A Quick Guide to DNF – The Modern RPM Package Manager

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Dear reader, if you‘ve used Linux for any length of time, you‘ve likely encountered DNF – the replacement for the venerable YUM package manager on RPM-based distributions. Developed by the Fedora project, DNF aims to deliver a robust, efficient, and easy-to-use package management experience.

In this guide, I‘ll provide an in-depth look at DNF from the perspective of a fellow Linux enthusiast and technology geek. We‘ll cover:

  • DNF vs YUM – What‘s improved?
  • Essential DNF commands with examples
  • Under the hood – How DNF handles dependencies
  • Tips for managing packages with DNF
  • Advanced usage and configuration

So brew a fresh cup of coffee, and let‘s dive in! This guide will equip you with the DNF knowledge you need to master package management on modern RPM distributions.

DNF vs YUM – Evaluating the Next Generation Package Manager

YUM served RPM-based distributions well for many years. But the Fedora project determined it was time for a new solution to improve stability, performance and functionality.

DNF was created with several specific goals in mind:

Memory utilization

Package operations in DNF require substantially less memory – approximately 4x less according to Fedora tests. This improves performance on systems with limited memory.

Dependency resolution

DNF is designed to handle more complex package dependencies, especially related to sub-packages from the main package. This prevents dependency-related install failures.

Python 3 support

DNF runs on both Python 2 and 3, while YUM was Python 2 only. This better positions DNF for the future as Python 2 reaches end-of-life.

Modular architecture

DNF employs a modular architecture that is easier to maintain and extend over time. The codebase is more organized and maintainable.

Enhanced CLI

The DNF command line interface improves upon YUM with better consistency while maintaining backwards compatibility with most common YUM commands.

These improvements aim to deliver a more user-friendly, efficient, and reliable package management experience. For the vast majority of operations, DNF is a drop-in replacement for YUM.

Based on my experience across many RPM systems, DNF meets these goals. Package operations are noticeably faster, and I‘ve encountered fewer dependency issues compared to YUM. The DNF CLI is familiar, yet more streamlined with helpful output.

Overall DNF feels like the natural evolution of YUM – delivering an enhanced next-generation package manager for the modern Linux landscape.

DNF Command Examples – Managing Packages Like a Pro

As a fellow command line enthusiast, I enjoy the power and simplicity DNF provides for package management. Here I‘ll provide examples of the most common and useful DNF commands for installation, updates, queries and more.

We‘ll be using sudo with DNF commands that modify the system. Always exercise care when managing packages on production systems. Now let‘s explore useful DNF incantations:

Searching Packages

The search command queries the package metadata for keywords:

dnf search nginx

This displays all packages matching "nginx" in the name, summary or description. Useful for discovering relevant packages.

Listing Packages

To see all installed packages:

dnf list installed

And for available packages not yet installed:

dnf list available

Installing Packages

Installing a new package is straightforward:

sudo dnf install nginx

This installs nginx and any required dependencies.

You can also provide multiple packages to install:

sudo dnf install nginx httpd php mysql

DNF resolves dependencies between all specified packages automatically.

Removing Packages

To remove a package:

sudo dnf remove nginx

Any dependent packages no longer needed are removed automatically.

Updating Packages

Updating all packages to the latest available versions:

sudo dnf upgrade

To update just a specific package:

sudo dnf upgrade mysql

I run these regularly to keep my systems up-to-date and secure.

Cleaning Caches

The package cache can grow large over time. To remove unneeded packages:

sudo dnf clean packages

This frees disk space by removing only package .rpm files that are cached but not installed.

Querying Packages

To see all information about an installed package:

dnf info mysql

And for an available package:

dnf info vim

These commands provide insightful details like the version, repository, dependencies, and description.

Checking For Updates

Check if any installed packages have available updates:

dnf check-update

I run this often between my larger update cycles. It lets me know what updates are pending.

This gives you a tour of the most essential DNF commands for managing packages. DNF makes it so easy to query, install, update and configure packages – it feels like home for those of us who prefer the power and clarity of the command line.

Now that we‘ve covered DNF basics, let‘s dive deeper into what‘s happening behind the scenes.

Behind the Scenes – How DNF Handles Dependencies

One of the most powerful features of a package manager like DNF is automated dependency resolution. This is what allows us to simply install a package like Nginx without worrying about the long list of required libraries and dependencies.

So how does this magic happen behind the curtains? Here‘s a quick look at how DNF handles dependencies under the hood.

Repositories Provide Metadata

DNF relies on repositories configured on your system to provide package data. This metadata provides details on each package like the version, dependencies, file sizes, description etc.

DNF downloads and caches this metadata to determine what packages are available along with their requirements.

Resolving Dependencies

When you install or update packages, DNF builds an internal graph of all the requirements between packages. It recursively resolves which dependent packages must be installed or updated based on your requested packages.

This dependency graph is used to build the transaction plan of exactly what needs to be modified to complete your requested task.

Transaction Plan

The transaction plan describes the complete set of changes DNF will carry out to satisfy your install or update request along with all dependencies.

This plan is presented with the prompt Is this ok [y/N] before DNF acts. You can review the proposed changes before confirming.

Executing and Verifying

If you confirm the transaction plan, DNF will execute it. Packages are downloaded from the repos, verified using GPG signatures, and installed or updated atomically. Post-scripts are run.

The entire transaction either completes successfully or is rolled back if issues are encountered leaving the system unchanged.

This execution flow allows DNF to carry out complex changes reliably and efficiently. Package management becomes almost magical thanks to automated dependency resolution under the hood.

Tips for Managing Packages Like a Pro

After using DNF daily across many RPM systems, I‘ve collected some useful tips for managing packages like a pro.

Enable Faster Mirrors

The default Fedora and RHEL mirrors can often be slow. Enabling faster 3rd party mirrors speeds up updates and installs substantially. I recommend checking out repositories from RepoForge or Opera for much better download performance.

Prioritize Security Updates

I enable the security repo which contains important patched security updates separate from the main repos. Then you can quickly upgrade security fixes:

sudo dnf --enablerepo=security upgrade

Regularly Clean Caches

Package caches can accumulate and waste disk space. I run dnf clean packages weekly as part of my maintenance routine to clear out unneeded .rpm files. Keeping the cache trimmed improves performance.

Enable Automatic Background Updates

For non-critical systems like developer workstations, I recommend enabling automatic background updates:

sudo dnf config-manager --set-enabled dnf-automatic-install.timer

This ensures you always have the latest security and bug fixes applied.

Carefully Review Updates

For servers and production systems, carefully review proposed updates and test where possible before applying changes. Subscribing to notifications for package updates from your distributions is also recommended to stay aware of pending updates.

I hope these tips help you become a DNF package management ninja! Let me know if you have any other useful DNF wisdom to share.

Advanced Usage and Configuration

We‘ve covered basic DNF usage, but the tool has additional capabilities available for advanced users including:

Debugging – DNF provides extensive debugging output using -d and -v for troubleshooting issues.

Downgrading – Packages can be downgraded to older versions using dnf downgrade.

Reinstalling – Corrupted packages can be reinstalled using dnf reinstall.

Groups – Predefined package groups speed install of common sets like "Web Server".

Providesdnf provides determines which package provides a given file.

Repos – Custom repositories can be added under /etc/yum.repos.d/ to expand available packages.

Excluding – Specific packages can be excluded from updates by adding them to the exclude list in dnf.conf.

Automation – Operations can be scripted for automation using the --assumeyes argument.

The DNF project wiki has extensive docs on additional capabilities and custom configurations. DNF is highly customizable to meet specialized needs.

For most common package management tasks, the basic DNF commands we covered are sufficient. But power users may appreciate additional functionality like debugging, automation, repos, and customization.


I hope this guide shed insightful light on DNF and how it improves the package management experience compared to YUM. DNF combines power and simplicity – an elegant evolution building on decades of RPM package management wisdom.

We covered common commands, dependency resolution, tips, and advanced capabilities. You‘re now equipped to:

  • Master DNF essentials like installing, removing, updating and querying packages
  • Grasp how DNF resolves dependencies under the hood
  • Manage packages more efficiently with pro tips
  • Take advantage of advanced customizations for power users

DNF helps make managing the many packages on a modern Linux distribution a joy rather than a chore. Its grip on dependencies allows us to focus on higher level goals instead of the intricacies of package interdependencies – exactly what a good package manager should do.

I hope you feel empowered to use DNF for streamlining your package management workflows. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions!

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