How to Setup Ports Collection on FreeBSD 11.0

FreeBSD operating system can use binary packages with pkg utility,  but for for some ocassion, like running newest versions of the code, you would want to compile some programs.  For that, there is very useful ports collection that simplifies compilation process. In this article we will install and use ports collection to update the Freebsd 11.0 system. This article assumes you have installed FreeBSD 11 using our previous article.

Using port collection to install portmaster

If you are using ssh to access your FreeBSD machine, you would want to get root for your regular user before proceeding, because you access the VM as user and then you need to use su. By default, FreeBSD will give you sorry message, and to avoid that, use following command:

pw user mod username -G wheel

Next we can move to getting the ports tree from online repostory:

portsnap fetch extract

This command will will get and extract snap of entire ports collection on your FreeBSD system. Next time you want to use ports, you wont need to fetch and extract, instead just run

portsnap fetch update

Next we need to change working directory to application that we want to install, which in this case is portmaster

cd /usr/ports/ports-mgmt/portmaster

And then simply type

make install clean

And the ports will do the magic. It will compile install a portmaster, a shell script that helps update of all ports.

Updating ports with portmaster

So we have installed first program from source code using ports collection. Next command we will run will show us what ports are ready for update:

pkg version -l '<'

Note that in older versions of FreeBSD, there was pkg_version command, as of 10.0 it was changed to pkg version.

Output should be something like this:

atril-1.12.2 <
bash-4.3.46_1 <
ca_root_nss-3.26 <
expat-2.1.1_2 <
galculator-2.1.3 <
glib-2.46.2 <
hal-0.5.14_30 <
harfbuzz-1.3.0 <
icu-55.1 <
indexinfo-0.2.4 <
iso-codes-3.65 <
libassuan-2.4.2 <
libgd-2.2.2,1 <
libgpg-error-1.23 <
libmateweather-1.12.1 <
librsvg2-2.40.13 <
libspectre-0.2.7_2 <
libtasn1-4.8 <
llvm37-3.7.1_2 <

To see possible issues with packages that are ready to upgrade, you need to type

pkg updating

Like with previous command, there there was underline in previous versions, now it is gone. Sample output of the command:

pkg updating
AFFECTS: users of math/galculator

galculator now uses GTK3 by default. An option exists in the port to revert
to GTK2 if desired.

AFFECTS: print/cups-base, print/cups-client, print/cups-image

The cups-base, cups-client and cups-image packages have been combined
into one cups package.

If you build your own ports the easiest way to update is to delete these
packages first and then build and install print/cups.

If you are using binary packages, depending on the packages installed on
your system, pkg(8)'s solver might get confused. In this case do not proceed
with the upgrade but delete first the packages:

pkg delete -fg "cups*"

Then usual upgrade process: pkg upgrade



After you decide that updating is safe for your system, you can run following command to recompile and install all packages that are ready to update

portmaster -Da

Compile will most probably take a long time. So get some snack, or go for a walk until it finishes.

Searching, installing and removing ports

After update have been finished, lets see how we can find and install additional software using ports. If you know the name of the package you are looking for, you can type its name preceded with "whereis". For example

whereis nginx

Find where is nginx in ports tree

It will direct you to directory where skeleton of nginx is, and from there you can install it. But if you don't know the exact name of package, you can use the the ports search feature. For that you would need to cd to ports directory first

cd /usr/ports/

make search name=nginx

It will output all the packages that are related to nginx.

Now that you know how to find package, you install it, same like we installed portmaster on start of this article. First cd into skeleton directory:

 cd /usr/ports/www/nginx

Then start the process of compilation

make install clean

It will give you configuration options in ncurses environment like this:

confriguring nginx


We will just accept defaults and continue. It will install and compile nginx. And if you now again type whereis, it will give you different output:

whereis nginx
nginx: /usr/local/sbin/nginx /usr/local/man/man8/nginx.8.gz /usr/ports/www/nginx

It gives you the binary path, the man page path and in the end the port skeleton.

To remove the port just go to skeleton and type deinstall. Like this:

cd /usr/ports/www/nginx

make deinstall


We gone trough the basic usage of FreeBSD ports collection, with updating, installing, searching, and deinstalling ports. Ports are the feature of FreeBSD that have inspired Linux distribution Gentoo in making portage package manager to mimic the FreeBSD ports. Ports have many more features that we couldn't possibly cover in single article. We encourage you to explore. Thanks for reading, this is all for this article.

About Mihajlo Milenovic

Miki is a long time GNU/Linux user, Free Software advocate and a freelance system administrator from Serbia. Got introduced to GNU/Linux in year 2003 on old AMD Duron computer, and since than always eager to learn new stuff about this system. From 2016 writes for Linoxide to share his experiences with wider audience

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