Ubuntu: How do I fix a “Problem with MergeList” or “status file could not be parsed” error when trying to do an update?


The computer gave me this output in a window:

E: Encountered a section with no Package: header  E: Problem with MergeList /var/lib/apt/lists/archive.ubuntu.com_ubuntu_dists_natty_main_binary-i386_Packages  E: The package lists or status file could not be parsed or opened.  

How can I fix this?


These terminal commands should solve your problem:

First remove the Merge List by opening a terminal (Press Ctrl+Alt+T to launch) and run this command*:

sudo rm -vf /var/lib/apt/lists/*  

Next, generate a new one by running a simple update:

sudo apt-get update  

Here is the bug report (and another) for this problem, which is now fixed so it shouldn't create new malformed files, however if you already have the malformed files you need to remove them as explained in this post.

*The options used for rm are -v verbose

-v, --verbose explain what is being done

and -f force

-f, --force ignore nonexistent files and arguments, never prompt

If you are ever unsure about a command line or the options being used always refer to the manual page for the command. These can be accessed on the internet by searching for man and the command for example man rm or you can access the same information by typing exactly the same command in the terminal for example man rm instructions for quitting the page will be at the bottom of the terminal like this

picture of man page options


Open a Terminal and run the following commands one at a time:

sudo rm /var/lib/apt/lists/* -vf  sudo apt-get update  

See also:


You screwed up when you edited /var/lib/dpkg/status. Restore it from the backup that you made before editing it. Of course, you made a backup, right?

Since you didn't make a backup, edit it again, carefully. Try not to cause more damage.

You can use /var/lib/dpkg/status.old as a reference point. This is a backup of the status file from before the last time dpkg was run. Run

diff /var/lib/dpkg/status.old /var/lib/dpkg/status  

to see the differences. Undo the changes that you made manually, and keep the changes that were made by the last dpkg run.

If you really can't manage to repair the file, copy /var/lib/dpkg/status.old over /var/lib/dpkg/status. You will get a well-formed, but out-of-date package database.

You never need to edit /var/lib/dpkg/status in normal operation. Even whe things go seriously wrong, /var/lib/dpkg/status is not something that tends to require administrator intervention. Whatever your problems with crossplatformui were, there is probably a better way of solving them. The only time I've ever needed to edit /var/lib/dpkg/status was when an upstream Packages file was broken.


I did

sudo apt-get clean  sudo apt-get update  

and it worked.


Following steps 2-5 in the Package Manager Troubleshooting Procedure usually solves this problem.

For step 2, disable all your PPAs. You can uncheck all of them in Software Sources the same way you'd uncheck just one; see How to disable a particular PPA?. You can re-enable them later.

For step 3, close any open programs you can. It's probably safe to keep your web browser open so you have your instructions in front of you. But it's particularly important to make sure any package managers are not running. This include the Software Center, the Software Updater (Update Manager in older versions of Ubuntu), Synaptic, and Gdebi. It also includes command-line package management utilities like apt-get, dpkg, and aptitude.

Note that if other users are logged on at the same time, they should log off if possible.

For step 4, open a terminal window. One way to do this that works no matter what desktop environment you use, is to press Ctrl+Alt+T.

For step 5, run these commands in the terminal window:

ubuntu-support-status  sudo grep -R proxy /etc/apt/*  grep proxy  /etc/environment  echo $http_proxy  echo $ftp_proxy  grep proxy /etc/bash.bashrc  grep proxy ~/.bashrc  cat /etc/apt/apt.conf  sudo fuser -vvv /var/lib/dpkg/lock  sudo fuser -vvv /var/cache/apt/archives/lock  cat /etc/lsb-release  uname -a  sudo rm /var/lib/apt/lists/lock   sudo rm  /var/cache/apt/archives/lock  sudo rm /var/lib/dpkg/lock  sudo cp -arf /var/lib/dpkg /var/lib/dpkg.backup  sudo mv /var/lib/dpkg/status /var/lib/dpkg/status-bad  sudo cp /var/lib/dpkg/status-old /var/lib/dpkg/status  ||  sudo cp /var/backups/apt.extended_states.0 /var/lib/dpkg/status  sudo mv /var/lib/dpkg/available /var/lib/dpkg/available-bad  sudo cp /var/lib/dpkg/available-old /var/lib/dpkg/available  sudo rm -rf /var/lib/dpkg/updates/*  sudo rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists  sudo rm /var/cache/apt/*.bin  sudo mkdir /var/lib/apt/lists  sudo mkdir /var/lib/apt/lists/partial  LANG=C;sudo apt-get clean  LANG=C;sudo apt-get autoclean  LANG=C;sudo apt-get --purge autoremove  LANG=C;sudo apt-get --fix-missing update -o APT::Cache-Limit=100000000  sudo dpkg --configure -a  sudo dpkg --clear-avail  LANG=C;sudo apt-get -f install  LANG=C;sudo apt-get --fix-missing install  LANG=C;sudo apt-get update -o APT::Cache-Limit=100000000 && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade  find /etc/apt -name '*.list' -exec bash -c 'echo -e "\n$1\n"; cat -n "$1"' _ '{}' \;  

I copied that verbatim from PackageManagementTroubleshoootingProcedure on 2 March 2014. Those commands have evolved in the past and the recommended commands in that article may be changed or expanded on again in the future. So you may want to work from step 5 there. (That article, created/edited by "Contributors to the Ubuntu documentation wiki"--especially Mark Rijckenberg--is licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0, which allows inclusion here with proper attribution.)

Some of those commands attempt to fix the problem (and also may show diagnostic information); others display valuable information about the problem that you can include in your question or otherwise provide to someone helping you. (Or, depending on your skills, may enable you to diagnose and solve it.)

Often this fixes it but when it doesn't it often gives enough information to fix it.

You don't have to manually type those commands; you can copy and paste them. I recommend pasting and running each one separately, though. This makes it clearer what output is from which commands.


I have also seen this problem occur when you have too many sources in your repos.

Try the solution posted above and/or also perhaps this which is sometimes recommended on launchpad:

sudo mv /var/lib/apt/lists /var/lib/apt/lists-old  sudo mkdir -p /var/lib/apt/lists/partial  sudo apt-get update  

Let us know how you get on.


I was running into a similar error:

Reading package lists... Error!  E: Encountered a section with no Package: header  E: Problem with MergeList /var/lib/dpkg/status  E: The package lists or status file could not be parsed or opened.  

I followed similar suggestions to copy status-old.

$ head /var/lib/dpkg/status  $ head /var/lib/dpkg/status-old  

All of my status files were blank for some reason. Luckily, I found out there are backups of these files:

$ ls -l /var/backups/dpkg.status.*  -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 444620 Nov 15 06:33 /var/backups/dpkg.status.0  -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 444620 Nov 15 06:33 /var/backups/dpkg.status.1.gz  -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 128168 Sep 20  2013 /var/backups/dpkg.status.2.gz  -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 112545 Sep 16  2013 /var/backups/dpkg.status.3.gz  -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 107767 Sep 14  2013 /var/backups/dpkg.status.4.gz  -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 107766 Sep 11  2013 /var/backups/dpkg.status.5.gz  -rw-r--r-- 1 root root  94583 Sep 11  2013 /var/backups/dpkg.status.6.gz  

I checked the latest backup...

$ head /var/backups/dpkg.status.0  

...but it was still blank. So I unzipped an older one...

$ gunzip /var/backups/dpkg.status.1.gz  $ head /var/backups/dpkg.status.1  

This time there was content. So I copied it...

$ cp /var/backups/dpkg.status.1 /var/lib/dpkg/status  

Then apt-get update ran without problems.

Credit goes to this post.


I had the same problem and tried all the troubleshooting mentioned in other answers. Strangely the only fix was a different step:

  • Go to Software & updates -> Ubuntu Software -> Download From ->Other->Select Best Server

  • Wait for the tests. At the end of the tests the best server will be selected, not necessarily the nearest one nor the main server nor the server for your locale.

  • Now Reload Repo data, It will finish properly.

Note:If u also have question or solution just comment us below or mail us on toontricks1994@gmail.com
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