What is a PPA on Linux?

A PPA (Personal Package Archive) is a repository where you can download packages, that is software, for Debian-based Linux distributions like Ubuntu.

In contrast to “normal” package source that are provided and maintained by distribution providers, PPAs can be created by anyone in order to publish one’s software or special versions of third-party software.

PPAs are hosted on Launchpad, a platform made and supported by Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu.

Are PPAs safe?

While in principle one could publish dangerous software on a PPA, in practice there is virtually no risk since:

  • Most often the PPA is provided by the original author of the software and can hence be trusted, if the software you want to install is trusted
  • PPAs are frequently used by amateurs and experts alike
  • You can only upload source DEB packages to the PPA which is built on Canonical’s server. This reduces the likelihood of smuggeling in binaries with malicious software.
  • Malicious PPAs are quickly removed once reported

Still it is good practice to keep in mind that installing software from anywhere – including PPAs – has a chance (although a very little one) to compromise your computer.