Updating The Ports Collection On FreeBSD

The Ports Collection is a list of build instructions located in /usr/ports. Download and initialize it with

# portsnap fetch extract

That’s only required the very first time. Afterward, updates are downloaded and updated with

# portsnap fetch update

Checking For Updates

Now the installed applications can be compared to the versions in the ports collection.

# portmaster -L --index-only| egrep '(ew|ort) version|total install'
        ===>>> New version available: bash-4.1.10
===>>> 674 total installed ports

This example shows a single port that needs updating.

Automating The Update

It’s easy to automate the ports collection update with a small shell script:

/usr/sbin/portsnap fetch update && \
/usr/local/sbin/portmaster -L --index-only | egrep '(ew|ort) version|total install'


/usr/ports/UPDATING contains notes about updating ports that require special procedures. Always, yes always, read this file for special notes before updating ports.

Only entries that have been added since the last time you updated ports are relevant. That date can be determined from the package database:

echo -n "Last update: "
date -r `pkg query %t | sort | tail -n1` "+%Y%m%d"

This can be added to the end of the update script shown above.

Updating Installed Applications

Use portmaster to update the outdated port from the example above:

# portmaster bash

portmaster first checks that everything the port depends on is present. Then it rebuilds that port, and finally rebuilds all ports that depend on it.

If there is more than one outdated port, just list them all on the command line. portmaster will work out the dependencies and build order.

Odd Situations

Sometimes it’s helpful to have portmaster figure out what needs to be upgraded and in what order, but not actually do it. This can be useful if something needs to be done manually during a step, or you want to break up an upgrade of a lot of ports into smaller pieces.

# portmaster -na
===>>> Starting check of installed ports for available updates
===>>> Launching child to update bash-4.1.9 to bash-4.1.10

===>>> Port directory: /usr/ports/shells/bash

===>>> Gathering dependency list for shells/bash from ports
===>>> Initial dependency check complete for shells/bash
===>>> Returning to update check of installed ports

===>>> Starting build for for ports that need updating <<<===

===>>> Launching child to install shells/bash
===>>> Returning to update check of installed ports

===>>> Update check of installed ports complete

In this case, all it would do is rebuild the single bash port.

Other Notes

Lots of people try the -a (all) option with port upgrade tools. If there are lots of updates, or any with special steps required in /usr/ports/UPDATING, that approach can fail. The -n option can be useful here also, producing a list of ports in the order they should be rebuilt.

# portmaster -na > /tmp/portorder.txt

portmaster shows any configuration screens that require options to be set before it begins the build. That lets you set all the options first rather than at various points during the build.

Checking For Missing Libraries

Dominic Fandrey’s sysutils/bsdadminscripts port has a particularly useful script called pkg_libchk. It checks for programs that link to missing libraries, a problem that often happens when people don’t read /usr/ports/UPDATING regularly. After updating ports, run

pkg_libchk -qo

Any ports listed are trying to use old libraries and need to be rebuilt. If more than one is listed, give the entire list to portmaster so it can rebuild them in the correct order.

Reinstalling All Ports

Occasionally a system upgrade, like upgrading from FreeBSD 7 to FreeBSD 8, requires a forced reinstall of all ports. The portmaster man page shows a procedure for doing that. Search for the keyword “reinstallation” in that page:

# man portmaster | less -p reinstallation

If the process of reinstalling everything fails, portmaster shows a command line that can be used to restart where it failed. It’s useful to run script(1) before starting the reinstallation process to avoid having to retype that long command.

That’s It

Hopefully we’ve upgraded your view of port upgrading, maybe from “Horribly Painful” to “Necessary Evil”. Or possibly from merely “Annoying” to “Minor Inconvenience”.