How to speed up slow apt-get install on Debian or Ubuntu

If you feel that package installation by apt-get or aptitude is often too slow on your Debian or Ubuntu system, there are several ways to improve the situation. Have you considered switching default mirror sites being used? Have you checked the upstream bandwidth of your Internet connection to see if that is the bottleneck?

Nothing else, you can try this third option: use apt-fast tool. apt-fast is actually a shell script wrapper written around apt-get and aptitude, which can accelerate package download speed. Internally, apt-fast uses aria2 download utility which can download a file in "chunked" forms from multiple mirrors simultaneously (like in BitTorrent download).

Install apt-fast on Debian-based Linux

To install apt-fast on Debian:

$ sudo apt-get install aria2
$ wget https://github.com/ilikenwf/apt-fast/archive/master.zip
$ unzip master.zip
$ cd apt-fast-master
$ sudo cp apt-fast /usr/bin
$ sudo cp apt-fast.conf /etc
$ sudo cp ./man/apt-fast.8 /usr/share/man/man8
$ sudo gzip /usr/share/man/man8/apt-fast.8
$ sudo cp ./man/apt-fast.conf.5 /usr/share/man/man5
$ sudo gzip /usr/share/man/man5/apt-fast.conf.5

To install apt-fast on Ubuntu or Linux Mint:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:apt-fast/stable
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install apt-fast

During installation on Ubuntu/Mint, you will be asked to choose a default package manager (e.g., apt-get, aptitude), and other settings. You can change the settings later by editing a configuration file.

Configure apt-fast

After installation, you need to configure a list of mirrors used by apt-fast in /etc/apt-fast.conf.

You can find a list of Debian/Ubuntu mirrors in the following locations.

Choose mirrors which are geographically close to your location, and add chosen mirrors to /etc/apt-fast.conf in the following format.

$ sudo vi /etc/apt-fast.conf

Debian:

MIRRORS=('http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/,http://carroll.aset.psu.edu/pub/linux/distributions/debian/,http://debian.gtisc.gatech.edu/debian/,http://debian.lcs.mit.edu/debian/,http://mirror.cc.columbia.edu/debian/')

Ubuntu/Mint:

MIRRORS=('http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu,http://mirror.cc.columbia.edu/pub/linux/ubuntu/archive/,http://mirror.cc.vt.edu/pub2/ubuntu/,http://mirror.umd.edu/ubuntu/,http://mirrors.mit.edu/ubuntu/')

Individual mirrors for a given archive should be separated by commas as above. It is recommended that in the MIRRORS string, you include the default mirror site specified in /etc/apt/sources.list.

Install a Package with apt-fast

You can use apt-fast in the following format.

apt-fast [apt-get options and arguments]
apt-fast [aptitude options and arguments]
apt-fast { { install | upgrade | dist-upgrade | build-dep | download  | source  } [ -y | --yes | --assume-yes | --assume-no ]   ... | clean }

To install a package with apt-fast:

$ sudo apt-fast install texlive-full

To download a package in the current directory:

$ sudo apt-fast download texlive-full

You can verify parallel downloads from multiple mirrors as follows.

Note that apt-fast does not make "apt-get update" faster. Parallel download gets triggered only for "install", "upgrade", "dist-upgrade" and "build-dep" operations. For other operations, apt-fast simply falls back to the default package manager (apt-get or aptitude).

How Fast is apt-fast?

To compare apt-fast and apt-get, I tried installing several packages using two methods on two identical Ubuntu instances. The following graph shows total package installation time (in seconds).

As you can see, apt-fast is substantially faster (e.g., 3--4 times faster) than apt-get, especially when a bulky package is installed.

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Dan Nanni is the founder and also a regular contributor of Xmodulo.com. He is a Linux/FOSS enthusiast who loves to get his hands dirty with his Linux box. He likes to procrastinate when he is supposed to be busy and productive. When he is otherwise free, he likes to watch movies and shop for the coolest gadgets.

13 thoughts on “How to speed up slow apt-get install on Debian or Ubuntu

  1. A long time ago, I opened a feature request bug report for what "apt-fast" does.

    /etc/apt/sources.list can be populated with multiple archives, added by hand after using apt-spy to find the nearest/fastest archives. So long as "ftp.debian.org" is the last entry in the sources.list, it will be used only if the other archives haven't updated to the latest package yet. Otherwise, apt will use the first entry in the list that has the package available.

    This also works with different archives, such as deb-multimedia.org, where packages are unique to the archive. Apt will launch as many downloads in parallel as their are unique packages available on different archives. So one will be pulling from the top of my sources.list entries, and one from deb-multimedia.org, and one from the google chrome archive.

    But if I'm running an update that wants to download, say, 30 packages, and all 30 have been replicated amongst the 5 main-stream Debian archive entries in my sources.list. Apt now will launch only one download at a time, pulling all 30 packages from the same archive, the first one on my list.

    Effectively, apt _ignores_ duplicate entries.

    What I wanted in my feature request was for apt to pull from all 5 "duplicate" entries at once. Not what aria is doing, pulling pieces of the same package from different places, just distribute the downloading of different packages from duplicate archive sites.

    So of those 30 packages in my example, the first 5 of those packages will be pulled in parallel, one from each of the 5 entries in sources.list. When one completes, the next package that is desired will be pulled from that archive, and so on until all 30 are retrieved.

    One of those 5 archives might provide only one big package, while another might provide a dozen smaller packages, but regardless the bottleneck becomes my own download speed and the load for file serving is distributed amongst the servers.

    This uses no new configuration what so ever. Apt already keeps records of what files are available in what archive in sources.list.

    Thanks for listening.

  2. I'm still stuck in RPM hell ( yum & zypper ).
    I've tried Apt for RPM on Suse and Redhat, but it's horribly unstable. :(

  3. I tried this, but didn't help me get stuff even 1 bit/s faster...

    Perhaps because my connection is 1 Mbit/s (up from 284 Kbit/s a couple months ago) with no problems maxing out on good old aptitude/apt-get. Until 2 years ago I had a 50 Mbit/s connection. Patience can be learned rather quickly ;)

    • Try iftop to see if aptitude/apt-get really maxes out your connection. If not, then maybe there's still room for improvement in the mirror sites you chosen.

  4. apt-fast.config file is read-only. how to save the changes made in the MIRRORS?
    I'm a beginner, so any comment is most welcome.

  5. apt speeds up more if you look in your /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ folder, and take all the 1 line repos, comment them out, and put them in your main /etc/apt/sources.list file.

  6. Yum might be slower when installing stuff. However updates with yum are many times faster than with apt due to deltarpms. :)

  7. The true way to speedup a massive use of apt-get is:
    # mount / -o remount,nobarrier

    And revert the flag back after.

    The real bottleneck of apt-get aren't in download but in the several fsync(s) it does during packages install.

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