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A software package management system (PMS) is a collection of software tools to automate the process of installing, upgrading, configuring, and removing software packages for a computer's operating system in a consistent manner. It typically maintains a database of software dependencies and version information to prevent software mismatches and missing prerequisites.
Packages are distributions of software, applications and data. Packages also contain metadata, such as the software's name, description of its purpose, version number, vendor, checksum, and a list of dependencies necessary for the software to run properly. Upon installation, metadata is stored in a local package database.
Distributions of Linux and other Unix-like systems typically consist of hundreds or even thousands of distinct software packages; in the former case, a package management system is a convenience, in the latter case it is essential.