How To: Download and install the latest version or R on your Linux Ubuntu OS


How To: Download and install the latest version or R on your Linux Ubuntu OS

(A Tutorial by D.M. Wiig)

I have several computers that use Linux operating systems and I have installed R on all of them. I use Debian on some of the machines and Ubuntu on others. When downloading R using the distribution’s package manager or from the command line I have notice that I will get versions of R ranging from 2.13.xx to depending on the Linux distribution. That has not been a problem until the release of the current version of R, version 3.0.3. Since this version is not backwards compatible with earlier releases it is necessary to upgrade to the new version to take advantage of new packages that are rapidly being developed as well as modification to existing packages to accommodate R 3.0.3. This tutorial will cover the installation of R 3.0.3 on the Ubuntu distribution of Linux.

When installing R 3.0.3 it is necessary to make sure that the current binaries are installed to your version of the Linux OS. If you are running a Ubuntu distribution you can edit the sources.list file on your computer to access the most up to date CRANs. Open a terminal program and enter the following from the command line:

$ cd /etc/apt/

$ dir

Make sure the file sources.list is in the directory and then edit the file opening the nano editor:

$ sudo nano sources.list

You should see a file in the editor that is similar to the file shown below:


deb cdrom:[Kubuntu 11.10 _Oneiric Ocelot_ – Release i386 (20111012)]/ oneiric main restricted

deb precise/

# See for how to upgrade to

# newer versions of the distribution.

deb precise main restricted

deb-src precise main restricted

## Major bug fix updates produced after the final release of the

## distribution.

deb precise-updates main restricted

deb-src precise-updates main restricted

## N.B. software from this repository is ENTIRELY UNSUPPORTED by the Ubuntu

## team. Also, please note that software in universe WILL NOT receive any

## review or updates from the Ubuntu security team.

deb precise universe

deb-src precise universe

deb precise-updates universe

deb-src precise-updates universe

## N.B. software from this repository is ENTIRELY UNSUPPORTED by the Ubuntu

^G Get Help ^O WriteOut ^R Read File ^Y Prev Page ^K Cut Text ^C Cur Pos

^X Exit ^J Justify ^W Where Is ^V Next Page ^U UnCut Text ^T To Spell


I have highlighted the line that I added to this file. This line will force Linux to access the CRAN for the latest version of R in a library that is not normally searched for updates if you have an earlier version of R installed. For an Ubuntu distribution change the line to one of the following depending on the distribution that you have installed:

http://<myfavorite-cran-mirror&gt; /bin/linux/ubuntu saucy/

http://<myfavorite-cran-mirror&gt; /bin/linux/ubuntu quantal/

http://<myfavorite-cran-mirror&gt; /bin/linux/ubuntu precise/

http://<myfavorite-cran-mirror&gt; /bin/linux/ubuntu lucid/

Replace <myfavorite-cran-mirror> with the CRAN repository of your choice found at the web site In my case as shown above I used a CRAN repository here in Iowa at Iowa State University. Once the line has been entered in your sources.list file press ctrl-o to save the file, and press ctrl-x to exit the editor. Be sure when you invoke nano that you have root privileges (by using sudo nano) or you will not be able to write out the modified file.

Once you have successfully modified the sources.list file proceed with the R 3.0.3 installation by issuing the command:

$ sudo apt-get update (to make sure all supporting files are current)

and then:

$ sudo apt-get install r-base

When the update runs you should see that R 3.0.x is downloaded and is being installed. After the installation is complete test it by issuing the command:

$ R

You will see the output as shown below:


R version 3.0.3 (2014-03-06) — “Warm Puppy”

Copyright (C) 2014 The R Foundation for Statistical Computing

Platform: i686-pc-linux-gnu (32-bit)

R is free software and comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.

You are welcome to redistribute it under certain conditions.

Type ‘license()’ or ‘license()’ for distribution details.

Natural language support but running in an English locale

R is a collaborative project with many contributors.

Type ‘contributors()’ for more information and

‘citation()’ on how to cite R or R packages in publications.

Type ‘demo()’ for some demos, ‘help()’ for on-line help, or

‘help.start()’ for an HTML browser interface to help.

Type ‘q()’ to quit R.


You are now up and running with the latest version of R. The process for installation of R 3.0.x is similar for Debian and Fedora distributions. Each of these will be covered in a future tutorial.



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