F.A.Q. - 5. Installing, Using and Maintaining Fink

Q5.1: How can I find out what packages Fink supports?

A: Since Fink 0.2.3, there is the list command. It produces a list of all packages known to your Fink installation. Example:

fink list

If you're using the binary distribution, dselect gives you a nice browsable listing of available packages. Note that you must run it as root if you want to select and install packages from within dselect.

There's also the package database at the website.

Q5.2: I'm behind a firewall. How do I configure Fink to use an HTTP proxy?

A: The fink command supports explicit proxy settings that are passed on to wget/curl. If you were not asked for proxies on first time installation, you can run fink configure to set it up. You can also run that command at any time to reconfigure the fink command. If you followed the instructions in the installation guide, and use /opt/sw/bin/init.csh (or /opt/sw/bin/, then apt-get and dselect also will use these proxy settings. Make sure that you put the protocol in front of the proxy, e.g.


If you are still having problems, go into System Preferences, select the Network pane, select the Proxies tab, and make sure that the box labeled "Use Passive FTP Mode (PASV)" is checked.

Q5.3: How do I update available packages from CVS when I am behind a firewall?

A: The package cvs-proxy can tunnel through HTTP proxies.

  • Install the cvs-proxy package with the command:

    fink --use-binary-dist install cvs-proxy

  • Switch to the CVS update method with the command:

    fink selfupdate-cvs

If fink is not configured to use your proxy, change the settings using:

fink configure.

Q5.4: Can I move Fink to another location after installation?

A: No. Well, of course you can move the files using mv or the Finder, but 99% of the programs will stop working when you do. That's because basically all Unix software depends on hardcoded paths to find data files, libraries and other stuff.

Q5.5: If I move Fink after installation and provide a symlink from the old location, will it work?

A: Maybe. The general expectation is that it should work, but there may be hidden traps somewhere.

Q5.6: How can I uninstall all of Fink?

A: Almost all files installed by Fink are in /opt/sw (or wherever you chose to install it), except for a few exceptions. Thus, in order to get rid of Fink, enter this command:

fink remove --recursive daemonic xinitrc
sudo rm -rf /opt/sw

If you aren't planning to reinstall Fink you also will want to remove the "source /opt/sw/bin/init.csh" line you added to your .cshrc file or the "source /opt/sw/bin/" line you added to your .bashrc file, whichever is appropriate to your setup, using a text editor. If you had the xinitrc package installed, then you will want to restore the original /usr/X11/lib/X11/xinit/xinitrc, which has been backed up as /usr/X11/lib/X11/xinit/xinitrc.YYYYMMDDhhmm, i.e. the extension has a year, month, date, hour, and minute). If you have more than one of these, the original one normally does not mention sys-xinitrc-fink. Once you've found the right one, you can use

sudo mv /usr/X11/lib/X11/xinit/xinitrc.YYYYMMDDhhmm  \

replacing YYMMDDhhmm with the actual extension on your system.

Q5.7: The package database at the website lists package xxx, but apt-get and dselect know nothing about it. Who's lying?

A: Both are correct. The package database knows about every package, including those that are still in the unstable section. The dselect and apt-get tools on the other hand only know about the packages available as precompiled binary packages. Many packages are not available in precompiled form through these tools for a variety of reasons. A package must be in the "stable" section of the latest point release to be considered, and it must pass additional checks for policy compliance as well as licensing and patent restrictions.

If you want to install a package that is not available via dselect / apt-get, you have to compile it from source using fink install packagename . Make sure you have the Developer Tools installed before you try this. (If there is no installer for the Developer Tools in your /Applications folder, you can get them from the Apple Developer Connection after free registration.) See also the question about unstable below.

Q5.8: There's this package in unstable that I want to install, but the fink command just says 'no package found'. How can I install it?

A: First make sure you understand what 'unstable' means. Packages in the unstable tree are not in stable for any number of reasons. It could be because there are known issues, validation errors, or just not enough people giving feedback that the package works for them. For that reason, Fink doesn't search the unstable tree by default.

If you do enable unstable, please remember to e-mail the maintainer if something works (or even if it doesn't). Feedback from users like you is what we use to determine if something is ready for stable! To find out the maintainer of a package, run fink info packagename.

For fink-0.26 and later: If you run fink configure one of the questions will ask whether you want to turn the unstable trees on.

To configure Fink to use unstable when you have an earlier version of the fink tool than 0.26, edit /opt/sw/etc/fink.conf, and add unstable/main and unstable/crypto to the Trees: line.

If you use Fink Commander, then there is a Preference to use unstable packages.

None of these options actually download the unstable tree's package descriptions.You'll need to turn on rsync or cvs updating to do this, which is not set up by default on a new Fink installation. The following command sequence will set you up on a new Fink installation:

fink selfupdate

followed by

fink selfupdate-rsync


fink selfupdate-cvs

and then

fink index -f
fink scanpackages

Note: There are Fink Commander analogs for everything except fink index -f. You will have to use the command line for that.

If you're already set up with rsync or cvs updating, then the following command sequence (or the Fink Commander analogs) will suffice:

fink selfupdate
fink index
fink scanpackages

If you're not sure what your update method is, check fink --version in at a command line and see if that mentions cvs or rsync.

If you don't want to install any more from unstable than your specific package(s) and its (their) dependencies, (and any base packages that got updated) don't use the update-all command until you turn the unstable tree back off.

Q5.9: Do I really need to enable all of unstable just to install one unstable package that I want?

A: No, but it is highly recommended you do. Mixing and matching can cause unforeseen issues that make it difficult to debug problems when they do arise.

That said, if you only want one or two specific packages, and nothing else from unstable, then you need to switch over to CVS updating (i.e. use fink selfupdate-cvs), because rsync only updates the trees that are active in your fink.conf. Edit /opt/sw/etc/fink.conf and add local/main to the Trees: line, if not present. Then you'll need to run fink selfupdate to download the package description files. Now copy the relevant .info files (and their associated .patch files, if there are any) from /opt/sw/fink/dists/unstable/main/finkinfo (or /opt/sw/fink/dists/unstable/crypto/finkinfo) to /opt/sw/fink/dists/local/main/finkinfo. However, note that your package may depend on other packages (or particular versions) which are also only in unstable. You will have to move their .info and .patch files as well. After you move all of the files, make sure to run fink index, so that Fink's record of available packages is updated. Once you're done you can switch back to rsync (fink selfupdate-rsync) if you want.

Q5.10: I'm tired of typing my password into sudo again and again. Is there a way around this?

A: If you're not paranoid, you can configure sudo to not ask you for a password. To do this, run visudo as root and add a line like this:


Replace username with your actual username, of course. This line allows you to run any command via sudo without typing your password.

Q5.11: When I try to run init.csh or, I get a "Permission denied" error. What am I doing wrong?

A: init.csh and are not supposed to be run like normal commands. These files set environment variables like PATH and MANPATH in your shell. To have a lasting effect on the shell, it must be processed with the source command for csh/tcsh, or with the . command for bash/zsh, like this:

for csh/tcsh:

source /opt/sw/bin/init.csh

for bash/zsh:

. /opt/sw/bin/

Q5.12: Help! I used the "[A]ccess" menu entry in dselect and now I can't download packages any more!

A: You probably pointed apt at a Debian mirror, which of course doesn't have the Fink files. Use

fink configure

from a terminal window, go through all of the options to the mirror selection step, and then pick an apt-get repository mirror other than the default (which is your current setting). Then go through the rest of the options so that your change will be saved.

Q5.13: When I try to run fink selfupdate or "fink selfupdate-cvs", I get the error "Updating using CVS failed. Check the error messages above."

A: If the message is

Can't exec "cvs": No such file or directory at 
/opt/sw/lib/perl5/Fink/ line 216, <STDIN> line 3.
### execution of cvs failed, exit code -1

then you need to install the Developer Tools.

If, on the other hand, the last line is

### execution of su failed, exit code 1

you'll need to look further back in the output to see the error. If you see a message that your connection was refused:

(Logging in to
CVS password:
cvs [login aborted]: connect to failed: 
Connection refused
### execution of su failed, exit code 1
Failed: Logging into the CVS server for anonymous read-only access failed.

or a message like the following:

cvs [update aborted]: recv() from server 
Connection reset by peer 
### execution of su failed, exit code 1 
Failed: Updating using CVS failed. Check the error messages above.


cvs [update aborted]: End of file received from server


cvs [update aborted]: received broken pipe signal

then it's likely that the cvs servers are overloaded and you have to try the update later.

Another possibility is that you have some bad permissions in your CVS directories, in which case you get "Permission denied" messages:

cvs update: in directory 10.2/stable/main: 
cvs update: cannot open CVS/Entries for reading: No such file or directory
cvs server: Updating 10.2/stable/main 
cvs update: cannot write 10.2/stable/main/.cvsignore: Permission denied
cvs [update aborted]: cannot make directory 10.2/stable/main/finkinfo: 
No such file or directory 
### execution of su failed, exit code 1 Failed: 
Updating using CVS failed. Check the error messages above.

In this case you need to reset your cvs directories. Use the command:

sudo find /opt/sw/fink -type d -name 'CVS' -exec rm -rf {}\
; fink selfupdate-cvs

If, you don't see either of the above messages, then this almost always means you've modified a file in your /opt/sw/fink/dists tree and now the maintainer has changed it. Look further back in the selfupdate-cvs output for lines that start with "C", like so:

C 10.2/unstable/main/finkinfo/libs/ 
... (other info and patch files) ... 
### execution of su failed, exit code 1 
Failed: Updating using CVS failed. Check the error messages above.

The "C" means CVS had a conflict in trying to update the latest version. The fix is to delete any files that show up as starting with "C" in the output of selfupdate-cvs, and try again:

sudo rm /opt/sw/fink/10.2/unstable/main/finkinfo/libs/
fink selfupdate-cvs

If you get errors that mention

cvs [update aborted]: connect to
2401 failed: Operation timed out

this is because of a restructuring of the CVS servers at in 2006. Fink files are now at

Check your Distribution version, e.g. via

fink --version

If that shows 10.4-transitional, then you need to update to the regular 10.4 distribution. An update script has been created to assist with that.

Q5.14: When I use Fink, my whole machine freezes up/kernel panics/dies. Help!

A: A number of reports in fall, 2002 on the fink-users mailing list indicated problems (including kernel panics and infinite hangs during patching) when using Fink to compile packages while anti-virus software is installed. You may need to switch off any anti-virus software before using Fink.

Q5.15: I'm trying to install a package, but Fink can't download it. The download site shows a later version number of the package than what Fink has. What do I do?

A: The package sources get moved around by the upstream sites when new versions are released.

The first thing you should do is run fink selfupdate. It may be that the package maintainer has already fixed this, and you will get an updated package description with either a more recent version or a revised download URL.

If this doesn't work, most sources are available on (thanks to Rob Braun) , and you can run fink configure to choose to search "Master" source mirrors so that Fink will automatically look there.

If this doesn't work, please let the package maintainer (available from "fink describe packagename ") know that the URL is broken; not all maintainers read the mailing lists all of the time.

To get a usable source, first try hunting around the remote site in other directories for the same version of the source that Fink wants (e.g. in an "old" directory). Keep in mind, though, that some remote sites like to trash the old versions of their packages. If the official site doesn't have it, then try a web search--sometimes there are unofficial sites that have the tarball you want. Another place to look is, which is where Fink stores sourcefiles from packages that have been released in binary form. If all of the above fail, then you might consider posting on the fink-users mailing list to ask if anybody has the old source available to give you.

Once you locate the proper source tarball, download it manually, and then move the file into your Fink source location (i.e. for a default Fink install, "sudo mv package-source.tar.gz /opt/sw/src/". Then use 'fink install packagename ' as normal.

If you can't get the source file, then you'll have to wait for the maintainer to deal with the problem. They may either post a link to the old source, or update the .info and .patch files to use the newer version.

Q5.16: I get "command not found" errors when I run Fink or anything that I installed with Fink.

A: If this always happens, then you may have inadvertently modified (or failed to modify) your startup scripts. Run the /opt/sw/bin/ script in a terminal window. This program will attempt to detect your default shell and add a command to load Fink's shell initialization script into your shell's configuration. You'll then need to open a new terminal session so that your environment settings are loaded. Note: Some older versions fink called this script pathsetup.command instead of Alternately, you can run the application on the Fink binary distribution disk image.

On the other hand, if you only have problems in the Apple X11 terminal, the easy solution is to modify the "Terminal" entry in the X11 Application menu via the Applications->Customize Menu... option. Instead of just


change the command field to read

xterm -ls

ls here means login shell, and the result is that your full login setup gets used (just like the OS X Terminal).

These /opt/sw/bin/init.* scripts do much more than just add /opt/sw/bin to your PATH. Many packages will not work correctly without these additional actions.

Q5.17: I want to hide /opt/sw in the Finder to keep users from damaging the Fink setup.

A: You can indeed do this. If you have the Development Tools installed, then you can run the following command:

sudo /Developer/Tools/SetFile -a V /opt/sw

This makes /opt/sw invisible, just like the standard system folders (/usr, etc.). If you don't have the Developer Tools, there are various third-party applications that let you manipulate file attributes--you need to set /opt/sw to be invisible.

Q5.18: I can't install anything, because I get the following error: "install-info: unrecognized option `--infodir=/opt/sw/share/info'"

A: This usually is due to a problem in your PATH. In a terminal window type:

printenv PATH

If /opt/sw/sbin doesn't appear at all, then you need to set your environment up as per the instructions in the Users Guide. If /opt/sw/sbin is there, but there are other directories ahead of it (e.g. /usr/local/bin), then you will either want to reorder your PATH so that /opt/sw/sbin is near the beginning. Or if you really need the other directory to be before /opt/sw/sbin, and this former directory includes another install-info directory, then you'll want to temporarily rename this install-info subdirectory when you use Fink.

Q5.19: I can't install or remove anything, because of a problem with a "files list file".

A: Typically these errors take the form:

files list file for package packagename contains empty filename


files list file for package packagename is missing final newline

This can be fixed, with a little work. If you have the .deb file for the offending package currently available on your system, then check its integrity by running

dpkg --contents full-path-to-debfile


dpkg --contents /opt/sw/fink/debs/libgnomeui2-dev_2.0.6-2_darwin-powerpc.deb

If you get back a listing of directories and files, then your .deb is OK. If the output is something other than directories and files, or if you don't have the .deb file, you can still proceed because the error doesn't interfere with builds.

If you have been installing from the binary distribution or you know for sure that the version in the binary distribution is the same as what you have installed (e.g. by checking the package database), then you can get a .deb file by running sudo apt-get install --reinstall --download-only packagename . Otherwise you can build one yourself by running fink rebuild packagename , but it won't install yet.

Once you have a valid .deb file, then you can reconstitute the file. First become root by using sudo -s (enter your administrative user password if necessary), and then use the following command:

dpkg -c full-path-to-debfile | awk '{if ($6 == "./"){ print "/."; } \
else if (substr($6, length($6), 1) == "/")\
{print substr($6, 2, length($6) - 2); } \
else { print substr($6, 2, length($6) - 1);}}'\ 
> /opt/sw/var/lib/dpkg/info/packagename.list


dpkg -c /opt/sw/fink/debs/libgnomeui2-dev_2.0.6-2_darwin-powerpc.deb | awk \
'{if ($6 == "./") { print "/."; } \
else if (substr($6, length($6), 1) == "/") \
{print substr($6, 2, length($6) - 2); } \
else { print substr($6, 2, length($6) - 1);}}' \ 
> /opt/sw/var/lib/dpkg/info/libgnomeui2-dev.list

What this does is to extract the contents of the .deb file, remove everything but the filenames, and write these to the .list file.

Q5.20: I get a bunch of garbage when I select packages in dselect. How can I use it?

A: There are issues between dselect and A workaround is to enter the following command

tcsh users:

setenv TERM xterm-color

bash users:

export TERM=xterm-color

before you run dselect. You may want to put this in your startup file (e.g. .cshrc | .profile) so that it gets run all of the time.

Q5.21: I can't seem to update Fink's version.

A: If neither running fink selfupdate nor sudo apt-get update ; sudo apt-get dist-upgrade updates you to a newer Fink release, then you may need to download a newer version of the fink package manually. The relevant commands are:

  • 10.3.x: (0.7.1 distribution)
    curl -O
    sudo dpkg -i fink_0.22.4-1_darwin-powerpc.deb
    rm fink_0.22.4-1_darwin-powerpc.deb
    fink selfupdate
  • 10.2.x: (0.6.3 distribution)
    curl -O
    sudo dpkg -i fink_0.18.3-1_darwin-powerpc.deb
    rm fink_0.18.3-1_darwin-powerpc.deb
    fink selfupdate

Q5.22: Can I put Fink in a volume or directory with a space in its name?

A: We recommend against putting your Fink directory tree inside a directory with spaces in its name. It's just not worth the hassle.

Q5.23: When I try to do a binary update, there are many messages with "File not found" or "Couldn't stat package source list file".

A: If you see something like the following:

Err file: local/main Packages 
File not found 
Ign file: local/main Release 
Err file: stable/main Packages 
File not found 
Ign file: stable/main Release 
Err file: stable/crypto Packages 
File not found 
Ign file: stable/crypto Release 
Failed to fetch file:/opt/sw/fink/dists/local/main/binary-darwin-powerpc/Packages
File not found 
Failed to fetch file:/opt/sw/fink/dists/stable/main/binary-darwin-powerpc/Packages
File not found
Failed to fetch file:/opt/sw/fink/dists/stable/crypto/binary-darwin-powerpc/Packages
File not found 
Reading Package Lists... Done 
Building Dependency Tree...Done 
E: Some index files failed to download, 
they have been ignored, or old ones used instead. 
update available list script returned error exit status 1.

then all you need to do is run fink scanpackages. This generates the files that aren't being found.

If you get an error of the following form:

W: Couldn't stat source package list file: unstable/main Packages
powerpc_Packages) - stat (2 No such file or directory)

then you should run

sudo apt-get update
fink scanpackages

to fix it.

Q5.24: I've changed my OS, but Fink doesn't recognize the change.

A: When changing the Fink distribution (of which the source and binary distros are subsets), Fink needs to be told that this has happened. To do this, you can run a script that normally gets run when you first install Fink:


Doing this will point Fink to the correct place.

Q5.25: After installing a macOS update, Fink no longer recognizes my installed Command Line Tools.

A: Updates to macOS routinely break parts of Apple's Command Line Tools. If you get this error after updating your copy of macOS:

Can't resolve dependency "xcode (>= 6.2)"

Fink has lost track of Apple's Command Line Tools.

The easiest solution is to download and reinstall the Command Line Tools specific to your macOS version from

Another possible solution is to run the following command:

xcode-select --install

but this often reports the following:

xcode-select: error: command line tools are already installed, use "Software Update" to install updates

However, the Tools might be in a non-functional state such that Fink still can't recognize them. In that case, a clean reinstall as described above has always worked to fix their detection with Fink.

Finally, you may need to run the command:

sudo xcodebuild -license

to agree to the software license.

Q5.26: I get errors with gzip | dpkg-debI applications from the fileutils package! Help!

A: Errors of the form:

gzip -dc /opt/sw/src/dpkg-1.10.9.tar.gz | /opt/sw/bin/tar -xf - 
### execution of gzip failed, exit code 139


gzip -dc /opt/sw/src/aquaterm-0.3.0a.tar.gz | /opt/sw/bin/tar -xf -
gzip: stdout: Broken pipe 
### execution of gzip failed, exit code 138


dpkg-deb -b root-base-files-1.9.0-1 /opt/sw/fink/dists/unstable/main/binary-darwin-powerpc/base

### execution of dpkg-deb failed, exit code 1
Failed: can't create package base-files_1.9.0-1_darwin-powerpc.deb

or segmentation faults when running utilities from fileutils, e.g. ls or mv, are likely to be due to a prebinding error in a library, and can be fixed by running

sudo /opt/sw/var/lib/fink/prebound/ -f

Q5.27: When I open a Terminal window, I get a message that "Your environment seems to be correctly set up for Fink already.", and it logs out.

A: What happened is that somehow the OSX Terminal program has been told to run /opt/sw/bin/pathsetup.command every time you log in. You can fix this by removing the Preferences file, ~/Library/Preferences/

If you have other preferences that you want to keep, you can edit the file with a text editor and remove the reference to /opt/sw/bin/pathsetup.command.

Q5.28: I have Fink installed away from the main partition and I can't update the fink package from source. There are errors involving chowname.

A: If your error looks like:

This first test is designed to die, so please ignore the error
message on the next line.
# Looks like your test died before it could output anything.
Failed test (./Command/chowname.t at line 27)
#          got: 'root'
#     expected: 'nobody'

then you need to run Get Info on the drive/partition where Fink is installed and unselect the "Ignore ownership" button.

Q5.29: Fink won't update my packages because it says it can't find the 'gnu' mirror.

A: If you get an error that ends with

Failed: No mirror site list file found for mirror 'gnu'.

then most likely you need to update the fink-mirrors package, e.g. via:

fink install fink-mirrors

Q5.30: I can't update Fink, because it can't move /opt/sw/fink out of the way.

A: This error:

Failed: Can't move "/opt/sw/fink" out of the way.

is usually due, in spite of what it says, to permissions errors in one of the temporary directories that get created during a selfupdate. Remove these:

sudo rm -rf /opt/sw/fink.tmp /opt/sw/fink.old

Q5.31: I get a message that says "No fonts found".

A: If you see the following (so far only seen on OS 10.4):

No fonts found; this probably means that the fontconfig
library is not correctly configured. You may need to
edit the fonts.conf configuration file. More information
about fontconfig can be found in the fontconfig(3) manual
page and on

then you can fix it by running

sudo fc-cache

Q5.32: I can't install Fink via the Installer package, because I get "volume doesn't support symlinks" errors.

A: This message commonly means that you've tried to run the Fink installer as user who doesn't have administrative privileges. Make sure to log in at the login screen as such a user or switch to such a user in the Finder (i.e. fast user switching) before starting the Fink installer.

If you're having trouble even when using an admin account, then it's likely a problem with the permissions on your top-level directory. Use Apple's Disk Utility (from the Utilities sub-folder in your Applications folder), select the hard drive in question, choose the First Aid tab, and press Repair Disk Permissions. If that doesn't work, then you may need to set your permissions manually via:

sudo chmod 1775 /	  

Q5.33: I can't update Fink, because package architecture (darwin-i386) does not match system (darwin-powerpc).

A: This error occurs if you use a PowerPC installer package on an Intel machine. You'll need to flush your Fink installation, e.g.:

sudo rm -rf /opt/sw

and then download the disk image for Intel machines from the downloads page.

Next: 6. Compile Problems - General