rpm Command Examples in Linux

Software Packages and rpm

The RPM Package Manager, originally developed by Red Hat, provides a standard way to package software for distribution. Managing software in the form of RPM packages is much simpler than working with software that has simply been extracted into a file system from an archive. It lets administrators track which files were installed by the software package and which ones need to be removed if it is uninstalled, and check to ensure that supporting packages are present when it is installed. Information about installed packages is stored in a local RPM database on each system.

RPM package files names consist of four elements (plus the .rpm suffix): name-versionrelease.architecture:

rpm filename components
  • NAME is one or more words describing the contents (coreutils).
  • VERSION is the version number of the original software (8.30).
  • RELEASE is the release number of the package based on that version, and is set by the packager, who might not be the original software developer (4.el8).
  • ARCH is the processor architecture the package was compiled to run on. noarch indicates that this package’s contents are not architecture-specific (as opposed to x86_64 for 64-bit, aarch64 for 64-bit ARM, and so on).

Only the package name is required for installing packages from repositories. If multiple versions exist, the package with the higher version number is installed. If multiple releases of a single version exist, the package with the higher release number is installed.

Each RPM package is a special archive made up of three components:

  • The files installed by the package.
  • Information about the package (metadata), such as the name, version, release, and arch; a summary and description of the package; whether it requires other packages to be installed; licensing; a package change log; and other details.
  • Scripts that may run when this package is installed, updated, or removed, or are triggered when other packages are installed, updated, or removed.

Typically, software providers digitally sign RPM packages using GPG keys (Red Hat digitally signs all packages it releases). The RPM system verifies package integrity by confirming that the package was signed by the appropriate GPG key. The RPM system refuses to install a package if the GPG signature does not match.

Updating Software with RPM Packages

To update software, RPM removes the older version of the package and installs the new version. Updates usually retain configuration files, but the packager of the new version defines the exact behavior.

In most cases, only one version or release of a package may be installed at a time. However, if a package is built so that there are no conflicting file names, then multiple versions may be installed. The most important example of this is the kernel package. Since a new kernel can only be tested by booting to that kernel, the package is specifically designed so that multiple versions may be installed at once. If the new kernel fails to boot, the old kernel is still available and bootable.

Examining rpm Packages

The rpm utility is a low-level tool that can get information about the contents of package files and installed packages. By default, it gets information from the local database of installed packages. However, you can use the -p option to specify that you want to get information about a downloaded package file. You might want to do this in order to inspect the contents of the package file before installing it.

The general form of a query is:

# rpm -q [select-options] [query-options]

1. RPM queries: General information about installed package. rpm -qa: List all installed packages. rpm -qf FILENAME: Find out what package provides FILENAME.

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm -qf /etc/yum.repos.d

2. RPM queries: Information about specific packages. rpm -q: List what version of the package is currently installed.

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm -q yum

rpm -qi: Get detailed information about the package. rpm -ql: List the files installed by the package.

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm -ql yum

rpm -qc: List just the configuration files installed by the package.

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm -qc openssh-clients

rpm -qd: List just the documentation files installed by the package.

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm -qd openssh clients

rpm -q –scripts: List shell scripts that run before or after the package is installed or removed.

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm -q --scripts openssh-server
preinstall scriptlet (using /bin/sh):
getent group sshd >/dev/null || groupadd -g 74 -r sshd || :
getent passwd sshd >/dev/null || \
useradd -c "Privilege-separated SSH" -u 74 -g sshd \
  -s /sbin/nologin -r -d /var/empty/sshd sshd 2> /dev/null || :
postinstall scriptlet (using /bin/sh):

if [ $1 -eq 1 ] ; then
         # Initial installation
         /usr/bin/systemctl preset sshd.service sshd.socket >/dev/null 2>&1 || :
preuninstall scriptlet (using /bin/sh):

if [ $1 -eq 0 ] ; then
         # Package removal, not upgrade
         /usr/bin/systemctl --no-reload disable sshd.service sshd.socket > /dev/ null 2>&1|| :
         /usr/bin/systemctl stop sshd.service sshd.socket > /dev/null 2>&1 || :
postuninstall scriptlet (using /bin/sh):
/usr/bin/systemctl daemon-reload >/dev/null 2>&1 || :
if [ $1 -ge 1 ] ; then
         # Package upgrade, not uninstall
         /usr/bin/systemctl try-restart sshd.service >/dev/null 2>&1 || :

rpm -q –changelog: list change information for the package.

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm -q --changelog audit
* Wed Jan 09 2019 Steve Grubb  3.0-0.10.20180831git0047a6c
resolves: rhbz#1655270] Message "audit: backlog limit exceeded" reported
- Fix annobin failure

* Fri Dec 07 2018 Steve Grubb  3.0-0.8.20180831git0047a6c
resolves: rhbz#1639745 - build requires go-toolset-7 which is not available
resolves: rhbz#1643567 - service auditd stop exits prematurely
resolves: rhbz#1616428 - Update git snapshot of audit package
- Remove static libs subpackage
...output omitted...

Querying local package files:

[[email protected] ~]$ ls -l wonderwidgets-1.0-4.x86_64.rpm
-rw-rw-r--. 1 user user 257 Mar 13 20:06 wonderwidgets-1.0-4.x86_64.rpm

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm -qlp  wonderwidgets-1.0-4.x86_64.rpm

Installing rpm Packages

The rpm command can also be used to install an RPM package that you have downloaded to your local directory.

[[email protected] ~]# rpm -ivh wonderwidgets-1.0-4.x86_64.rpm
Verifying...                          ################################# [100%]
Preparing...                          ################################# [100%]
Updating / installing...
   1:wonderwidgets-1.0-4              ################################# [100%]
[[email protected] ~]#

However, the next section of this chapter will discuss a more powerful tool for managing RPM installation and updates from the command line, yum.

[[email protected] tmp-extract]$ rpm2cpio wonderwidgets-1.0-4.x86_64.rpm | cpio -id

Individual files are extracted by specifying the path of the file:

[[email protected] ~]$ rpm2cpio wonderwidgets-1.0-4.x86_64.rpm | cpio -id "*txt"
11 blocks

[[email protected] ~]$ ls -l usr/share/doc/wonderwidgets-1.0/
total 4
-rw-r--r--. 1 user user 76 Feb 13 19:27 README.txt

Summary of rpm query Commands

Installed packages can be queried directly with the rpm command. Add the -p option to query a package file before installation.

rpm -qa List all RPM packages currently installed
rpm -q NAME Display the version of NAME installed on the system
rpm -qi NAME Display detailed information about a package
rpm -ql NAME List all files included in a package
rpm -qc NAME List configuration files included in a package
rpm -qd NAME List documentation files included in a package
rpm -q –changelog NAME Show a short summary of the reason for a new package release
rpm -q –scripts NAME Display the shell scripts run on package installation, upgrade, or removal