APTonCD is an easy way to back up your installed packages to a disc or ISO image. You can quickly restore the packages on another Ubuntu system without downloading anything.

After using APTonCD, you can install the backed up packages with a single action, add the packages as a software source, or restore them to your APT cache.


APTonCD is available in Ubuntu’s default software repositories. Search for “APTonCD” in the Ubuntu Software Center and you’ll find it. It’s also available in Debian’s software repositories.

You can also run the following command from a terminal:

sudo apt-get install aptoncd

After it’s installed, you can launch it from the Dash.

Backing Up Packages

The “Create” button allows you to create a disc with your downloaded, cached DEB packages on it. This copies the packages from your APT cache (located in the /var/cache/apt/archives/ directory) to the disc. If you’ve used a clean-up utility such as Computer Janitor, the cached packages may no longer be present on your system.

APTonCD presents you with a list of your cached packages and automatically selects them all. You can deselect packages if you don’t want them on the disc. If you have additional DEB packages you want to add, click the Add button to add them to the list. You can also drag and drop DEB packages from a file manager onto the window.

Once you’ve selected your packages, click the Burn button. Using the window that appears, you can select a CD or DVD image, specify a name and location for the ISO image file, and optionally create a meta-package. A meta-package is a single package that depends on all other packages on the disc — this allows you to easily install all the packages on the disc by telling APT to install a single package.

Click the Apply button and APTonCD will create an ISO image at the location you specified.

Once the image is created, you can have APTonCD launch a disc-burning application, such as Brasero, to burn it to a disc immediately. You can also burn the ISO image later. If you don’t have a disc drive — no problem, you can save the ISO image as a file and transport it between computers on a USB drive.

Installing All Packages

If you burnt the image to disc, you can insert it into your disc drive, open it in a file manager window, and double-click the package named “aptoncd-metapackage” to install it. This will install all packages on the disc. The package will not be present if you didn’t have APTonCD create a meta-package.

If you only have an ISO image, you can mount it as a disc and install packages from it.

Adding a Disc as a Repository

The File –> Add CD/DVD option in APTonCD adds the disc to APT as a software source. The disc will be used as a repository in APT, so you can install packages from it using Synaptic, apt-get, or other package management tools, even if you’re offline.

Restoring Packages to Cache

The Load button on the restore screen won’t do anything until you install the hal package on your system. Do so with the following command:

sudo apt-get install hal

Restart APTonCD after running this command and you’ll be able to restore packages by clicking the Restore button. You can restore packages to any system, as long as the systems use the same architecture — for example, you can’t install 64-bit packages on a 32-bit installation of Ubuntu.

Use the Load button on the Restore screen to specify a disc drive or ISO image file.

After you have, you can click the Restore button to restore the downloaded packages to your APT cache. APT will use them to install the packages instead of downloading them.

APTonCD is particularly useful for systems without Internet connections, but it’s also a quick way to restore your favorite packages after reinstalling Ubuntu from scratch — without having to remember them.

Have you used APTonCD in the past? Share your experiences in the comments.

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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