A.4. Using Subversion

A.4.1. Introduction

As of July 2012, FreeBSD uses Subversion as the primary version control system for storing all of FreeBSD's source code, documentation, and the Ports Collection.


Subversion is generally a developer tool. Most users should use freebsd-update (Section 23.2, “FreeBSD Update”) to update the FreeBSD base system, and portsnap (Section 5.5, “Using the Ports Collection”) to update the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

This chapter demonstrates how to install Subversion on a FreeBSD system and then use it to create a local copy of a FreeBSD repository. It includes a list of the available FreeBSD Subversion mirrors and resources to additional information on how to use Subversion.

A.4.2. Installation

Subversion must be installed before it can be used to check out the contents of any of the repositories. If a copy of the ports tree is already present, one can install Subversion like this:

# cd /usr/ports/devel/subversion
# make install clean

If the ports tree is not available, Subversion can be installed as a package:

# pkg_add -r subversion

If pkgng is being used to manage packages, Subversion can be installed with it instead:

# pkg install devel/subversion

A.4.3. Running Subversion

The svn command is used to fetch a clean copy of the sources into a local directory. The files in this directory are called a local working copy.


If the local directory already exists but was not created by svn, rename or delete it before the checkout. Checkout over an existing non-svn directory can cause conflicts between the existing files and those brought in from the repository.

Subversion uses URLs to designate a repository, taking the form of protocol://hostname/path. Mirrors may support different protocols as specified below. The first component of the path is the FreeBSD repository to access. There are three different repositories, base for the FreeBSD base system source code, ports for the Ports Collection, and doc for documentation. For example, the URL svn://svn0.us-east.FreeBSD.org/ports/head/ specifies the main branch of the ports repository on the svn0.us-east.FreeBSD.org mirror, using the svn protocol.

A checkout from a given repository is performed with a command like this:

# svn checkout svn-mirror/repository/branch lwcdir


  • svn-mirror is a URL for one of the Subversion mirror sites.

  • repository is one of the Project repositories, i.e., base, ports, or doc.

  • branch depends on the repository used. ports and doc are mostly updated in the head branch, while base maintains the latest version of -CURRENT under head and the respective latest versions of the -STABLE branches under stable/8 (for 8.x), stable/9 (9.x) and stable/10 (10.x).

  • lwcdir is the target directory where the contents of the specified branch should be placed. This is usually /usr/ports for ports, /usr/src for base, and /usr/doc for doc.

This example checks out the Ports Collection from the western US repository using the HTTPS protocol, placing the local working copy in /usr/ports. If /usr/ports is already present but was not created by svn, remember to rename or delete it before the checkout.

# svn checkout https://svn0.us-west.FreeBSD.org/ports/head /usr/ports

Because the initial checkout has to download the full branch of the remote repository, it can take a while. Please be patient.

After the initial checkout, the local working copy can be updated by running:

# svn update lwcdir

To update /usr/ports created in the example above, use:

# svn update /usr/ports

The update is much quicker than a checkout, only transferring files that have changed.

An alternate way of updating the local working copy after checkout is provided by the Makefile in the /usr/ports, /usr/src, and /usr/doc directories. Set SVN_UPDATE and use the update target. For example, to update /usr/src:

# cd /usr/src
# make update SVN_UPDATE=yes

A.4.4. Subversion Mirror Sites

All mirrors carry all repositories.

The master FreeBSD Subversion server, svn.FreeBSD.org, is publicly accessible, read-only. That may change in the future, so users are encouraged to use one of the official mirrors. To view the FreeBSD Subversion repositories through a browser, use http://svnweb.FreeBSD.org/.


The FreeBSD Subversion mirror network is still in its early days, and will likely change. Do not count on this list of mirrors being static. In particular, the SSL certificates of the servers will likely change at some point.

NameProtocolsLocationSSL Fingerprint
svn0.us-west.FreeBSD.orgsvn, http, httpsUSA, CaliforniaSHA1 1C:BD:85:95:11:9F:EB:75:A5:4B:C8:A3:FE:08:E4:02:73:06:1E:61
svn0.us-east.FreeBSD.orgsvn, http, https, rsyncUSA, New JerseySHA1 1C:BD:85:95:11:9F:EB:75:A5:4B:C8:A3:FE:08:E4:02:73:06:1E:61
svn0.eu.FreeBSD.orgsvn, http, https, rsyncEurope, UKSHA1 39:B0:53:35:CE:60:C7:BB:00:54:96:96:71:10:94:BB:CE:1C:07:A7

HTTPS is the preferred protocol, providing protection against another computer pretending to be the FreeBSD mirror (commonly known as a man in the middle attack) or otherwise trying to send bad content to the end user.

On the first connection to an HTTPS mirror, the user will be asked to verify the server fingerprint:

Error validating server certificate for 'https://svn0.us-west.freebsd.org:443':
 - The certificate is not issued by a trusted authority. Use the
   fingerprint to validate the certificate manually!
 - The certificate hostname does not match.
Certificate information:
 - Hostname: svnmir.ysv.FreeBSD.org
 - Valid: from Jul 29 22:01:21 2013 GMT until Dec 13 22:01:21 2040 GMT
 - Issuer: clusteradm, FreeBSD.org, (null), CA, US (clusteradm@FreeBSD.org)
 - Fingerprint: 1C:BD:85:95:11:9F:EB:75:A5:4B:C8:A3:FE:08:E4:02:73:06:1E:61
(R)eject, accept (t)emporarily or accept (p)ermanently?

Compare the fingerprint shown to those listed in the table above. If the fingerprint matches, the server security certificate can be accepted temporarily or permanently. A temporary certificate will expire after a single session with the server, and the verification step will be repeated on the next connection. Accepting the certificate permanently will store the authentication credentials in ~/.subversion/auth/ and the user will not be asked to verify the fingerprint again until the certificate expires.

If https cannot be used due to firewall or other problems, svn is the next choice, with slightly faster transfers. When neither can be used, use http.

A.4.5. For More Information

For other information about using Subversion, please see the Subversion Book, titled Version Control with Subversion, or the Subversion Documentation.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at http://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
Send questions about this document to <freebsd-doc@FreeBSD.org>.