when I am updating Debian 9.5 amd64 (stable, backports, test, unstable) package lists using APT or APTITUDE, the download size of the update is, as of writing this post, cca 60 MB with half of the size being icon files, e.g. icons-128x128.

I believe I do not need to download icons as I am not using GUI package managers.


I would like to limit download size of the updates to minimum to save time.


is it possible to update the package lists without downloading the icon files? what else is possible to omit from the update download? if yes, how? if not, why?

  • You can drop many things, first approach is dropping non essential packages, last approach tell apt to exclude directories. However that demands knowing what you are doing, I suspect your question is overly broad Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 8:33
  • I think the icons referred to are due to appstream.
    – DK Bose
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 9:03

1 Answer 1


What you are seeing is probably caused by the activity of appstream.

See https://www.freedesktop.org/software/appstream/docs/sect-AppStream-IconCache.html or https://askubuntu.com/questions/775069/what-is-appstream-why-is-it-installed-what-is-it-doing.

With appstream installed, sudo apt update would produce something like this (on Xubuntu 18.10):

Ign:1 http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb stable InRelease
Get:2 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security InRelease [83.2 kB]                                 
Hit:3 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic InRelease                                                  
Get:4 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates InRelease [83.2 kB]                              
Get:5 http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb stable Release [943 B]                                                   
Get:6 http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb stable Release.gpg [819 B]                                               
Hit:7 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-backports InRelease                             
Get:8 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/main i386 Packages [33.4 kB]
Get:9 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/main i386 Packages [47.7 kB]                                         
Get:10 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/main amd64 Packages [33.4 kB]
Get:11 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/main amd64 Packages [49.4 kB]
Get:12 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/main Translation-en [13.7 kB] 
Get:13 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/main Translation-en [20.2 kB]
Get:14 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/main amd64 DEP-11 Metadata [204 B]                
Get:15 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/main amd64 DEP-11 Metadata [52.0 kB]             
Get:16 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/main DEP-11 48x48 Icons [29 B]
Get:17 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/main DEP-11 64x64 Icons [29 B]
Get:18 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/universe amd64 Packages [22.2 kB]
Get:19 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/main DEP-11 48x48 Icons [5,926 B]
Get:20 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/main DEP-11 64x64 Icons [8,457 B]
Get:21 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/universe i386 Packages [22.2 kB]
Get:22 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/universe i386 Packages [29.9 kB]
Get:23 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/universe amd64 Packages [29.9 kB]
Get:24 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/universe Translation-en [11.8 kB]
Get:25 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/universe Translation-en [15.4 kB]
Get:26 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/universe amd64 DEP-11 Metadata [2,448 B]
Get:27 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/universe amd64 DEP-11 Metadata [5,724 B]
Get:28 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/universe DEP-11 48x48 Icons [4,031 B]
Get:29 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/universe DEP-11 48x48 Icons [4,031 B]
Get:30 http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-security/universe DEP-11 64x64 Icons [4,058 B]
Get:31 http://in.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu cosmic-updates/universe DEP-11 64x64 Icons [4,058 B]
Reading package lists... Done

The downloads for icons in the example above are relatively small but can be several MB in distros which are in alpha or beta stage of development.

If, as you say,

I do not need to download icons as I am not using GUI package managers.

simply run sudo apt purge appstream and examine the output before proceeding:

$ sudo apt purge appstream*
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
Note, selecting 'appstream-generator' for glob 'appstream*'
Note, selecting 'appstream-glib-doc' for glob 'appstream*'
Note, selecting 'appstream' for glob 'appstream*'
Note, selecting 'appstream-util' for glob 'appstream*'
Note, selecting 'appstream-index' for glob 'appstream*'
Note, selecting 'appstream-doc' for glob 'appstream*'
Note, selecting 'appstream-qt5' for glob 'appstream*'
Note, selecting 'appstream' instead of 'appstream-index'
Package 'appstream-qt5' is not installed, so not removed
Package 'appstream-doc' is not installed, so not removed
Package 'appstream-glib-doc' is not installed, so not removed
Package 'appstream-generator' is not installed, so not removed
Package 'appstream-util' is not installed, so not removed
The following packages will be REMOVED:
  appstream* apt-config-icons* gnome-software* gnome-software-plugin-snap*
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 4 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
After this operation, 3,029 kB disk space will be freed.
Do you want to continue? [Y/n] 

Of course, what you see on your systems maybe different.

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