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Safely Remove PPAs and Roll Back to Stable Versions in Ubuntu

If you’ve added a PPA and run into a nasty bug in your updated software, you should revert back to the Ubuntu repositories. Doing it safely can be tricky – fortunately Ubuntu Tweak can do this for us.

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Remove Unwanted Packages

There are a few issues involved in removing a PPA. The simplest is to remove any packages that were provided solely by that PPA.

For example, if we tried out the beta version of Firefox 4.0, we should remove all of the firefox-4.0 packages before removing the Firefox nightly builds PPA. To do this, we’ll open up a terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal or Ctrl+Alt+T) and type in the following command.

sudo apt-get remove firefox-4.0*

The exact command will depend on the packages you need to remove. If you don’t remember all of the packages provided by a certain PPA, the best thing to do is to visit the PPA’s Launchpad page and look at the packages it provides.

Downgrade Updated Packages

Ubuntu Tweak offers an easy way to downgrade any packages that the PPA upgraded – and even if you don’t need to downgrade, we recommend following the steps in this section because it will also disable the PPA.

The first step is to install Ubuntu Tweak if you don’t already have it installed. Ubuntu Tweak isn’t in the Ubuntu repositories, but fortunately it has its own PPA: ppa:tualatrix/ppa. You call follow our more detailed guide to adding new PPAs, or simply open a terminal and type in the following commands.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak

Once installed, you can find Ubuntu Tweak in the Applications > System Tools menu.

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Open Ubuntu Tweak, and select Package Cleaner in the list on the left.

Click on the Purge PPAs button near the right. If the list of PPAs is greyed out, click on the Unlock button and enter your administrator password.

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Select the PPAs you want to remove by clicking on the checkbox next to them. Click the Cleanup button when you’re done.

You’ll be prompted to downgrade packages that have earlier versions in the Ubuntu repositories. In our case, we are removing the PPA that contains nightly builds of Mozilla Firefox.

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Click Yes and Ubuntu Tweak will do the downgrade for you.

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If you want to return your system to the same state that it was before installing the PPA, you can use Ubuntu Tweak to remove its own PPA, and then apt-get remove ubuntu-tweak. However, we recommend keeping Ubuntu Tweak around for all the other neat things it does!

Trevor is our resident Linux geek, but always keeps his eyes open for neat Windows tricks too.

  • Published 09/27/10

Comments (10)

  1. tantris

    I am sometimes in the situation where I want a newer version from a ppa, because it fixes something or has a feature, the main version doesn’t have yet. But I don’t want to be stuck with the ppa-version forever. Instead of downgrading I would keep the ppa version and wait for main to get the same version, so I can switch back. This of course only works if the ppa doesn’t update their packages.
    I wonder if there is a way -short of disabling the ppa- to tell apt, that one would prefer upgrades from main over newer packages in ppa.

  2. Trevor Bekolay

    @ tantris

    I’m not sure if it’s the best solution, but my recommendation would be to open up the Software Sources (System > Administration > Software Sources) and just uncheck the appropriate PPA. Then it won’t be searched for new versions, but the currently installed version won’t be downgraded. Once the Ubuntu version catches up, it should start automatically using the Ubuntu version, since it just checks to see if the version number is greater than the installed version.

  3. peter ehlert

    Ubuntu Tweak is a fun tool, but not for the faint of heart!

    on my machine:

    1. your roll back tool/method only effects Firefox, it does not roll back to Thunderbird (aka Shredder)
    2. sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa …works
    3. sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak …fails (yes, I do cut and paste everything into Terminal)

    Tbird on my machine is still bug city. See https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=599722

    Perhaps I will try the upgrade to the 10.10 beta and see if that will get me over the hump… but Windows 7 still is operational.

    Thanks, peter

    PS: I suggest you go back to your “detailed guide to adding new PPAs” page and change the example you used… I neighbor also tried it and decided to format the hard drive and reinstall 10.04 to get up again just this morning.

  4. Tweaker

    Doesn’t seem to work under LTS, ran both commands, stops at

    E: Couldn’t find package ubuntu-tweak

    Nothing in the System Tools or elsewhere. Nothing in alacarte.

    I did install Wine and tried to install iTunes for Windows, then tried to uninstall it and then Wine, left with a bunch of leftover icons, which I used alacarte to delete Wine. Now Wine doesn’t install visibly.

    I think, I’ll just reinstall Ubuntu since that last major nasty exploit has been fixed. fun fun fun.

    Cheers.

  5. Trevor Bekolay

    @ Tweaker

    My apologies, I forgot to include the line:
    sudo apt-get update

    Run that after adding the Ubuntu Tweak PPA. The article has been updated to reflect this.

  6. cg0191

    Synaptic allows you to chose a specific version of an installed package (newer or older).
    Synaptic allows you to disable or remove a PPA repository after switching to a (newer or older) package from another source.
    Synaptic is the do everything GUI for complicated apt manipulations.

    Great idea for Ubuntu dev’s to eliminate it from future Ubuntu builds.. really great..

  7. Greg

    Well now, being the rookie I am and not fully reading what I was supposed to do… I inadvertently selected ALL and cleaned out all the listed PPA’s.

    Advice anyone? I am embarrassed and angry at myself.

    luv_hot_chiles@hotmail.com

    Peace!

  8. Trevor Bekolay

    @ Greg

    If I recall correctly, it doesn’t actually wipe out the PPAs, it just marks them as being not used. So if you open up Software Sources (System > Administration > Software Sources) you should be able to just add a checkmark in the appropriate repositories, do sudo apt-get update and get back those things. I think.

  9. Greg

    @ Trevor

    Thank you. I am at work now, will look at that when I get home tonight. I just dont want in suddent DRAMA with my system now that I am happily on Linux (Ubuntu) vice the windows I left months ago… been happier ever since.

  10. Greg

    …any sudden DRAMA… typo

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