Project:Prefix/Manual Bootstrap

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IMPORTANT: this document is probably out of date, use as hints for bootstrapping only!

How to bootstrap Gentoo Prefix on your UNIX-like system



Bootstrapping on a UNIX-like system can range from being fairly simple to just a downright disaster. Systems that typically belong to the "simple" group, are Mac OS X, FreeBSD and recent distributions of Linux not being SuSE or Ubuntu. The "disaster" systems are NetBSD, OpenBSD and Ubuntu: they are NOT supported. Somewhere in the middle is Solaris 10, with OpenIndiana being a shift towards the "simple" group.

Don't let yourself be scared away immediately by this. For instance, a bootstrap on Solaris 10 may be quite flawless, because many went ahead of you, and ironed out a smooth path.

In general, when bootstrapping, make sure you have a clean and lean environment. Exclude any software providing repositories such as Blastwave, Fink, MacPorts, Homebrew, ports, etc. by default, e.g. make sure your shell doesn't automatically load any environment variables that setup those repositories. Think of PATH, CFFLAGS, CFLAGS, LDFLAGS, PKG_CONFIG_PATH and the always harmful LD_LIBRARY_PATH. This is important, because Prefix tends to be very sensitive about this. Afterall, it's whole purpose is to provide all of those tools by itself without external help!

If you happen to run into trouble, don't despair (immediately). Feel free to ask in the gentoo-prefix IRC channel, or the gentoo-alt mailing list.

IMPORTANT: Gentoo Prefix does NOT require root-privileges. You don't have to be root to bootstrap a Prefix installation. In fact, we highly discourage people to bootstrap as root-user!


As prerequisite, you have to have a working compiler, e.g. gcc and make installed. Without a compiler, linker and all that is required by those to compile a program such as system headers and libraries, any Prefix bootstrap will fail almost immediately.

On Mac OS X systems, the compiler, linker, system headers and libraries are provided by Xcode, or the Xcode command line tools, available through the AppStore and ADC respectively.
On OpenIndiana, you need the a compiler, system headers and more installed using pkg. Perform the following two commands as super user: pkg set-publisher -p and pkg install sfe/developer/gcc developer/library/lint system/header. The compiler and many useful other utilities will be available in /usr/gnu/bin.
On Solaris systems many useful utilities such as wget and gcc are located in /usr/sfw/bin.

The first step is to choose a path to install into. We refer to this path as "Prefix path", stored in the variable EPREFIX. Some suggestion for your Prefix path is $HOME/gentoo. Whatever you chose, make sure you set it in your environment:

CODE Export EPREFIX variable
$ export EPREFIX="$HOME/gentoo"
tcsh users can use setenv EPREFIX "$HOME/gentoo" instead.

Next, add the following paths in your soon to be Prefix to your PATH environment. $EPREFIX/bin, $EPREFIX/usr/bin, $EPREFIX/tmp/bin and $EPREFIX/tmp/usr/bin. Adding these paths makes sure that they will be available later on in the process.

CODE Add Prefix and temp paths to your PATH
$ export PATH="$EPREFIX/usr/bin:$EPREFIX/bin:$EPREFIX/tmp/usr/bin:$EPREFIX/tmp/bin:/usr/bin:/bin"
On Solaris you need the add the following paths to find the GNU compiler, linker, make and some other tools: /usr/sfw/bin, /usr/sfw/<arch>-sun-solaris<version>/bin. Use export PATH="$PATH:/usr/sfw/bin:/usr/sfw/i386-sun-solaris2.10/bin" for x86-based Solaris 10. Similar for sparc-based Solaris 10, use sparc-sun-solaris2.10 instead. Solaris 11 users have to replace the 2.10 by 2.11.
Most notably on Mac OS X and Solaris systems, both 32-bits and 64-bits modes are possible. These are so-called multilib systems. If you know what this means, and you don't like the default chosen by the bootstrap script, you can set your CHOST environment variable to your liking. Solaris/OpenSolaris/OpenIndiana systems always default to 32-bits, so if you want to end up with a 64-bits native Prefix installation, then set your CHOST variable accordingly to either x86_64-pc-solaris2.10 or sparcv9-sun-solaris2.10 for Solaris 10, use 2.11 for versions later, including OpenIndiana. Mac OS X Intel-based systems before Lion (10.7) always default to 32-bits. From Lion and on, the default is 64-bits. If you want a 64-bits native Prefix on pre-Lion systems, set your CHOST to x86_64-apple-darwin9 for Leopard, or x86_64-apple-darwin10 for Snow Leopard. If you want to end up with a 32-bits native Prefix installation on Lion, set your CHOST to i686-apple-darwin11.

Now the PATH is set, start with downloading the bootstrap script from [1]. This script needs bash. If you don't have bash on your system (typically BSD users don't), you'll have to bootstrap bash first, using [2]. You can use wget , curl or ftp if they are available. Downloading them with a web-browser is also fine.

If your system lacks bash by default, bootstrap it, using: chmod 755; ./ $EPREFIX/tmp and rehash afterwards: hash -r (sh) or rehash (csh).

From the directory where the bootstrap script was stored execute the following commands:

CODE Use the bootstrap script for stage1
$ chmod 755
$ ./ $EPREFIX stage1

The stage1 should have installed some basic packages necessary to run Portage, without Portage's help. When stage1 finished successfully, a Portage can be installed.

The Portage tree installed by default is a known to be good snapshot. This can, however, for various reasons not be good enough, in which case the lastest snapshot available can be used instead. Only use this when you have problems with the known to be good snapshot. If you want to use the lastest snapshot when bootstrapping, export LATEST_TREE_YES=1 in your environment before running the following:

CODE bootstrap Portage and its tree
$ ./ $EPREFIX stage2

We continue with emerging some of the core toolchain packages that make sure we compile and link everything taking the Prefix into account. Next to that this step emerges the full set of applications and that Portage needs and removes the tools installed by stage1. It finishes things by getting an up-to-date tree (removing any hacks stage2 applied to the activated profile) and emerging everything in the system set.

CODE bootstrap a self-hosted Portage
$ ./ $EPREFIX stage3

Because we installed some new applications, most notably Portage, we will instruct bash to reconsider all paths we have:

CODE rehash in bash
$ hash -r
tcsh users can use the rehash command.

Now is a good time to set the preferences for your Prefix. This includes customisations such as general USE -flags, CFLAGS and MAKEOPTS in $EPREFIX/etc/portage/make.conf. Be conservative with CFLAGS! The stage3 function already set some moderate defaults.

You can consider adding CPU-specific tuning flags to CFLAGS. If you don't know what your CPU is, or what this would be good for, just skip this note. Intel-based Mac OS X users (e.g. MacBook, CoreDuo) should at least have -march=prescott here to avoid compilation errors due to SSE instructions not being enabled. Core2Duo users can use -march=core2. Mac OS X PPC users can use their CPU's alias to enable CPU specific tuning, e.g. -mcpu=G5 -mtune=G5. For other systems, you might simply want to use -march=<your-cpu> . Google the right value, or just forget about this setting. Note that setting a wrong value breaks things.

Since we have everything in place for a self-catered rebuild, we can start the final stage to install the Prefix system. This final stage recompiles everything in the system, but now all packages can be compiled with tools from the Prefix, instead of those from the host system.

CODE doing the final system installation
$ emerge -e system

After system has emerged successfully, your Prefix will be set up properly, and you can emerge the whichever tools you choose from the Prefix tree.

Using the Prefix

To use your bootstrapped Prefix environment, you best start a shell from the Prefix, such that your path and other environment variables are set correctly. To facilitate in this, a small helper script can be created by the bootstrap script.

CODE Creating a start-script
$ cd $EPREFIX/usr/portage/scripts
$ ./ $EPREFIX startscript

After running this, a script startprefix will be present in $EPREFIX. You can freely move the script to e.g. your homedir for convenience. Running the script will drop you into a Prefix shell, where for example emerge is directly at your disposal. Enjoy your Prefix!


We would like to thank the following authors and editors for their contributions to this guide:

  • Fabian Groffen