Many popular programs are available on Linux exclusively as a DEB package. This could concern you if you have recently migrated to Arch Linux and are unsure how to install your favorite programs.
DEB files are intrinsic to Debian or Ubuntu-based derivatives. However, you can still install them on your Arch-based system in a few ways. Let’s step through the ways to install DEB files in Arch Linux.
What Is a DEB File?
A DEB or “.deb” file is essentially an archive containing scripts, configuration files, and other data required to install a program. DEB files are built primarily for use on Debian or Debian-based desktops like Pop!_OS, Ubuntu, and MX Linux, to name a few.
If you are coming from Windows, you can think of DEB files in terms of a Windows executable file (EXE).
While installing a DEB package on Arch Linux may not be as simple as running a Windows executable, it is certainly not rocket science. The installation is pretty straightforward, and the steps are easy to follow.
1. Install the Program From the AUR
AUR or the Arch User Repository is the single largest software library amongst all Linux distributions. In case you cannot find an officially supported package for Arch Linux, the AUR is where you should look before anywhere else.
Although this won’t help you install a DEB file, the chances are high that you will find an Arch compatible package for the software you need.
You can install AUR packages manually or via an AUR helper. We’ll recommend you to go ahead with yay, a popular and easy-to-use AUR helper. To begin, simply search for the package name with yay:
yay will list out all the relevant packages. Copy the correct package name and install it by running:
yay -S package_name
This should successfully install the software in your Arch Linux system. To learn more about yay, check out this guide on how to manage packages with yay.
2. Install DEB Packages on Arch Linux With Debtap
If you cannot 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 still proceed with some caution as incompatible updates to the package may break its functionality.
Installing Debtap on Arch Linux
To install Debtap, fire up the terminal and install it using an AUR helper:
yay -S debtap
Move into the directory of the DEB file using the cd command and use Debtap to start converting the package.
Debtap will create a “yourfile.zst” file that 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 inside the appropriate directories.
Before you read any further, note that this is not the recommended way to install DEB packages. Only resort to this method if all the alternatives fail.
This method is independent of the platform, meaning you can apply this method across all distributions, Arch Linux or not.
Start off by using the ar command to extract the .deb file into a folder.
ar x /path/to/file
Then, move into the folder and extract the tarballs with the tar command.
tar xvf control.tar.gz
tar xvf data.tar.gz
You will find three new folders: etc, opt, and usr. Copy the content inside these folders into the correct directories. For instance, copy the contents of the etc folder into the /etc directory of your system and do the same for the rest accordingly.
sudo cp ./etc/* /etc/
sudo cp ./opt/* /opt/
sudo cp ./usr/* /usr/
Running the Program
Once all the files have been placed where they belong, you can execute 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 a pretty tedious method and one that will not work a hundred percent of the time, which is why we suggest you refrain from manual installation and treat it as a last-ditch attempt.
Now You Can Install DEB Packages on Arch Linux
You can install Debian packages on Arch Linux. However, a package not inherently meant for Arch Linux can often break over time as it gets updated.
With a bleeding-edge distro, all it can take sometimes is one broken package for the entire system to fall apart. It’s a crucial practice to regularly scan for broken packages, fix them, and update the package list of your Linux system.
How to Find and Fix Broken Packages on Linux
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