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How To Update R to Version 4 on Ubuntu 20.04

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In this article, we will guide you through the process of updating R to version 4 on Ubuntu 20.04. This tutorial is designed to be comprehensive and easy to follow, regardless of your technical expertise.


R is a popular programming language and free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. It’s widely used among statisticians and data miners for developing statistical software and data analysis. As with any software, keeping R up-to-date is crucial to take advantage of new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements.


Before we begin, ensure you have the following:

  • Ubuntu 20.04 LTS installed and updated.
  • Sudo privileges on the Ubuntu system.
  • A stable internet connection.

Step 1: Add the R Repository Key

First, open a terminal window. You can do this by searching for “terminal” in your applications or by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T on your keyboard.

Run the following command to add the R repository key:

wget -qO- | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/cran_ubuntu_key.asc

In this command, wget is a free utility for non-interactive download of files from the web. The -qO- option tells wget to be quiet and output the document to standard output. The | symbol is a pipe that takes the output from the previous command as input to the next command. sudo tee -a /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/cran_ubuntu_key.asc appends the output to the specified file.

Step 2: Add the R Repository

Next, add the R repository to your system’s software sources:

sudo add-apt-repository "deb $(lsb_release -cs)-cran40/"

Here, add-apt-repository is a script which adds an external APT repository to either /etc/apt/sources.list or a file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/. The $(lsb_release -cs) part is a command substitution that outputs the codename of your Ubuntu version (e.g., focal for Ubuntu 20.04).

Step 3: Update the Package Lists

Update the package lists for packages that need upgrading, as well as new packages that have just come to the repositories:

sudo apt update

The apt update command fetches the package list from the repositories and “updates” them to get information on the newest versions of packages and their dependencies.

Step 4: Install the Latest Version of R

Finally, install the latest version of R:

sudo apt install --no-install-recommends r-base

The apt install command installs a new package. The --no-install-recommends option tells APT to not consider recommended packages as a dependency for installing the specified package. r-base is the core package of R.

Verifying the Installation

After the installation is complete, you can verify the installed version of R by running:

R --version

This command should output information about the installed R version, and it should be 4.x.x.


Congratulations! You have successfully updated R to version 4 on your Ubuntu 20.04 system. Now, you can take advantage of the new features and improvements that come with this version. Be sure to check out the official R documentation to learn more about using R.

Can I update R to version 4 on Ubuntu 20.04 without adding the R repository?

No, adding the R repository is necessary to update R to version 4 on Ubuntu 20.04. The repository provides the latest version of R for Ubuntu systems.

What are the benefits of updating R to version 4?

Updating R to version 4 allows you to take advantage of new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements. It ensures that you have access to the latest tools and capabilities for statistical computing and data analysis.

Will updating R to version 4 affect my existing R packages and scripts?

Generally, updating R to version 4 should not affect your existing R packages and scripts. However, it is always recommended to backup your important files and packages before performing any major updates.

Can I update R to version 4 on other Ubuntu versions?

The steps mentioned in this article are specifically for Ubuntu 20.04. However, you can refer to the official R documentation or online resources for instructions on updating R to version 4 on other Ubuntu versions.

Can I update R to version 4 using the graphical user interface (GUI)?

Yes, you can update R to version 4 using the GUI by using the Software Updater tool. However, the steps mentioned in this article provide a command-line approach, which is often preferred for system-wide updates.

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