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Portage is the official package manager and distribution system for Gentoo. It functions as the heart of Gentoo-based operating systems. Portage includes many commands for repository and package management, the primary of which is the emerge command.

The most common questions about portage and the emerge command are handled in the Portage FAQ.

This article describes Portage from a user's perspective. Those looking to contribute to Portage development should visit the Portage project page


All Gentoo installations come with Portage. Like all data, there is a possibility Portage can become corrupted or even uninstalled, which is very bad. If this is the case there are ways Portage can be recovered, however Portage re-installation can be quite a hassle. It becomes a work of manual labor: installing a package manager without a package manager.

Binary package

Have a friend or a build server build a Portage binary package, then boot a recovery disk and transfer the binary package to the broken machine. This could be done using the buildpkg Portage feature on a healthy machine or by using the quickpkg command (see the binary package guide). Portage will be needed in to order to install the binary package, however it is possible to run something off a virtual machine.

Boot up a LiveDVD/CD that has Portage included (Gentoo LiveDVDs should contain Portage). Remove the old or broken Portage and reinstall Portage to the mounted root filesystem (potentially the fastest and easiest option in the case of a fast internet connection and available CDs/DVDs). For example, if the root file system with broken Portage was mounted at /mnt/gentoo the following commands could be used from a live environment.

  1. Change all of Portage's relevant environment variables to be set to the Portage directory of the mounted root filesystem. If the broken Portage root directory is mounted at /mnt/gentoo, the command would look like this:
    root #DISTDIR="/mnt/gentoo/var/cache/distfiles" PKGDIR="/mnt/gentoo/var/cache/binpkgs" PORTAGE_CONFIGROOT="/mnt/gentoo/" PORTAGE_TMPDIR="/mnt/gentoo/var/tmp" PORTDIR="/mnt/gentoo/var/db/repos/gentoo"
  2. Run the emerge command in order to remove any traces of the old broken Portage package:
    root #emerge --ask --unmerge sys-apps/portage
  3. Sync the system in case it is a bit behind on the current Gentoo repository:
    root #emerge --sync
  4. Install the new version of Portage:
    root #emerge --ask --update --newuse sys-apps/portage


Manually download a copy of a recent Portage release tarball, extract it, and manually install it:

user $wget https://github.com/gentoo/portage/archive/3.x.xx.tar.gz -O portage-3.x.xx.tar.gz
user $tar --extract --gz --verbose --file portage-3.x.xx.tar.gz
user $cd portage-3.x.xx

Install via setup.py:

root #python setup.py install

If they do not exist, add the following lines into the following files:

root #echo "portage:x:250:250:portage:/var/tmp/portage:/bin/false" >> /etc/passwd
root #echo "portage::250:portage" >> /etc/group

Create the /var/db/repos/gentoo directory if it does not exist:

root #mkdir /var/db/repos/gentoo


In order for Gentoo to stay up to date, Portage must stay up to date. If the following message is visible after an emerge --sync, it is important to do what the text says before updating other packages.

* An update to portage is available. It is _highly_ recommended
* that you update portage now, before any other packages are updated.

* To update portage, run 'emerge --oneshot portage' now.
root #emerge --ask -u1 sys-apps/portage

This is short hand expression for:

root #emerge --ask --oneshot --update sys-apps/portage

This will tell Portage to exclusively update itself. After Portage has been updated, users can then update other packages.



There are many files used to configure Portage.

See /etc/portage configuration files for an exhaustive list of configuration files.

Environment variables

Portage pays attention to some environment variables:

This page is a work in progress by maffblaster (talk | contribs). Treat its contents with caution.

Ebuild repositories

In addition to the Gentoo repository, there are additional ebuild repositories.

It is possible to search through the ebuilds available in the ebuild repositories on https://repos.gentoo.org/ by using the eix tool.

Graphical front-ends

Name Package Homepage Maintained Description
kuroo app-portage/kuroo https://sourceforge.net/projects/kuroo/ Yes Graphical Portage frontend based on KF5/Qt5.


Portage includes many different tools and utilities to help with system administration and maintenance. The following sections list these in alphabetical order.


The purpose of archive-conf is to save off a config file in the dispatch-conf archive directory. Most users should not ever need to run this command:

root #archive-conf
Usage: archive-conf /CONFIG/FILE [/CONFIG/FILE...]


The dispatch-conf utility is used to manage configuration file updates. See the dispatch-conf article.


ebuild is Portage's command for running the various ebuild functions. For disambiguation see the ebuild article.


The egencache tool rebuilds the cache of metadata information for the ebuild repositories. See the egencache article for additional information.


Performs package management related system health checks and maintenance.

See man 1 emaint for detailed information.

The emerge --sync command is now implemented with emaint. See Portage's sync operation.


emerge is the command-line interface to Portage and is how most users will interact with Portage. The emerge command has many possible options. For a complete list of all options see its man page:

user $man emerge

Below is an exemplary invocation of emerge. The options (-atv) are short options for --ask, --tree, and --verbose. They trigger emerge to ask before proceeding, display the dependency tree of packages to be installed, and to be verbose with its output. While in the context of Portage, the term "package" can also be referred to as an "atom." Do not be confused if you see the term "atom" used instead of the term "package."

# emerge -atv package

These are the packages that would be merged, in reverse order:

Calculating dependencies... done! [ebuild U ] category/package-3.0-r2 [2.0] USE="enabled -disabled toggled* new% (-unavailable)" MAKE_OPTIONS="-disabled" 777 kB [ebuild UD ] category/package-2.0 [3.0] 777 kB [ebuild R ] category/package-1.0 777 kB [ebuild N ] category/package-0.5 777 kB

Total: 4 packages (1 new, 1 reinstall, 1 upgrade, 1 downgrade), Size of downloads: 3108 kB

Would you like to merge these packages? [Yes/No]

Common invocations

Search for packages with proxy in their names:

user $emerge --search proxy

Search for packages with proxy in their names or description:

user $emerge --searchdesc proxy

Install the net-proxy/tinyproxy package with --ask and --verbose options for precaution:

root #emerge --ask --verbose net-proxy/tinyproxy

Remove the net-proxy/tinyproxy package using the dependency sensitive --depclean option instead of --unmerge which may remove important packages:

root #emerge --ask --verbose --depclean net-proxy/tinyproxy

Verifying and (re)downloading distfiles

To re-verify the integrity of and re-download previously removed/corrupted distfiles for all currently installed packages, run:

root #emerge --ask --fetchonly --emptytree @world


root #emerge-webrsync -h
Usage: /usr/bin/emerge-webrsync [options]

  --revert=yyyymmdd   Revert to snapshot
  -k, --keep          Keep snapshots in DISTDIR (don't delete)
  -q, --quiet         Only output errors
  -v, --verbose       Enable verbose output
  -x, --debug         Enable debug output
  -h, --help          This help screen (duh!)

emerge-webrsync is called internally by eix-sync when sync-type in /etc/portage/repos.conf is set to webrsync.


root #emirrordist -h
usage: emirrordist [options] <action>

emirrordist - a fetch tool for mirroring of package distfiles

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit

  --version             display portage version and exit
  --mirror              mirror distfiles for the selected repository

Common options:
  --dry-run             perform a trial run with no changes made (usually
                        combined with --verbose)
  --verbose, -v         display extra information on stderr (multiple
                        occurences increase verbosity)
                        do not use the EMIRRORDIST_DEFAULT_OPTS environment
  --distfiles DIR       distfiles directory to use (required)
  --jobs JOBS, -j JOBS  number of concurrent jobs to run
  --load-average LOAD, -l LOAD
                        load average limit for spawning of new concurrent jobs
  --tries TRIES         maximum number of tries per file, 0 means unlimited
                        (default is 10)
  --repo REPO           name of repo to operate on
  --config-root DIR     location of portage config files
  --repositories-configuration REPOSITORIES_CONFIGURATION
                        override configuration of repositories (in format of
  --strict-manifests <y|n>
                        manually override "strict" FEATURES setting
  --failure-log FILE    log file for fetch failures, with tab-delimited
                        output, for reporting purposes
  --success-log FILE    log file for fetch successes, with tab-delimited
                        output, for reporting purposes
  --scheduled-deletion-log FILE
                        log file for scheduled deletions, with tab-delimited
                        output, for reporting purposes
  --delete              enable deletion of unused distfiles
  --deletion-db FILE    database file used to track lifetime of files
                        scheduled for delayed deletion
  --deletion-delay SECONDS
                        delay time for deletion, measured in seconds
  --temp-dir DIR        temporary directory for downloads
  --mirror-overrides FILE
                        file holding a list of mirror overrides
  --mirror-skip MIRROR_SKIP
                        comma delimited list of mirror targets to skip when
  --restrict-mirror-exemptions RESTRICT_MIRROR_EXEMPTIONS
                        comma delimited list of mirror targets for which to
                        ignore RESTRICT="mirror"
                        use digest as a verification of whether existing
                        distfiles are valid
  --distfiles-local DIR
                        distfiles-local directory to use
  --distfiles-db FILE   database file used to track which ebuilds a distfile
                        belongs to
  --recycle-dir DIR     directory for extended retention of files that are
                        removed from distdir with the --delete option
  --recycle-db FILE     database file used to track lifetime of files in
                        recycle dir
  --recycle-deletion-delay SECONDS
                        delay time for deletion of unused files from recycle
                        dir, measured in seconds (defaults to the equivalent
                        of 60 days)
  --fetch-log-dir DIR   directory for individual fetch logs
  --whitelist-from FILE
                        specifies a file containing a list of files to
                        whitelist, one per line, # prefixed lines ignored


root #env-update -h
Usage: env-update [--no-ldconfig]

See the env-update(1) man page for more info


dispatch-conf is now the recommended way to manage configuration file changes. Importantly, dispatch-conf permits the rollback of config changes.
root #etc-update -h
etc-update: Handle configuration file updates

Usage: etc-update [options] [paths to scan]

If no paths are specified, then ${CONFIG_PROTECT} will be used.

  -d, --debug    Enable shell debugging
  -h, --help     Show help and run away
  -p, --preen    Automerge trivial changes only and quit
  -q, --quiet    Show only essential output
  -v, --verbose  Show settings and such along the way
  -V, --version  Show version and trundle away

  --automode <mode>
             -3 to auto merge all files
             -5 to auto-merge AND not use 'mv -i'
             -7 to discard all updates
             -9 to discard all updates AND not use 'rm -i'


root #fixpackages -h
usage: fixpackages [-h]

The fixpackages program performs package move updates on configuration files,
installed packages, and binary packages.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help  show this help message and exit


root #regenworld -h
This script regenerates the portage world file by checking the portage
logfile for all actions that you've done in the past. It ignores any
arguments except --help. It is recommended that you make a backup of
your existing world file (/var/lib/portage/world) before using this tool.


For details see portageq.


See the Binary package guide for more information.


Since version 2.3.0 repoman is packaged separately (app-portage/repoman) from Portage. See the repoman article for additional information.


Main (Gentoo) ebuild repository sync time

To see when the Gentoo ebuild repository was last updated (synced), run the following command:

user $cat /var/db/repos/gentoo/metadata/timestamp.chk

Emerging packages fail during 'unpack' stage

The following message is occurs when emerging packages:

 * Error messages for package dev-libs/libinput-1.16.0:
 * The ebuild phase 'unpack' has exited unexpectedly. This type of behavior
 * is known to be triggered by things such as failed variable assignments
 * (bug #190128) or bad substitution errors (bug #200313). Normally, before
 * exiting, bash should have displayed an error message above. If bash did
 * not produce an error message above, it's possible that the ebuild has
 * called `exit` when it should have called `die` instead. This behavior
 * may also be triggered by a corrupt bash binary or a hardware problem
 * such as memory or cpu malfunction. If the problem is not reproducible or
 * it appears to occur randomly, then it is likely to be triggered by a
 * hardware problem. If you suspect a hardware problem then you should try
 * some basic hardware diagnostics such as memtest. Please do not report
 * this as a bug unless it is consistently reproducible and you are sure
 * that your bash binary and hardware are functioning properly.

Although possible to be caused by the reasons listed in the output above, this issue is more likely caused by low disk space in the path used by Portage to unpack the ebuild's source files. This location is set via the PORTAGE_TMPDIR variable and can be quickly found by querying Portage:

user $portageq envvar PORTAGE_TMPDIR

Next, use the df command to view the disk space in the partition where PORTAGE_TMPDIR has been mounted. For Handbook formatted systems this will likely be the root (/) partition. See Freeing disk space for details on how to free up disk space.

See also

Related to Portage

  • GCC optimization — an introduction to optimizing compiled code using safe, sane CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS.
  • Portage tips — contains a list of tips for Portage users
  • Repository format — A quick reference to Gentoo ebuild repository (overlay) format.
  • Package Manager Specification — a standardization effort to ensure that the ebuild file format, the ebuild repository format (of which the Gentoo ebuild repository is the main incarnation), as well as behavior of the package managers interacting with these ebuilds is properly agreed upon and documented.
  • Ebuild repository — a structure of directories and files used to add and extend software packages for a Gentoo-based system.
  • Category:Portage
  • Gentoolkit — a suite of tools to ease the administration of a Gentoo system.
  • Portage Multi Stage Dockerfile — The emerge --quickpkg-direct and related emerge --quickpkg-direct-root options are useful inside Dockerfiles
  • Portage Security — aims to answer the question "How can I dispel doubts regarding the security of the Gentoo ebuild repository on a system?"
  • Portage TMPDIR on tmpfs — Building packages in tmpfs both speeds up emerge times and reduces HDD/SSD wear.

Portage in the Gentoo AMD64 Handbook

Portage tools

Alternate package managers

  • Pkgcore — an alternative package manager for Gentoo that aims for high performance, extensibility, and a clean design.
  • app-arch/dpkg - A package manager for Debian based systems.

External resources

  • packages.gentoo.org - online searchable database of packages from the Gentoo package repository.

Portage man pages

The man pages contain complete technical documentation for Portage. Type man <subject> in a shell on a Gentoo system to read the local man page. Note that man pages have a see also section for further information.