Installing the Arrow Package on Linux

On macOS and Windows, when you install.packages("arrow"), you get a binary package that contains Arrow’s C++ dependencies along with it. On Linux, install.packages() retrieves a source package that has to be compiled locally, and C++ dependencies need to be resolved as well. Generally for R packages with C++ dependencies, this requires either installing system packages, which you may not have privileges to do, or building the C++ dependencies separately, which introduces all sorts of additional ways for things to go wrong.

Our goal is to make install.packages("arrow") “just work” for as many Linux distributions, versions, and configurations as possible. This document describes how it works and the options for fine-tuning Linux installation. The intended audience for this document is arrow R package users on Linux, not developers. If you’re contributing to the Arrow project, see `vignette(“developing”, package = “arrow”) for guidance on setting up your development environment.

Note also that if you use conda to manage your R environment, this document does not apply. You can conda install -c conda-forge --strict-channel-priority r-arrow and you’ll get the latest official release of the R package along with any C++ dependencies.

Having trouble installing arrow? See the “Troubleshooting” section below.

Installation basics

Install the latest release of arrow from CRAN with


Daily development builds, which are not official releases, can be installed from the Ursa Labs repository:

install.packages("arrow", repos = "")

or for conda users via:

conda install -c arrow-nightlies -c conda-forge --strict-channel-priority r-arrow

You can also install the R package from a git checkout:

git clone
cd arrow/r

If you don’t already have the Arrow C++ libraries on your system, when installing the R package from source, it will also download and build the Arrow C++ libraries for you. To speed installation up, you can set


to look for C++ binaries prebuilt for your Linux distribution/version. Alternatively, you can set


to build the Arrow libraries from source with optional features such as compression libraries enabled. This will increase the build time but provides many useful features. Prebuilt binaries are built with this flag enabled, so you get the full functionality by using them as well.

Both of these variables are also set this way if you have the NOT_CRAN=true environment variable set.

Helper function: install_arrow()

If you already have arrow installed and want to upgrade to a different version, install a development build, or try to reinstall and fix issues with Linux C++ binaries, you can call install_arrow(). install_arrow() provides some convenience wrappers around the various environment variables described below. This function is part of the arrow package, and it is also available as a standalone script, so you can access it for convenience without first installing the package:


install_arrow() will install from CRAN, while install_arrow(nightly = TRUE) will give you a development build. install_arrow() does not require environment variables to be set in order to satisfy C++ dependencies.

Note that, unlike packages like tensorflow, blogdown, and others that require external dependencies, you do not need to run install_arrow() after a successful arrow installation.

Offline installation

The install-arrow.R file also includes the create_package_with_all_dependencies() function. Normally, when installing on a computer with internet access, the build process will download third-party dependencies as needed. This function provides a way to download them in advance. Doing so may be useful when installing Arrow on a computer without internet access. Note that Arrow can be installed on a computer without internet access without doing this, but many useful features will be disabled, as they depend on third-party components. More precisely, arrow::arrow_info()$capabilities() will be FALSE for every capability. One approach to add more capabilities in an offline install is to prepare a package with pre-downloaded dependencies. The create_package_with_all_dependencies() function does this preparation.

If you’re using binary packages you shouldn’t need to follow these steps. You should download the appropriate binary from your package repository, transfer that to the offline computer, and install that. Any OS can create the source bundle, but it cannot be installed on Windows. (Instead, use a standard Windows binary package.)

Note if you’re using RStudio Package Manager on Linux: If you still want to make a source bundle with this function, make sure to set the first repo in options("repos") to be a mirror that contains source packages (that is: something other than the RSPM binary mirror URLs).

Using a computer with internet access, pre-download the dependencies:

  • Install the arrow package or run source("")
  • Run create_package_with_all_dependencies("my_arrow_pkg.tar.gz")
  • Copy the newly created my_arrow_pkg.tar.gz to the computer without internet access

On the computer without internet access, install the prepared package:

  • Install the arrow package from the copied file
    • install.packages("my_arrow_pkg.tar.gz", dependencies = c("Depends", "Imports", "LinkingTo"))
    • This installation will build from source, so cmake must be available
  • Run arrow_info() to check installed capabilities

Alternative, hands-on approach

  • Download the dependency files (cpp/thirdparty/ may be helpful)
  • Copy the directory of dependencies to the offline computer
  • Create the environment variable ARROW_THIRDPARTY_DEPENDENCY_DIR on the offline computer, pointing to the copied directory.
  • Install the arrow package as usual.

S3 support

The arrow package allows you to work with data in AWS S3 or in other cloud storage system that emulate S3. However, support for working with S3 is not enabled in the default build, and it has additional system requirements. To enable it, set the environment variable LIBARROW_MINIMAL=false or NOT_CRAN=true to choose the full-featured build, or more selectively set ARROW_S3=ON. You also need the following system dependencies:

The prebuilt C++ binaries come with S3 support enabled, so you will need to meet these system requirements in order to use them–the package will not install without them. If you’re building everything from source, the install script will check for the presence of these dependencies and turn off S3 support in the build if the prerequisites are not met–installation will succeed but without S3 functionality. If afterwards you install the missing system requirements, you’ll need to reinstall the package in order to enable S3 support.

How dependencies are resolved

In order for the arrow R package to work, it needs the Arrow C++ library. There are a number of ways you can get it: a system package; a library you’ve built yourself outside of the context of installing the R package; or, if you don’t already have it, the R package will attempt to resolve it automatically when it installs.

If you are authorized to install system packages and you’re installing a CRAN release, you may want to use the official Apache Arrow release packages corresponding to the R package version (though there are some drawbacks: see “Troubleshooting” below). See the Arrow project installation page to find pre-compiled binary packages for some common Linux distributions, including Debian, Ubuntu, and CentOS. You’ll need to install libparquet-dev on Debian and Ubuntu, or parquet-devel on CentOS. This will also automatically install the Arrow C++ library as a dependency.

When you install the arrow R package on Linux, it will first attempt to find the Arrow C++ libraries on your system using the pkg-config command. This will find either installed system packages or libraries you’ve built yourself. In order for install.packages("arrow") to work with these system packages, you’ll need to install them before installing the R package.

If no Arrow C++ libraries are found on the system, the R package installation script will next attempt to download prebuilt static Arrow C++ libraries that match your both your local operating system and arrow R package version. C++ binaries will only be retrieved if you have set the environment variable LIBARROW_BINARY or NOT_CRAN. If found, they will be downloaded and bundled when your R package compiles. For a list of supported distributions and versions, see the arrow-r-nightly project.

If no C++ library binary is found, it will attempt to build it locally. First, it will also look to see if you are in a checkout of the apache/arrow git repository and thus have the C++ source there. Otherwise, it builds from the C++ files included in the package. Depending on your system, building Arrow C++ from source may be slow.

For the specific mechanics of how all this works, see the R package configure script, which calls tools/nixlibs.R.

If the C++ library is built from source, inst/ is executed. This build script is also what is used to generate the prebuilt binaries.

How the package is installed - advanced

This subsection contains information which is likely to be most relevant mostly to Arrow developers and is not necessary for Arrow users to install Arrow.

There are a number of scripts that are triggered when R CMD INSTALL . is run. For Arrow users, these should all just work without configuration and pull in the most complete pieces (e.g. official binaries that we host).

An overview of these scripts is shown below:


The intent is that install.packages("arrow") will just work and handle all C++ dependencies, but depending on your system, you may have better results if you tune one of several parameters. Here are some known complications and ways to address them.

Package failed to build C++ dependencies

If you see a message like

------------------------- NOTE ---------------------------
There was an issue preparing the Arrow C++ libraries.

in the output when the package fails to install, that means that installation failed to retrieve or build C++ libraries compatible with the current version of the R package.

It is expected that C++ dependencies should be built successfully on all Linux distributions, so you should not see this message. If you do, please check the “Known installation issues” below to see if any apply. If none apply, set the environment variable ARROW_R_DEV=TRUE so that details on what failed are shown, and try installing again. Then, please report an issue and include the full verbose installation output.

Using system libraries

If a system library or other installed Arrow is found but it doesn’t match the R package version (for example, you have libarrow 1.0.0 on your system and are installing R package 2.0.0), it is likely that the R bindings will fail to compile. Because the Apache Arrow project is under active development, is it essential that versions of the C++ and R libraries match. When install.packages("arrow") has to download the C++ libraries, the install script ensures that you fetch the C++ libraries that correspond to your R package version. However, if you are using Arrow libraries already on your system, version match isn’t guaranteed.

To fix version mismatch, you can either update your system packages to match the R package version, or set the environment variable ARROW_USE_PKG_CONFIG=FALSE to tell the configure script not to look for system Arrow packages. (The latter is the default of install_arrow().) System packages are available corresponding to all CRAN releases but not for nightly or dev versions, so depending on the R package version you’re installing, system packages may not be an option.

Note also that once you have a working R package installation based on system (shared) libraries, if you update your system Arrow, you’ll need to reinstall the R package to match its version. Similarly, if you’re using Arrow system libraries, running update.packages() after a new release of the arrow package will likely fail unless you first update the system packages.

Using prebuilt binaries

If the R package finds and downloads a prebuilt binary of the C++ library, but then the arrow package can’t be loaded, perhaps with “undefined symbols” errors, please report an issue. This is likely a compiler mismatch and may be resolvable by setting some environment variables to instruct R to compile the packages to match the C++ library.

A workaround would be to set the environment variable LIBARROW_BINARY=FALSE and retry installation: this value instructs the package to build the C++ library from source instead of downloading the prebuilt binary. That should guarantee that the compiler settings match.

If a prebuilt binary wasn’t found for your operating system but you think it should have been, check the logs for a message that says *** Unable to identify current OS/version, or a message that says *** No C++ binaries found for an invalid OS. If you see either, please report an issue. You may also set the environment variable ARROW_R_DEV=TRUE for additional debug messages.

A workaround would be to set the environment variable LIBARROW_BINARY to a distribution-version that exists in the Ursa Labs repository. Setting LIBARROW_BINARY is also an option when there’s not an exact match for your OS but a similar version would work, such as if you’re on ubuntu-18.10 and there’s only a binary for ubuntu-18.04.

If that workaround works for you, and you believe that it should work for everyone else too, you may propose adding an entry to this lookup table. This table is checked during the installation process and tells the script to use binaries built on a different operating system/version because they’re known to work.

Building C++ from source

If building the C++ library from source fails, check the error message. (If you don’t see an error message, only the ----- NOTE -----, set the environment variable ARROW_R_DEV=TRUE to increase verbosity and retry installation.) The install script should work everywhere, so if the C++ library fails to compile, please report an issue so that we can improve the script.

Known installation issues

Summary of build environment variables

Some features are optional when you build Arrow from source. With the exception of ARROW_S3, these are all ON by default in the bundled C++ build, but you can set them to OFF to disable them.

There are a number of other variables that affect the configure script and the bundled build script. By default, these are all unset. All boolean variables are case-insensitive.


As mentioned above, please report an issue if you encounter ways to improve this. If you find that your Linux distribution or version is not supported, we welcome the contribution of Docker images (hosted on Docker Hub) that we can use in our continuous integration. These Docker images should be minimal, containing only R and the dependencies it requires. (For reference, see the images that R-hub uses.)

You can test the arrow R package installation using the docker-compose setup included in the apache/arrow git repository. For example,

R_ORG=rhub R_IMAGE=ubuntu-gcc-release R_TAG=latest docker-compose build r
R_ORG=rhub R_IMAGE=ubuntu-gcc-release R_TAG=latest docker-compose run r

installs the arrow R package, including the C++ source build, on the rhub/ubuntu-gcc-release image.