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apt vs apt-get Commands – What’s the Difference?

This guide explains the differences between apt and apt-get commands, so you can decide which one to use.

Historically, you’ve probably installed software on Debian based Linux Operating Systems (like Ubuntu) using the


command. More recently you’ve probably seen the


command being used in its place in various places online, but with otherwise much the same syntax. For example:

sudo apt-get install nano

has the same effect as

sudo apt install nano

which is to install the nano text editor package on your system.

So what’s the difference?

apt-get (and apt-cache)

  • The original, the classic, functional
  • Better for scripting
    • The more rigid command that is unlikely to change in an update
  • More command-line options for advanced usage
    • …But you might not ever use them


  • The new kid, cooler, comes with extras
  • Shows progress bars, prettier to look at and easier to use
    • Ease-of-use features of apt-get are enabled by default rather than via options
  • Also includes commands from the apt-cache command
  • Under continued development, so more features may be added

*apt is the combined, most commonly used functions of apt-get and apt-cache presented for ease of use

Syntax Differences for Common Tasks

apt command apt-get command
apt autoremove apt-get autoremove Uninstall packages that are no longer required as dependencies
apt full-upgrade apt-get dist-upgrade Upgrades all packages and dependencies
apt install package apt-get install package Install package
apt remove package apt-get remove package Remove package
apt purge package apt-get purge package Remove package along with its configuration
apt update apt-get update Refreshes repository list
apt upgrade apt-get upgrade Upgrades all packages
apt command apt-cache command
apt search package apt-cache search package Search for package by name
apt show package apt-cache show package Show details for package

Note that package above will be the name(s) of the package being managed

Which Should I Use?

Use whichever one you want! apt does not replace apt-get, it is just an alternative interface to the apt package system on Debian based operating systems.

For more tutorials on how to use different applications in Linux, check out our other articles!

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I'm Brad, and I'm nearing 20 years of experience with Linux. I've worked in just about every IT role there is before taking the leap into software development. Currently, I'm building desktop and web-based solutions with NodeJS and PHP hosted on Linux infrastructure. Visit my blog or find me on Twitter to see what I'm up to.

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