Today: April 21, 2021 2:47 pm
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Install subversion on Linux without root access

Today I needed to install subversion on a Linux host on which I don’t have root access. With root access the install would have been very simple. However, I couldn’t find a good tutorial showing how to go about installing the software just for the local user. This post goes through how I did that.


Subversion relies on several third party libraries. Some of these may already be available on your server. Others may not be, so you’ll need more than I show here. What I provide should give you a roadmap to find and install any remaining requirements

Where to install it

Without root access you’ll need to install subversion and other related software where you have file permissions. My home directory is


So I chose to install all my software in


This will ensure that I have full permissions to write the necessary files.


Download requirements

Start by downloading all the requirements that are needed. I did this using wget (I had to set the proxy in /etc/wgetwc or by exporting a value for http_proxy).


If you’re a concerned about security (and I suppose we all should be) it’s wise to confirm the published hash for the files that you download to make sure they haven’t been modified before being posted on a mirror site. The most common ways to do this include md5sum, sha1sum and pgp. Here’s an example showing how to verify the subversion download.

sha1sum subversion-1.7.5.tar.bz2

Extract Sources

This next step will leave you with folder for each application. If you don’t want to clutter your home directory, you can create a working directory where you’ll extract all of these.

Next extract the source code for each. This is done using the tar command, but may be slightly different depending on the compression method used.

tar xjvf subversion-1.7.5.tar.bz2
tar xjvf apr-1.4.6.tar.bz2
tar xjvf apr-util-1.4.1.tar.bz2
tar xzvf sqlite-autoconf-3071201.tar.gz
tar xjvf zlib-1.2.7.tar.bz2
tar xjvf apr-iconv-1.2.1.tar.bz2
tar xzvf openssl-1.0.1b.tar.gz
tar xzvf libxml2-2.8.0.tar.gz
tar xzvf neon-0.29.6.tar.gz

Now you’re ready to configure, compile and install each one. The order of installing these matters since there are dependencies between them. Here’s the order I followed.

  1. apr
  2. sqlite
  3. zlib
  4. openssl
  5. libxml2
  6. neon
  7. subversion

Clean first

If you’ve already performed some of the steps listed below, don’t forget that it may be necessary to run

make clean

to clear out existing binaries and ensure that your new build leverages other recompiled files.

Apache Portable Runtime (APR)

The Apache Portable Runtime has three components that need to be installed. The apr-util and apr-iconv depend on apr, so start with that first. From the directory where you extracted the sources based on the step above, run the following commands to configure, make and install apr. Notice that I ues the –prefix option. That’s the crucial element in this whole process since it’s what installs everything where you have permissions.

cd apr-1.4.6
./configure --prefix=/home/watrous/programs
make install

Notice here that I have to tell the configure script where apr is. This satisfies the dependency.

cd apr-util-1.4.1
./configure --with-apr=/home/watrous/apr-1.4.6 --prefix=/home/watrous/programs
make install

And finally apr-iconv.

cd apr-iconv-1.2.1
./configure --with-apr=/home/watrous/apr-1.4.6 --prefix=/home/watrous/programs
make install


SQLite doesn’t have any dependencies in this case, so it’s really simple to make and install. This is one of the more likely to already be on your system, so you might want to check. SQLite is a fantastic, lightweight database that doesn’t require any configuration or server overhead.

cd sqlite-autoconf-3071201
./configure --prefix=/home/watrous/programs
make install


ZLib is also very easy to configure, build and install.

cd zlib-1.2.7
./configure --prefix=/home/watrous/programs
make install


OpenSSL is used indirectly by neon to accommodate SSL connections (repository URLs over HTTPS). If you plan to access subversion repositories over HTTP (without encryption) then you can skip this step).

cd openssl-1.0.1b
./config --prefix=/home/watrous/programs/
make install

Libxml 2

Libxml 2 is also use by neon to accommodate the webdav format.

cd libxml2-2.8.0
./configure --prefix=/home/watrous/programs/
make install


The neon libraries enable the webdav functionality on which subversion is built. Note that I use the –with-libs option to specify where to find the openssl libraries. If you have the openssl-devel packages installed, this may not be necessary.

cd neon-0.29.6
./configure --with-ssl --with-libs=/home/watrous/programs/ --prefix=/home/watrous/programs/
make install


Now we tie it all together with our call to configure. We need to tell the configure script where to find all the dependencies that we’ve just put in place and to install the finished program into our programs folder. Based on the steps above, here are the commands I used to configure, build and install subversion.

cd subversion-1.7.5
./configure --without-berkeley-db --without-apxs --without-swig --with-zlib=/home/watrous/programs --with-sqlite=/home/watrous/programs --with-neon=/home/watrous/programs --with-ssl --without-pic --disable-shared --with-apr=/home/watrous/apr-1.4.6 --with-apr-util=/home/watrous/apr-util-1.4.1 --with-ssl --prefix=/home/watrous/programs
make install

Note that the –without-pic and –disable-shared options are to prevent collisions between the libraries we’ve installed above and similar libraries that may exist elsewhere in the system. In particular this may help resolve a conflict with the OpenSSL libraries.

At this point the subversion binary ‘svn‘ should be available in ~/programs/bin/svn.

~/programs/bin/svn help


It would be a bit of a pain to always have to type ‘~/programs/bin/svn’ to run subversion. So the next thing I did was to add my new programs/bin folder to the path.

export PATH=$PATH:/home/watrous/programs/bin

I can make this more permanent by adding PATH=$PATH:$HOME/programs/bin to my .bash_profile.


That’s it. Now you have the subversion client installed for your local use on Linux without root access. Naturally this same process would work to install any software you need under your own account on a *nix host.

It’s worth noting that you still need permissions wherever your new svn binary intends to operate.


If you want to share your new subversion with other users on the same system, all you need to do is set the execute bit on your home, programs and bin directories and each binary that you want others to access. They can then add your programs/bin directory to their path and make use of any programs that you installed.


  1. Hi Daniel,

    Thank you very much for posting the documentation on this work-around, it seems extremely useful. That being said, some of the urls have changed for the wget statements. How did you go about finding them originally? Just as an fyi, the following are still available:

    And the following have been removed (wget returned http error 404, file not found).

    If there is another way to access these zip files, that would be great. Thanks again for your time and consideration, I very much appreciate it.

    Thanks and Regards,

  2. After installation of all the tars and finally during Subversion “make” command, getting the error.
    subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:440: undefined reference to `XML_SetElementHandler’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:441: undefined reference to `XML_SetCharacterDataHandler’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/.libs/libsvn_subr-1.a(xml.o): In function `svn_xml_free_parser’:
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:386: undefined reference to `XML_ParserFree’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/.libs/libsvn_subr-1.a(xml.o): In function `svn_xml_parse’:
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:405: undefined reference to `XML_Parse’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:411: undefined reference to `XML_GetCurrentLineNumber’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:413: undefined reference to `XML_GetErrorCode’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:413: undefined reference to `XML_ErrorString’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/.libs/libsvn_subr-1.a(xml.o): In function `svn_xml_make_parser’:
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:353: undefined reference to `XML_ParserCreate’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:355: undefined reference to `XML_SetElementHandler’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:358: undefined reference to `XML_SetCharacterDataHandler’
    /app/portable_svn_client/subversion-1.7.5/subversion/libsvn_subr/xml.c:375: undefined reference to `XML_SetUserData’
    /app/portable_svn_client//lib/ undefined reference to `XML_SetEntityDeclHandler’
    /app/portable_svn_client//lib/ undefined reference to `XML_StopParser’
    collect2: ld returned 1 exit status
    make: *** [subversion/svn/svn] Error 1

    Could you suggest here .what is missing??

  3. I followed every step as mentioned above without any error and subversion directory contains bin directory.But could not able to run svn help from subversion bin
    I am getting
    -bash : svn: command not found

  4. The software community needed this article. Svn articles 10 years old and more are filling up search engine results. Besides showing non-root, it’s also less than 15 years old!

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