I want to purge emacs from debian in order to install the newer version from git but when I do apt-get purge emacs and then emacsit still runs. Any idea on how to get rid of emacs ?


2 Answers 2


The Debian package emacs is a metapackage. These are empty packages that only describe dependencies. As such, they don't actually contain any programs, just links to other packages to install. Further, removing a metapackage does not result in its dependencies being removed.

This feature allows package managers to use transitional metapackages to more-or-less gracefully move users from using one package to another with a different name.

So, removing the emacs package didn't actually remove any programs. That's why you needed to remove the rest of the emacs packages (apt-get purge emacs*) to get rid of emacs on your system.

Regarding the --purge flag to apt-get:

When a Debian package is removed, the configuration files are retained in order to facilitate possible re-installation. Likewise, the data generated by a daemon (such as the content of an LDAP server directory, or the content of a database for an SQL server) are usually retained.

To remove all data associated with a package, it is necessary to “purge” the package with the command, dpkg -P package, apt-get remove --purge package or aptitude purge package.

Thus, purge only removes system-installed config files (such as you might find in /etc/ or /var/), not user-generated config (usually somewhere in /home/<user>/. It would be a very bad thing if the package manager erased user-generated files!


apt-get purge emacs* did the trick even tho it didn't really purge the config files (̀.emacs.d still present...)

  • 5
    Purge deletes all the system-installed config. It shouldn't ever touch .emacs.d, that's where user config goes
    – Tyler
    Apr 8, 2016 at 12:22

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