The documentation for Debian and the dpkg package managment system explains the debian/control files are meta data for packages, e.g. these docs explain:

The control file contains the information that the package manager (such as apt-get, synaptic, and adept) uses, build-time dependencies, maintainer information, and much more.

On ubuntu the file /var/lib/dpkg/status contains the contents of installed packages control files, but when ever I have extracted packages I have never seen a control file in the package itself.
My understanding the APT/DPKG system that ubuntu and debian uses is that the apt-get update command will connect to all defined repositories and pull down a package.gz file for each repo.
In that case does the data defined in each packages control file get stored in the package.gz so that it is available to the apt-cache system - rather than directly to dpkg.
This makes sense to me because that would supply the meta data for a package to the apt-cache showpkg command without having to install the package.
If this is not the case then where are the debian control files stored?

  • Isn't it in the .deb file itself in file named control.tar.gz?
    – user140866
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 2:54
  • @siblynx Ive never seen it, can you give an example of a package that has it? Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 2:56
  • Each .deb usually contains two files: data.tar.gz (actual package contents) and control.tar.gz, which contains file control with information you mentioned. It also contains file debian-binary, it's probably a version number of .deb file format. I don't know which tool you've used to unpack .deb files, but I recomment you to start with ar, because each .deb is a simple ar archive.
    – user140866
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 2:59
  • For example, I downloaded libc6 from ftp.us.debian.org/debian/pool/main/g/glibc/…, now I list it's contents: ar t libc6_2.19-18+deb8u2_i386.deb which displays: debian-binary control.tar.gz data.tar.gz
    – user140866
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 3:02
  • thanks @siblynx ! I was was using dpkg -x <package> to extract - and for some reason it was stripping all the important files out during the extraction - ar shows the true state of affairs ! Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 3:30

1 Answer 1


The format of the .deb packages is documented in the deb(5) man page.

You can also see the control information for a .deb with dpkg-deb -I archive.deb or dpkg-deb -f archive.deb.

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