this bad idea, after the migration to Unstable, it was too buggy to run on a notebook one uses for everyday work.
Then to revert back to a bit stable I downgraded to testing unstable again.
When Debian launched Debian Squeeze I set in my /etc/apt/sources.list file software repositories to be the one for the stable Debian Squeeze.

As you can see, I've done quite a lot of "experiments" and "excersises". Many packages were installed, then removed, some became obsolete with time others I just temporary installed out of curiosity. Anyways as a result I ended up with many packages uninstalled / removed , which still kept some of their directory structres and configurations on the machine.

Today, I decided to check how many of these obsolete packages are still present in dpkg database and I was shocked to find out 412 debs were still in my package database! To check the number I used cmd:

root@noah:~# dpkg -l | grep -i '^rcs.*$'|wc -l

Considering the tremendous number of packs waiting to be purged, I decided to get rid of this old and already unnecessery files for the sake of clarity, besides that removing the old already uninstalled packages removes old configuration files, readmes, directories and frees some little space and therefore frees some inodes 😉

Before proceeding to remove them, I carefully reviewed and all the package names which I was about to completely purge in order to make sure there is no package with a configuration files I might need in future:

root@noah:~# dpkg -l |grep -i '^rcs.*$'
After reviewing all the deb packages possessing the rc – (remove candidate) flag, I used the following bash one liners to remove the obsolete deb packages:

root@noah:~# for i in $(dpkg -l |grep -i '^rcs.*$'|awk '{ print $2 }'); do echo dpkg --purge $i done...
root@noah:~# for i in $(dpkg -l |grep -i '^rcs.*$'|awk '{ print $2 }'); do dpkg --purge $i done

First line will just print out what will be purged with dpkg , so after I checked it out I used the second one to purge all the RC packs.

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3 Responses to “How to get rid of Debian and Ubuntu GNU / Linux obsolete configuration files and system directories”

  1. ThorstenS says:
    IceWeasel 7.0.1 IceWeasel 7.0.1 GNU/Linux x64 GNU/Linux x64
    Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:7.0.1) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/7.0.1 Iceweasel/7.0.1

    How about aptitude purge ‘~c’


    P.S. I like your blog =)

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