Uninstalled vlc, completely broke whonix, can I recover?


I was using whonix 12 on virtualbox on my Ubuntu 14.04 (didn’t even know there was whonix 13, I stopped reading the welcome message because it looks the same each time). I couldn’t log onto skype so I updated and upgraded everything with apt-get update, upgrade.
I do’nt think it updated to whonix 13 but it took a while.

I saw it updated vlc so I removed it because I don’t want it. Then I saw tons of package needing to be uninstalled but I didn’t bother because whonix is hard to understand, then I hit “yes, remove all these packages” and now I have no desktop anymore and I suppose I broke it in depth. When I connect I have a black shell asking my credentials.

I did the same stupid thing on both workstation and gateway.

  1. Is there a way to recover whonix? I had some “important data” there.
  2. If I upgrade to whonix 13, would it repair itself?
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That means you removed essential Debian packages. Don’t do that. Probably very difficult to recover from there.

See also:

From qubes-users mailing list: Apt attempting to remove packages in whonix-gw (vlc mentioned specifically):

I’m trying to remove some applications that I don’t need (like VLC).

The problem is that apt attempts to remove a number of packages that I’m
not sure if i need or not - some of the whonix-gw/qubes specific packages
seem reasonably important.

  1. Are these packages needed? What are the for - the initial install?

  2. Also would it be safe to autoremove? Given the huge list of packages in
    the autoremove section.

The last time i done autoremove the whonix-gw complained that the
“qubes-whonix-gateway” package was missing.

my reply:

Some things to consider:

  • Always experiment on Cloned VMs, preferably off-line. (Qubes-only) For Whonix-GW, make sure no VMs are associated with it - no child VMs (if template), no upstream VMs (if proxyVM).

  • Relevant documentation (including links to package lists): Debian Packages - Whonix

  • Figure it out yourself using apt-cache rdepends. Try sudo apt-cache --recursive rdepends vlc and you’ll see just how many packages rely on vlc at some level. Doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be removed but you’ll have broken dependencies unless everything in that list is removed also.

  • Feel free to ask here: expand systemcheck unwanted packages list (I would answer here but I don’t know.)

  • use the --installed option to only see packages installed on your system (and work backwards) so:
    sudo apt-cache --installed rdepends vlc
    sudo apt-cache --installed rdepends phonon-backend-vlc
    sudo apt-cache --installed rdepends phonon

Don’t know about recovering Whonix. But the disk image is not encrypted (by default) so you should be able to mount it in another VM and recover files. (Not a whonix-specific issue.)

Try search engine: virtualbox recover files from broken machine
or: virtualbox mount image

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I read the wiki and seriously, it’s not clear. I think that’s one thing that should be reworked on the whonix project.

I am used to debian 7 and ubuntu and I never thought uninstalling a subpar program would uninstall everything on whonix. :frowning:
Maybe there should be a specific warning? Or a small part talking about this in a tutorial during first install?

I’ll try to recover the files since that seems to be the only solution.

Good day,

Actually the same goes for other operating systems like Debian. If you remove certain essential packages/dependencies, you remove essential parts for the system to run. These were, like @Patrick wrote, Debian packages by the way. This thus isn’t a problem specific to Whonix.

Also, a warning was mentioned. Every package depending on the one you wanted to remove was laid out.

And again, the same goes for other distributions based on Debian. Removing something whose necessity you don’t grasp for the simple reason that the underlying software is complex is never a good idea and can lead to sever stability and security issues.

I’d recommend freshly installing your Workstation.

Have a nice day,


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VLC is not essential to the OS, right?

I removed and installed tons of packages. I wasn’t paying enough attention because of how safe it is usually (i didn’t read the package names, just saw like 50 and thought it was unusual but since Whonix is not ubuntu, I thought ‘ok np’). It’s my fault but still, you can’t say VLC is an essential package for the system. It’s the first time I remove a non-essential program like this to find out it has dependencies that mustn’t be removed.

On my ubuntu I installed and removed VLC and nothing got broken if my memory serves me right.

I’m going to pay more attention but mainly on whonix because on other OS, never had this kind of problem during 3 years of linux.

PS: can’t login on my vbox (not surprising) and I don’t think I can easily recover files haha (T_T)

Good day,

I never said that. I said, that some dependencies of VLC are though, which is the case.

You probably don’t know the difference between apt-get remove/purge and aptitude remove/purge.

The first one (which you presumably used on Ubuntu) only removes the program in question and, if purge is used, also its configuration. The latter though (presumably used on Whonix) removes the program (in this case VLC) and ANYTHING this program depends on. This can and often will include quite crucial parts to the systems integrity. More on the differences can be read here (even though this is askubuntu, the same goes for any OS implementing APT): command line - What is the correct way to completely remove an application? - Ask Ubuntu

Obviously, VLC isn’t essential. Some “stuff” used by it, is though. And using the wrong command to uninstall the program (apt-get vs aptitude) can lead to such problems. That is, why it is always important to double-check what you’ve typed and not blindly accept any question the OS asks you with yes, before reading and understanding it completely.

Have a nice day,


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The full message is similar to this one (just package list differs):

dpkg - Why does apt output "WARNING: The following essential packages will be removed." and prompt me to enter the full phrase when purging a package? - Ask Ubuntu

Debian is already quite clear on that.

You are about to do something potentially harmful.
To continue type in the phrase ‘Yes, do as I say!’

If you do not read the what is being said, generally you will run into grave issues in security.

Often Whonix is limited to whatever its Debian base comes with. Perhaps Debian could write that in red color, perhaps then that message would be taken serious a bit more often.

Correct. VLC is not directly essential to Whonix but it is essential to things that are essential to Whonix. If you re-read my previous post, you can use those commands to find out exactly why uninstalling vlc broke your system. Actually, I already did that for you in my post. The culprit is a package called phonon, which depends on phonon-backend-vlc, which depends on vlc. If you uninstall vlc, you have to uninstall phonon as well. If you don’t know what phonon is, click here: https://packages.debian.org/jessie/phonon

As you can see, if you uninstall vlc in any linux distribution that uses KDE and its multimedia functions, you will break your system. So there is no contradiction with your comment below:

Gnome & Unity may not depend on vlc the same way that KDE does.


Oh ok I get it now, thanks. I never used KDE before (but got some troubles installing KDE based programs on gnome though :D). From your last message, I didn’t use your commands since my whonix is broken. And partially because everything you said is unknown to me.

And to Ego, I used apt-get, not aptitude. I never used aptitude because as you said, I don’t know the difference and I never needed it :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks all, I learned little things about debian today!

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