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How to Install R on Ubuntu

If you’re new to Ubuntu, installing R may seem overwhelming. However, with the right guidance, it can be a simple process. R is a widely used language for statistical analysis and data visualization, making it a crucial tool for both data professionals and enthusiasts. Regardless of your level of expertise, this guide offers a straightforward approach to installing R on your Ubuntu system.

What is the R programming language?

R is a programming language and free software environment tailored for statistical computing and graphics. Renowned for its rich ecosystem and versatile applications, R offers the following common features:

  1. Statistical Analysis. Provides extensive tools for regression, hypothesis testing, and data analysis.
  2. Graphics. Capable of producing high-quality and customizable plots and charts.
  3. Package Ecosystem. Over 15,000 packages on the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN) extend R’s capabilities.
  4. Open Source. R is released under the GNU General Public License, meaning it’s free to use, and its codebase can be inspected, modified, and shared.
  5. Integration. R can integrate with many databases, and languages like C, C++, and Fortran. It can also interface with Python, allowing users to harness tools from both languages.
  6. Integrated Development Environments (IDEs). While R can be used from the command line, many users prefer using IDEs like RStudio for a more integrated and user-friendly coding experience.

In essence, R serves as a comprehensive toolkit for data analysis, visualization, and software development. In the next section, let’s take a look at how to set it up on Ubuntu.

Installing R on Ubuntu

Installing R on Ubuntu is a straightforward process, especially with the help of the command line. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

#1 Update System Packages

Before starting, it’s a good idea to update your system packages to their latest versions.

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

The output will be a list of packages will be upgraded. After confirmation, ubuntu will upgrade the packages.

#2 Add R Repository

To ensure you get the latest version of R, add the CRAN repository to your sources list.

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys E298A3A825C0D65DFD57CBB651716619E084DAB9
sudo add-apt-repository "deb $(lsb_release -cs)-cran40/"

Press Enter to continue. Then, ubuntu will add the CRAN repository to its list of repositories. Here’s a sample output below:

#3 Install R

With the repository added, you can install R.

sudo apt update
sudo apt install r-base

A list of packages that will be installed. Ubuntu will proceed to install R once you give confirmation.

#4 Verify Installation

To check if R was installed successfully, enter the R environment.


You will see an introduction message, followed by the R prompt. Exit the R environment by typing q() and pressing Enter.

#5 Optional: Install RStudio

For many, RStudio provides a more user-friendly interface for working with R. To install:

sudo apt install gdebi-core
sudo gdebi rstudio-x.x.x-amd64.deb

Ubuntu will install the gdebi-core package first, then download and install RStudio. The version number x.x.x should be replaced with the latest version number from the RStudio website.

Installing R package from CRAN

CRAN, which stands for the Comprehensive R Archive Network, is a network of servers around the world that store identical, up-to-date versions of code and documentation for R, as well as many extensions and related software.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to install an R package from CRAN:

#1 Launch R

First, you need to start R. You can do this by typing R in your terminal (for Linux/Unix/Mac) or by opening the R GUI if you’re on Windows.

#2 Use the install.packages Function

Once inside the R environment, use the install.packages function to install your desired package. For example, to install a package named “package_name1”, you’d use:


Once you run this command, you’ll likely see a series of messages indicating the download and installation progress. This includes the download location, the unpacking of the package, and any additional dependencies that might also be installed.

#3 Load the Package

After installation, you can use the library function to load the package and start using its functions. Using our earlier example:


#4 Optional: Choose a CRAN Mirror

By default, install.packages might ask you to choose a CRAN mirror. This is essentially a server location from where the package will be downloaded. You can manually specify a mirror by using the repos argument:

install.packages("package_name1", repos="")

Choosing the cloud based CRAN mirror as shown above usually provides good speed and reliability.

#5 Verify Installation

To ensure the package has been successfully installed, you can list all installed packages and check if your package is in the list:


That’s it, you have successfully installed R on Ubuntu. This powerful tool will enable you to perform statistical analysis and visualize data. With its vast libraries and packages, you can explore data in depth, making it a valuable asset whether you are conducting academic research, professional analysis, or personal projects. Kudos and happy coding!

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