Can failed packege installation break my OS?

Relatively new to Linux here. Right now I’m playing with EOS on my old backup Dell Studio laptop and so far it’s been a pretty nice experience :slight_smile:

I tried to install from AUR Balena Etcher to be able to create bootable USBs but installation process failed with some errors (if I’m recalling correctly it said something about python2)
Anyway I ended up installing Popsicle for the same purposes and after that removed all orphans which Etcher might left with the command pacman -Rns $(pacman -Qdtq) from this guide
My question is: can such failed installation break somehow entire OS like it may occur in Windows?
Or for example if I’ll decide to try another program/package (coming from official repository of course) and later uninstall it - can it still leave some system-wide side effects. Again I’m comparing it to how things are in Windows. Is simple package uninstalling and removing orphans is enough to prevent any unexpected behavior on an OS level?

Since it’s a pretty old machine I’m not going to make backups. In case of some weird things coming up it’ll be easier for me to just wipe everything and reinstall entire system. I’d like to know though what are the best practices to use/try various software from official repositories (and sometimes AUR) and still have stable system without any quirky side-effects.


First, welcome to the community!

It depends what you are installing and the exact situation. In the case of normal user software, that isn’t likely to break anything.

That being said, what you are describing with Etcher is a failure to build which would result in it not being installed at all. It isn’t a partial installation, the install never happened in the first place. In this case, it won’t have any impact on your system either way.

Removing packages has a much greater chance of breaking things in this case. Whenever you remove orphans(or anything else) be sure to carefully review the package list to see what you are actually removing.

Keep in mind that orphans are not “packages you don’t need”.


Welcome to the purple space!!
:enos_flag: :rocketa_purple: :purple_square:


Thank you for the reply!

Oh, thanks for pointing that out. Arch wiki says that they are “dependency not longer required by any package” so I assumed even if something will need it in the future - they will be automatically fetched while installing/updating existing package and it’s totally safe to purge them. Turns out that’s obviously not the case.

Maybe a dumb question but is there some way to check if such “orphan” is actually crucial and indeed used by something? Of course I can recognize known packages like say git or node.js or anything that has for instance “xfce” in the name but all the other things… Or it’s better to just not touch them at all?

Thanks! :wave:

90% of the time that is the case. They are things you don’t need anymore. However, sometimes they are important. It depends why they were orphaned which is often hard to tell after the fact.

It shouldn’t be a package that is being used by something else or it wouldn’t be an orphan. However, it might be a package that you use. In truth, you will learn from experience what those packages are if you pay attention. One thing to be on the lookout for is if you suddenly have a huge number of orphans. That isn’t normal and should be something you investigate before removing them.

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Got it. Thanks a lot for the clarification!

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