How to Uninstall Programs on a Raspberry Pi? (Free up space)


I conduct many tests on Raspberry Pi that require me to install many applications, but I don’t necessarily clean up when finished.
If you are here, you are probably in the same boat :).
Let’s learn how to easily uninstall your applications.

To remove applications on Raspberry Pi OS with Desktop, use the “Add/Remove Software tool” and uncheck the programs to uninstall. It’s also possible to do this with a command line: sudo apt remove package_name in a terminal.

In this article, I will show you:
– How to get a list of currently installed packages.
– How to uninstall applications from your Raspberry Pi.
– More generally, how to gain more space on your SD card.

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List installed packages on a Raspberry Pi

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Use the packages Manager

Current status of your SD card

The first question you might ask yourself is probably: how do I find the used space on my SD card?
The quickest way to do this is to go to Accessories> File Manager, and right-click on the “/” folder (at the very top) and then click Properties.

This window will show you all space used by your files. From there, you can guess your remaining space available.

List installed packages

By default, the only way to find the installed packages graphically is to go to the package manager: Preferences> Add / Remove Software.

The tool displays installed programs with a checked box, so you can easily find and uninstall them if needed:

Unfortunately, this method is not perfect.
There isn’t a way to get a list of all installed packages on one page.
You have to enter each category and scroll through the list to find the checked lines.

This is probably the main reason why beginners on Raspberry Pi, or at least those who are not familiar with Linux commands, have trouble removing packages.
I’ll give you other solutions for this throughout this post.

The good news is that you can see the package size in the bottom right corner.

You can also go to Options> Packages logs, and see the latest changes made to the packages.
It looks like this:

This screen displays the latest packages installed, and generally allows you to find which ones you can quickly remove.
Note: it still not perfect, as packages installed with the command line are not shown here. I also noticed that it sometimes does’t include the full packages list.

If you want to go through the GUI, know that it is possible to install Synaptic, which is a similar tool, but it allows more advanced filters, like only listing installed packages.
You can find Synaptic in the Add/Remove Software tool.
Then start Synaptic, click Status > Installed in the left menu, and you will get the list of installed packages:

The easiest way to list installed packages is to go through the command line.
Let’s learn how to do this.

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Alternative: Use the command line

If you manage to remember these few commands, using a terminal is the fastest way to find the packages installed on your Raspberry.

Disk usage

Firstly, if you want to see the disk space used in a terminal or ssh, use the df command like this:
df -h

The -h option displays values in a human-readable format.

List installed packages

To list every package installed on your Raspberry Pi you can use:
dpkg -l

This command will list all packages, with this format:

The df command doesn’t display the space used by each program directly, but to find the most significant packages you can do something like this:
dpkg-query -W -f='${Installed-Size;8} ${Package}\n' | sort -nr | head -10
(you don’t have to remember this one ^^)

  688414  wolfram-engine
  171382  chromium-browser
  168481  oracle-java8-jdk
  143795  scratch2
  114332  raspberrypi-kernel
  110694  libgl1-mesa-dri
   84603  libreoffice-core
   83391  libreoffice-common
   49227  quake3-demo-data
   47627  gnome-user-guide

This command will show you the size of each package, and sort the list by size.
You can change the last -10 option to get more results.

If you are a bit lost with the command lines on Raspberry Pi, I highly recommend checking this article to discover the most useful commands on Raspberry Pi. You can even download my cheat sheet with all of them in a convenient PDF format.

How to uninstall programs on a Raspberry Pi

Now you know how much space is left on your Raspberry Pi, and which packages use the most space. Let’s learn how to remove them!
Let’s take a look at this. It’s not very complicated.

Use the package manager

In graphics mode, the search is not very convenient, but removing a package is simple.

Once you find the package to delete, uncheck the box, click the Apply button at the bottom and confirm.

The package will be uninstalled immediately.

Use the command line

Most of the time, you can use apt-get to remove the package via the terminal.

For example, I see that I forgot to remove a quake3 package from another tutorial, I can do it with a:
sudo apt remove quake3-demo-data

And that’s it, the package deleted and disk space released :).

Free more space on Raspberry Pi

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I have an entire on this topic that you can find here, but I’ll give you a few tips in this section.

Temporary files

In theory, temporary files are temporary :).
This means they are automatically deleted when you restart your Raspberry Pi.
But if you can’t reboot it or you’re stuck, you can empty the folder with one of these commands:

  1. Remove only old temporary files:
    sudo find /tmp -type f -atime +10 -delete
  2. Clear all temporary files (can corrupt some running apps):
    sudo rm -rf /tmp/*
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Apt cache

The apt tool caches a large part of the information used, to avoid downloading everything each time you use it.
Clearing this cache may allow you to unlock a stuck Raspberry Pi due to the lack of disk space.
Simply execute this command:
sudo apt-get clean

But remember that the cache will come back after the next update, so it’s a very temporary solution.

As long as we talk about the cache, if you surf on the internet with your Raspberry Pi, remember to clear the browser’s cache too.
I bet that you will gain some valuable MB.
On any browser, you have to go to Options to clear the cache.

Remove unused packages

When you uninstall packages, dependencies often do not automatically uninstall, so you can uninstall them with this command:
sudo apt-get autoremove

But the most effective way to free up space, if you do not use these tools is to uninstall wolfram-engine and LibreOffice.
This tip will allow you to gain about 1 GB of disk space in 10s.
Use these commands:
sudo apt-get remove --purge wolfram-engine libreoffice*
sudo apt-get autoremove

free space

Yes, I do!

Find other big folders and files

Ok, let’s say you still have a disk space issue.
We saw how to remove packages or clear different caches, but this is not necessarily the most important part of your used disk space.

If you have a huge log file or hundreds of photos/videos stored on your SD card, you’ll have to deal with it before, but how do you find them?
Let’s see how.

Graphical way:

“Gnome utility” is a great tool that you can use (the package name is baobab).
You can find it in the Add/Remove software tool, search for “baobab”.
It will graphically show you exactly how many free space you have left and which folder is taking a lot of space:

Thanks to this, it will be much easier to find a file that you would have missed.

Command line:

In a terminal, you can do something similar.
du is a command available directly on Raspberry Pi OS (and most other Linux distributions).
It lists the size of the files and folders of the disk.

With some additional options we will get the same result as the graphical tool:

  1. You can see size taken by each subfolder like this:
    sudo du -h --max-depth=1 /
  2. And you can also find the biggest files on the disk like this:
    sudo du -ak | sort -nr | head -50

    You can change the -50 options to get more or fewer files in the list.
    Don’t pay attention to access errors when running the command.

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Conclusion :

You have now learned how to uninstall packages on your Raspberry Pi, and also some tips to free space on your SD card.

And of course, if you have many issues with your SD card, that might mean that it is too small and you will have to think about changing it.
It does not cost much nowadays and you will be relieved.
Check my reviews of the best SD cards for Raspberry Pi here if you don’t know which one to choose.


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raspberry pi uninstall

Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

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