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Searching for packages on Debian/Ubuntu - "sar" example

I'm trying to understand how to look for programs and packages using Debian/Ubuntu apt/apt-get/apt-file/apt-cache and dpkg utilities and I have stumbled upon an example (and possible derivatives) that I do not quite know how to solve.

To get to the bottom of things. When I'm trying to install e.g., iostat, I type:

apt-cache search iostat

and get a short list of packages from which it is quite easy to figure out that it is probably sysstat that I am looking for; I can double check that by typing:

apt-cache show sysstat

to see that in fact there is iostat that I am looking for.

But what about e.g., sar?

When I type:

apt-cache search sar,
apt-file search sar
dpkg -S sar

I get hundreds of answers that I could of course filter out, but it seems that on those lists of names of files/packages I am not able to find the correct package at all.

And here are my questions:
1) is this just a specific program (and there may be more of these) that is simply not indexed in apt-cache/apt-file/dpkg databases?
2) If so, should I just go back to the web and try to look for it using Google? Or, there is maybe a better way to handle this?

I know that I can be lucky and find the program I am looking for while searching for another one, as was with the case of iostat and sar being in the same package, but I am looking here for a more solid solution.

I would appreciate any help.

Thanks, and best,


  • Thanks! But I am actually asking how to find out that sar is hidden in sysstat package from the outset (or any other program that is not indexed by apt-cache).

  • arochester
    arochester Posts: 367

    "I can double check that by typing:

    apt-cache show sysstat

    to see that in fact there is iostat that I am looking for.

    But what about e.g., sar? "

    ...But sar is on the list

  • This is 1) luck; or 2) the case that I know the program is in this packages. Then, it's trivial, that's true. How to find packages without apt-cache search or if they are not listed in the APT database. That's the question. It's only Google that can help?

  • arochester
    arochester Posts: 367

    The package is sysstat. Sar is a "tool" in the package. Sar does not exist as a separate package.

  • Of course, it is. The same with iostat; it's just the "tool" in the package, as you call it. But when you look for iostat using apt-cache, you will find the relevant package (as I wrote about it earlier; it's indexed in a database); but when you look for sar, you won't. And, I will say it again, of course, I know that sar is in sysstat, but this is the knowledge "upfront", so to say. The question is about something else: is there a way to look for packages with "tools" if apt-cache can't help much.

  • Hi @apuchejda ,

    If you don't know the package name that contains the specific binary, it can be complicated to find the package name without googling for it.

    As a trick, you can use the 'apt-file' tool. If you do 'apt-file sar' you will get tons of outputs. But if you include a part of the firectory, let's say /bin/sar - because it's a binary and it should be somewhere in */bin/sar, you can do the following:

    luis@ubuntu20:~$ apt-file search '/bin/sar'
    pcp-import-sar2pcp: /usr/bin/sar2pcp
    python3-sardana: /usr/bin/sardanatestsuite
    sarg: /usr/bin/sarg
    sysstat: /usr/bin/sar.sysstat

    And you got it :)

    I hope that helps,

  • Hi @luisviveropena ,
    Thank you! Yes, that clarifies a lot. If not Google, then apt-file with more details; I used the latter with just the name which gives too many answers.
    Best and more,

  • Hi @apuchejda , it's a pleasure!

    Many regards :)



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