Installing the GNU Guix Package Manager

What will we learn?

Today I’m going to show you how you can install the GNU Guix package manager on your existing Linux system so that you can start learning the basics of how to use it.

In the Guix manual this is called installing on a “foreign distribution”, basically a Linux distribution that is not Guix itself.

Even if you don’t intend to install Guix as a full distribution in the future, it can still be a very useful as an alternative package manager and development environment tool!

However, if you do want to try Guix as a system distribution in the future, one benefit of installing it as a package manager is that you can use it to build a custom installation image! This is really only necessary if your computer’s hardware requires firmware blobs that don’t come with the Linux Libre kernel.

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Supported Linux distributions

The Guix installer supports distributions with the following init systems:

  • systemd (Ubuntu, Debian, Arch, Fedora, openSUSE… most of them)
  • OpenRC (Gentoo, Alpine, Parabola, Artix)
  • sysv-init (Not commonly used)
  • upstart (Not commonly used)

The installer will still work if you don’t use one of these init systems but you will have to run the guix-daemon yourself!

It is necessary to run the guix-daemon service somehow because this service is used for building and installing packages from Guix into the /gnu/store path.

Running the installer script

Let’s install GNU Guix!

The installation process is simple, you just download to the /tmp directory, make it executable, and run it:

cd /tmp
chmod +x
sudo ./

It’s not necessary to use wget for this, you can just download the script from this link using your browser.

Once you start running the script, it will likely prompt you to download and install a GPG key that the Guix binaries are signed with. Run this command to download and install the key (you must have gpg installed!):

wget '' -qO - | sudo -i gpg --import -

It will also ask you a question about downloading pre-built package binaries, answer YES to this unless you want to build all packages from source!

Guix Manual: Binary Installation

Installing a package

Now that Guix is installed, let’s try installing a program to see if it works!

guix install emacs

Notice that we didn’t use sudo on this command! Guix enables every user to install packages in a user profile in their home directory.

Guix will download the precompiled binary package for Emacs 27.1!

Other things to notice:

  • setlocale warnings
  • Substitute downloads
  • It installs a lot of dependencies! Your Guix install is a blank slate, it doesn’t use your distro’s dependencies

Guix Manual: Invoking guix package

Ensuring your Guix profile gets loaded

Now let’s try to run Emacs:


It doesn’t work!

To make sure you can easily access all the applications you install with Guix, you’ll want to make sure that your Guix “profile” gets loaded as part of your shell environment!

Make sure these lines are in your ~/.bash_profile, ~/.zprofile or generally the file your preferred shell uses to configure the environment:

. "$GUIX_PROFILE/etc/profile"

Now once you log in your environment will be set up with all the paths needed to run applications from Guix!

For now, we can run these lines directly in the shell to activate the Guix profile and then try running emacs again.

It works!

Let’s take a look at this folder briefly.

Pulling the Latest Guix

The first time you install Guix on your distribution, it actually won’t have the latest package definitions since it comes bundled with an older set. At the time of this recording, Guix actually has the latest version of Emacs, 27.2, but we only got 27.1!

To bring things up to date you can run the following command:

guix pull

It might take a while to run the first time, so be patient!

Important! Adding another GUIX_PROFILE

One very important message gets printed out at the end of this very first pull operation! We need to update our login profile (~/.bash_profile) to add another GUIX_PROFILE path:

. "$GUIX_PROFILE/etc/profile"

This is necessary because a new build of the guix command has been installed in this path!

Just to clarify, you are adding these lines in addition to the lines you already added before! We are now using two separate Guix “profiles”, one for your installed applications and the other for your personal build of the guix command which gets updated with guix pull.

Upgrading Packages

Now let’s run guix pull one more time just to make sure things are up to date!

This command syncs the latest package definitions from all the channels you have configured and then prints out an abbreviated list of everything that is new or updated since your last pull.

To see the full list of updates, run:

guix pull --news

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean all of these packages are installed on your system! It is informing you about the packages that are added or updated to the package repositories that you are currently using (the main Guix channel by default).

After pulling, you can update all of the packages you have installed by running the following command:

guix upgrade

Depending on when you watch this video, you might notice that Emacs is being upgraded from 27.1 to 27.2!

NOTE: I mentioned in the video that I wasn’t sure if guix upgrade emacs would work. It does!

If you’re itching to learn more, check out this section of the Guix manual for some other commands you can try:

Guix Manual: Getting Started

Setting the locale correctly

As we saw while installing the emacs package, guix will repeatedly write out warnings about setlocale: LC_ALL: cannot change locale. You can fix this issue by running this command (as sudo!):

sudo guix install glibc-locales
sudo vim /root/.profile

Now edit the file /root/.profile with your preferred text editor (as sudo) and add the following line:


Now you shouldn’t see the setlocale warning anymore when you install packages!

Upgrading Guix

As we talked about before, Guix needs the guix-daemon to be running as a system service so that it can build and install all your packages correctly. Sometimes this daemon and the guix tools will need to be updated!

You might also be surprised to know that at this point, your user profile’s guix and the system (root) guix are not the same version! You’ll need to periodically update the root user’s Guix profile to keep things in sync.

To do this, you can run the following command:

sudo -i guix pull

Once the pull operation is completed, you should restart the guix-daemon service using the appropriate command for your init system:


sudo systemctl restart guix-daemon.service


sudo rc-service guix-daemon restart


sudo herd restart guix-daemon

For other init systems, consult your documentation for instructions on how to restart a service!

Guix Manual: Upgrading Guix

What’s next?

In the next video, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about using the Guix package manager so that you can use it for installing and managing your day to day programs. I’ll also show you some of the special features of using Guix that you can’t get from your distro’s package manager!

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