Chapter 11. Upgrading a Port

When a port is not the most recent version available from the authors, update the local working copy of /usr/ports. The port might have already been updated to the new version.

When working with more than a few ports, it will probably be easier to use Git to keep the whole ports collection up-to-date, as described in Using the Ports Collection. This will have the added benefit of tracking all the port’s dependencies.

The next step is to see if there is an update already pending. To do this, there are two options. There is a searchable interface to the FreeBSD Problem Report (PR) or bug database. Select Ports & Packages in the Product multiple select menu, and enter the name of the port in the Summary field.

If there is no pending PR, the next step is to send an email to the port’s maintainer, as shown by make maintainer. That person may already be working on an upgrade, or have a reason to not upgrade the port right now (because of, for example, stability problems of the new version), and there is no need to duplicate their work. Note that unmaintained ports are listed with a maintainer of, which is just the general ports mailing list, so sending mail there probably will not help in this case.

If the maintainer asks you to do the upgrade or there is no maintainer, then help out FreeBSD by preparing the update! Please do this by using the diff(1) command in the base system.

To create a suitable diff for a single patch, copy the file that needs patching to something.orig, save the changes to something and then create the patch:

% diff -u something.orig something > something.diff

Otherwise, either use the git diff method (Using Git to Make Patches) or copy the contents of the port to an entire different directory and use the result of the recursive diff(1) output of the new and old ports directories (for example, if the modified port directory is called superedit and the original is in our tree as superedit.bak, then save the result of diff -ruN superedit.bak superedit). Either unified or context diff is fine, but port committers generally prefer unified diffs. Note the use of the -N option-this is the accepted way to force diff to properly deal with the case of new files being added or old files being deleted. Before sending us the diff, please examine the output to make sure all the changes make sense. (In particular, make sure to first clean out the work directories with make clean).

If some files have been added, copied, moved, or removed, add this information to the problem report so that the committer picking up the patch will know what git(1) commands to run.

To simplify common operations with patch files, use make makepatch as described in Patching. Other tools exists, like /usr/ports/Tools/scripts/ Before using it, please read /usr/ports/Tools/scripts/README.patchtool.

If the port is unmaintained, and you are actively using it, please consider volunteering to become its maintainer. FreeBSD has over 4000 ports without maintainers, and this is an area where more volunteers are always needed. (For a detailed description of the responsibilities of maintainers, refer to the section in the Developer’s Handbook.)

To submit the diff, use the bug submit form (product Ports & Packages, component Individual Port(s)). Always include the category with the port name, followed by colon, and brief description of the issue. Examples: category/portname: add FOO option; category/portname: Update to X.Y. Please mention any added or deleted files in the message, as they have to be explicitly specified to git(1) when doing a commit. Do not compress or encode the diff.

Before submitting the bug, review the Writing the problem report section in the Problem Reports article. It contains far more information about how to write useful problem reports.

If the upgrade is motivated by security concerns or a serious fault in the currently committed port, please notify the Ports Management Team <> to request immediate rebuilding and redistribution of the port’s package. Unsuspecting users of pkg will otherwise continue to install the old version via pkg install for several weeks.

Please use diff(1) or git diff to create updates to existing ports. Other formats include the whole file and make it impossible to see just what has changed. When diffs are not included, the entire update might be ignored.

Now that all of that is done, read about how to keep up-to-date in Keeping Up.

11.1. Using Git to Make Patches

When possible, please submit a git(1) patch or diff. They are easier to handle than diffs between "new and old" directories. It is easier to see what has changed, and to update the diff if something was modified in the Ports Collection since the work on it began, or if the committer asks for something to be fixed. Also, a patch generated with git-format-patch(1) or git-diff(1) can be easily applied with git-am(1) or git-apply(1) and will save some time for the committer. Finally, the git patch generated by git-format-patch(1) includes your author information and commit messages. These will be recorded in the log of the repository and this is the recommended way to submit your changes.

% git clone ~/my_wrkdir  (1) (2)
% cd ~/my_wrkdir
1This can be anywhere, of course. Building ports is not limited to within /usr/ports/. is the FreeBSD public Git server. See FreeBSD Git Repository URL Table for more information.

While in the port directory, make any changes that are needed. If adding, moving, or removing a file, use git to track these changes:

% git add new_file
% git mv old_name new_name
% git rm deleted_file

Make sure to check the port using the checklist in Testing the Port and Checking the Port with portlint.

Also, update the checksum reference in distinfo with make makesum.

Before making the patch, fetch the latest repository and rebase the changes on top of it. Watch and follow the output carefully. If any of the files failed to rebase, it means that the upstream files changed while you were editing the same file, and the conflicts need to be resolved manually.

% git fetch origin main
% git rebase origin/main

Check the changes staged for the patch:

% git status
% git diff --staged

The last step is to make an unified diff or patch of the changes:

To generate a patch with git-format-patch(1):

% git checkout -b my_branch
% git commit
% git format-patch main

This will generate a patch named like 0001-foo.patch. This is the preferred way as it would include author identity, and it is also easier when you are making a series of changes that are not meant to be squashed together.

Alternatively, to generate an unified diff with git-diff(1):

% git diff --staged > ../`make -VPKGNAME`.diff

This will generate a diff named like foo-1.2.3.diff. Where foo is replaced with the first line of the commit message, i.e., the subject of the commit message.

After patch has been created, you can switch to the main branch for starting other developments.

% git checkout main

Once the patch is accepted and merged, you can delete the local development branch if you want:

% git branch -D my_branch

If files have been added, moved, or removed, include the git(1) add, mv, and rm commands that were used. git mv must be run before the patch can be applied. git add or git rm must be run after the patch is applied.

Send the patch following the problem report submission guidelines.


11.2.1. /usr/ports/UPDATING

If upgrading the port requires special steps like changing configuration files or running a specific program, it must be documented in this file. The format of an entry in this file is:

  AFFECTS: users of portcategory/portname
  AUTHOR: Your name <Your email address>

  Special instructions

When including exact portmaster, portupgrade, and/or pkg instructions, please make sure to get the shell escaping right. For example, do not use:

# pkg delete -g -f docbook-xml* docbook-sk* docbook[2345]??-* docbook-4*

As shown, the command will only work with bourne shells. Instead, use the form shown below, which will work with both bourne shell and c-shell:

# pkg delete -g -f docbook-xml\* docbook-sk\* docbook\[2345\]\?\?-\* docbook-4\*

It is recommended that the AFFECTS line contains a glob matching all the ports affected by the entry so that automated tools can parse it as easily as possible. If an update concerns all the existing BIND 9 versions the AFFECTS content must be users of dns/bind9*, it must not be users of BIND 9

11.2.2. /usr/ports/MOVED

This file is used to list moved or removed ports. Each line in the file is made up of the name of the port, where the port was moved, when, and why. If the port was removed, the section detailing where it was moved can be left blank. Each section must be separated by the | (pipe) character, like so:

old name|new name (blank for deleted)|date of move|reason

The date must be entered in the form YYYY-MM-DD. New entries are added to the end of the list to keep it in chronological order, with the oldest entry at the top of the list.

If a port was removed but has since been restored, delete the line in this file that states that it was removed.

If a port was renamed and then renamed back to its original name, add a new one with the intermediate name to the old name, and remove the old entry as to not create a loop.

Any changes must be validated with Tools/scripts/MOVEDlint.awk.

If using a ports directory other than /usr/ports, use:

% cd /home/user/ports
% env PORTSDIR=$PWD Tools/scripts/MOVEDlint.awk

Last modified on: March 9, 2024 by Danilo G. Baio