When trying to install packages in R that require compiling on one of my servers (that I did not have admin access to) I ran into the following error:

ERROR: 'configure' exists but is not executable -- see the 'R Installation and Administration Manual'

The problem here is that the temporary directory that R is clunking the files to be compiled does not have permissions set to execute. To fix this problem, I needed to do BOTH of the following (it doesn’t work without both)

1. Create a folder somewhere that you do have power to write/execute, etc.

mkdir /path/to/folder
chmod 777 /path/to/folder

You can undo these permissions later if it makes you anxious.

2. Set the TMPDIR variable in your bash to this folder:

export TMPDIR=/path/to/folder

3. Start R, and install the library “unixtools” that will give you power to set the temporary directory:


Note that you can see the currently set temporary directory with tempdir(). Before changing it, it will look something like this:

[1] "/tmp/RtmpQrgNII";

4. Use unixtools to set this to a new directory:

[1] "/path/to/folder";

Now you should be able to install packages that require compilation. At least, it worked for me!

Suggested Citation:
Sochat, Vanessa. "Install R Packages (that require compilation) on Linux." @vsoch (blog), 09 Jul 2013, https://vsoch.github.io/2013/install-r-packages-that-require-compilation-on-linux-without-sudo/ (accessed 28 Nov 22).