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Portage is the package management and distribution system for Gentoo. It essentially 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.


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 the 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:

  1. Boot up a LiveDVD/CD that has Portage included (Gentoo LiveDVDs or SystemRescueCD should contain Portage). Remove the old or broken Portage and reinstall install 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/usr/portage/distfiles" PKGDIR="/mnt/gentoo/usr/portage/packages" PORTAGE_CONFIGROOT="/mnt/gentoo/" PORTAGE_TMPDIR="/mnt/gentoo/var/tmp" PORTDIR="/mnt/gentoo/usr/portage"
    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 Portage Tree in case the system is a bit behind on the current Portage tree:
      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 $tar --extract --gz --verbose --file portage-2.2.22.tar.gz
user $cd portage-2.2.22

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 /usr/portage directory if it does not exist:

root #mkdir /usr/portage


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.

CODE Portage update message
* 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 --oneshot 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.


In addition to the official repository (colloquially known as the "Portage Tree" because of its traditional placement in /usr/portage/), there are additional repositories which in Gentoo called overlays.

It is possible to search through the ebuilds available in the overlays on http://overlays.gentoo.org/ by using the eix tool.

GUI front-ends

There are a few GUI interfaces that exist for Portage, although some of them have become unmaintained.

Name Package Homepage Maintained? Description
kport Unavailable http://kport.sourceforge.net/ No A GUI frontend for the Portage package management system.
kuroo app-portage/kuroo4 http://sourceforge.net/projects/kuroo/ Yes Graphical Portage frontend based on KDE4/Qt4.
porthole app-portage/porthole http://porthole.sourceforge.net/ Yes A GTK+-based frontend to Portage.





See the ebuild article.


See the egencache article for additional information.


See Project:Portage/Sync#Operation and man 1 emaint.


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 shortcuts 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









See the Binary package guide for more information.


See the repoman article for additional information.

See also

Alternate package managers:

  • Paludis - An alternative package manager written expressly for Gentoo-based systems.
  • Pkgcore - A framework for package management, mostly compatible with Gentoo
  • app-arch/dpkg - A package manager for Debian based systems.
  • sys-apps/yum - The package manager for RPM systems that also can be used on Gentoo.

Related to Portage:

Portage in the Gentoo AMD64 Handbook:

Portage tools