Keeping R up to date on Ubuntu linux

R is included as part of the standard Ubuntu distribution, and can be installed with a command like

sudo apt-get install r-base

Obviously the software included as part of the standard distribution usually lags a little behind the latest version, and this is usually quite acceptable for most users most of the time. However, R is evolving quite quickly at the moment, and for various reasons I have decided to skip Ubuntu 12.10 (quantal) and stick with Ubuntu 12.4 (precise) for the time being. Since R 2.14 is included with Ubuntu 12.4, and I’d rather use R 2.15, I’d like to run with the latest R builds on my Ubuntu system.

Fortunately this is very easy, as there is a maintained repository for Ubuntu builds of R on CRAN. Full instructions are provided on CRAN, but here is the quick summary. First you need to know your nearest CRAN mirror – there is a list of mirrors on CRAN. I generally use the Bristol mirror, and so I will use it in the following.

sudo su
echo "deb precise/" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys E084DAB9
apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

That’s it. You are updated to the latest version of R, and your system will check for updates in the usual way. There are just two things you may need to edit in line 2 above. The first is the address of the CRAN mirror (here “”). The second is the name of the Ubuntu distro you are running (here “precise”).


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I am Professor of Statistics within the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Durham University, UK. I am an Bayesian statistician interested in computation and applications, especially to engineering and the life sciences.

12 thoughts on “Keeping R up to date on Ubuntu linux”

  1. Brilliant. One addition though. If you are behind firewall like myself, one needs to use port 80 for the keyserver i.e.

    apt-key adv –keyserver hkp:// –recv-keys E084DAB9

  2. Cut and paste and functioned pefectly – thanks – luckily I am using pangolin still as I didn’t check that bit. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much. I guess I will never understand why so many people are incapable of explaining these things as simply as you have done here.

  4. Any help on how to upgrade R to last version on linuxmint 17 Qiana?

    Thankkx in advance

  5. I need some help, I didn’t wrong and now Ubuntu Software Center crash, How can get back the system as it was ?

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