Current release: userinstall 0.2

See also: userinstall Mercurial repository


Operating system distributions based on Debian GNU/Linux include established and powerful mechanisms for installing software packages and managing their dependencies. Unfortunately, these tools are truly useful only for users with root privileges, since the administration of packages beyond querying requires access to root-writable resources for reasons of security. However, Debian also provides a number of tools which permit non-root users to bootstrap operating system installations as well as to "fake" root privileges and environments for such purposes. The userinstall software combines such tools to provide non-root package and dependency management which is compatible with existing distribution channels and lets non-root users download and install their own choice of software packages. In effect, userinstall provides a personal package manager.

In addition, userinstall also provides tools to manage conventional chroot filesystem areas and User Mode Linux system images. Such capabilities are useful when needing to run distributions that are sufficiently different from the host system's distribution that the non-root approach no longer works, due to system library or kernel incompatibilities.

The following table summarises the capabilities and limitations of the different modes of the software:

ProgramsUnprivileged usageSame distributionOther versions
user-*YesYesProbably not (sensitive to core library versions)
user-* (with --root option)NoYesYes (subject to kernel suitability)
uml-*Yes (although networking must be set up by root)YesYes

Copyright and Licence

userinstall is licensed under the GPL version 3 (or later).