I just installed Debian for the first time. I use KDE. I'm trying to install Google Chrome and Steam. I download the installation package, then I double-click it. Instead of installing, both display the error

Failed to execute child process "ar" no file or directory

  • ar is a tool for creating code libraries, part of the development toolchain. It's very surprising to say the least that installation of either Google Chrome or Steam would involve running ar in any way. Only if you were building them from source (and even then it wouldn't be a natural thing to expect). Can you provide any more details about what you're doing exactly, for example what commands you're running?
    – Celada
    May 1, 2015 at 2:48
  • I'm downloading the Google chrome install, and then double clicking it. May 1, 2015 at 3:34
  • 2
    @VillaCaleb by default the file manager is set to open dpkg files with ar because it's a "safer" default. Just use dpkg -i <file> or install gdebi-kde and open it from the file manager with that.
    – jordanm
    May 1, 2015 at 4:09
  • 1
    @jordanm Good catch. I see how that could happen now. Please post that as an answer because it's almost certainly the problem and syntaxerror's existing answer is off base.
    – Celada
    May 1, 2015 at 12:34
  • 1
    .deb files are Debian packages. They should be associated with a program like gdebi-kde that can install them. It happens that the .deb format is a special kind of ar file; your system lacks an association for .deb files and instead falls back to the generic ar file handler, which will not help you at all. You need to associate .deb files with a package management application. I don't know how to do this with KDE. May 1, 2015 at 21:03

2 Answers 2


You can change which program opens a file when you single/double-click it in KDE by:

  • Temporarily, for this open only: Right click, Open With, select a program.
  • Permanently: Right click, Properties. On the General tab, File Type Options. Change the order of apps under "Application Preference Order". They're tried from the top.

Most likely, to get this to work, you should probably install gdebi-kde. It'll probably become the default "open" action, but if not one of the two methods above let you change the default.

(You've currently got something that is trying to use ar to list the contents of the package. Listing the contents isn't your goal, so installing ar isn't really going to help.)


Debian feels very non-standard here again (as usual). For instance, in Debian Jessie, the physical ar program usually shows up as /usr/bin/i486-linux-gnu-ar resp. /usr/bin/i586-linux-gnu-ar resp. /usr/bin/x86_64-linux-gnu-ar.
Though I have no Debian here at my disposal, I assume that /usr/bin/ar is merely a symbolic link. (Please note that this is just an assumption - it would require me direct access to a live system to verify on location.)

So maybe the following line will help you out of your misery, provided your aptitude works:

$ sudo apt-get install binutils

In the negative case (i. e. if it does NOT work), download e. g. binutils_x.yy-p_i386.deb (x.yy is version number (e. g. 2.25), p is patch level) from a Debian FTP server and install it using dpkg -i (must be superuser).

  • I did sudo apt-get install binutils and where do i do the dpkg -i? May 1, 2015 at 15:30
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    The OP should not require binutils to be installed in order to install packages and I don't believe installing it would help anyway because dpkg does not require binutils or the ar command in order to work: it does its own archive processing on deb packages. binutils is for development. I believe instead that VillaCaleb's hypothesis is the correct one: something is trying to invoke ar where it should just have invoked dpkg in the first place.
    – Celada
    May 1, 2015 at 16:35
  • FWIW, /usr/bin/ar is not a symlink. There is a symlink called <arch>-linux-gnu-ar which points back to ar but that's more gcc/GNU thing (for supporting cross compilers) than a Debian thing.
    – Celada
    May 1, 2015 at 16:39
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    Opening a .deb file with ar is completely useless under most circumstances. It certainly won't help install the software packaged in those files. May 1, 2015 at 20:59
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    $ lsb_release -d && ls -l /usr/bin/ar Description: Debian GNU/Linux 8.0 (jessie) -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 56280 Feb 25 03:00 /usr/bin/ar So no, it's not a symlink. In fact /usr/bin/x86_64-linux-gnu-ar is the symlink.
    – derobert
    May 1, 2015 at 21:26

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