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ETCUPDATE(8) NetBSD System Manager's Manual ETCUPDATE(8)
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etcupdate -- update the configuration and startup files in /etc
etcupdate [-alv] [-d destdir] [-p pager] [-s (srcdir | tgzdir | tgzfile)]
[-t temproot] [-w width]
etcupdate (-h | -?)
etcupdate is a tool that lets the administrator update the configuration
and startup files in /etc (and some other directories like /dev, /root
and /var) without having to manually check and modify every file. The
administrator should run this script after performing an operating system
update (e.g. after running make build in /usr/src or after extracting new
binary distribution files) to update to the latest configuration and
etcupdate compares the new configuration files against the currently
installed files. The user is given the option of installing, merging or
deleting each modified or missing file. The user can also view the dif-
ferences between the files. By default, it shows the differences in the
unified diff format. The default format can be toggled to show the dif-
ferences in unified, context, or side by side formats or an user-defined
command may be used to view differences. (And if wdiff is installed, it
can also show differences on a word by word basis.)
etcupdate also detects if the user installs certain special files and
performs corresponding tasks like remaking device nodes or rebuilding a
database from the aliases(5) file. Finally, etcupdate runs
postinstall(8) to check the results.
etcupdate needs a clean set of new configuration files to compare the
existing files against. These files, called the ``reference files'' in
this manual, may be derived from either a source or binary distribution
If the user is updating from sources (which is the default mode),
etcupdate will first create a copy of the reference files by running make
distribution in /usr/src/etc, installing the files to a so-called
temproot. (See usage of the -s srcdir and -t temproot options later in
this manual page.) Although this is the default mode, it is not recom-
mended (see the ``BUGS'' section).
Instead of using sources, it is recommended that the user should extract
one or more binary distribution sets in a special location and use those
as the reference files (see usage of the -s tgzdir option later in this
manual page), or specify one or more binary distribution sets directly
(see usage of the -s tgzfile option later in this manual page).
The following options are available:
-a etcupdate can automatically update files which have not
been modified locally. The -a flag instructs etcupdate to
store MD5 checksums in /var/etcupdate and use these check-
sums to determine if there have been any local modifica-
-d destdir Use destdir instead of / as the top of the file system
hierarchy to be updated. For example, destdir/etc will be
used instead of /etc.
-h Display help to stdout, and exit.
-l Automatically skip files with unchanged RCS IDs. This has
the effect of leaving alone files that have been altered
locally but which have not been changed in the reference
files. Since this works using RCS IDs, files without RCS
IDs will not be skipped even if only modified locally.
This flag may be used together with the -a flag described
-p pager The pager to use when displaying files. By default this
is more(1) but it can be changed either with this option
or by defining the PAGER variable.
-s (srcdir | tgzdir | tgzfile)
The location of the reference files, or the NetBSD source
files used to create the reference files. This may be
specified in one of three ways:
-s srcdir The top level directory of the NetBSD
source tree. By default this is /usr/src
but it can be changed either with this
option or the SRCDIR variable. The refer-
ence files will be created by running
``make distribution'' in the srcdir/etc
directory. Note that srcdir should refer
to the top of the source directory tree;
earlier versions of etcupdate expected
srcdir to refer to the etc subdirectory
within the source tree.
-s tgzdir A directory in which reference files have
been extracted from a binary distribution
of NetBSD. The files that are distributed
in the ``etc.tgz'' or ``etc.tar.xz'' set
file must be present. The files that are
distributed in the ``xetc.tgz'' or
``xetc.tar.xz'' set file are optional. The
reference files from the specified direc-
tory will be copied to the temproot direc-
-s tgzfile The location of a set file (or ``tgz
file'') such as ``etc.tgz'', ``etc.tar.xz''
or ``xetc.tgz'' from a binary distribution
of NetBSD. Each set file is a compressed
archive containing reference files, which
will be extracted to the temproot direc-
tory. Multiple -s options may be used to
specify multiple set files. The
``etc.tgz'' or ``etc.tar.xz'' set file must
be specified. The ``xetc.tgz'' or
``xetc.tar.xz'' set file is optional.
-t temproot Specifies the location of the temproot directory. This
directory will be used for a temporary copy of the refer-
ence files created by running ``make distribution'' in the
source directory specified by -s srcdir, or a temporary
copy of the reference files extracted from the binary sets
specified by -s tgzfile, or a temporary copy of the refer-
ence files from the directory specified by -s tempdir. By
default this is /tmp/temproot but can be changed either
with this option or the TEMPROOT environment variable.
-v Makes etcupdate verbose about its actions.
-w width Sets screen width used during interactive merge. By
default this is the number of columns stty(1) reports but
it can be changed either with this option or by defining
the WIDTH variable. This is useful for xterm(1) users
with wider shell windows.
-? Display help to stdout, and exit.
TEMPROOT Sets a default value for temproot. See -t above.
SRCDIR The location of the NetBSD sources files. See -s above.
PAGER The pager to use when displaying files. See -p above.
WIDTH The screen width used during interactive merge. See -w
IGNOREFILES A list of files that etcupdate should ignore. Files
listed in this variable will never be considered for
updating by etcupdate.
The environment variables can also be defined in the following configura-
tion files. The user's personal configuration file settings override the
You have just upgraded your NetBSD host from 3.0 to 4.0 and now it's time
to update the configuration files as well. To update the configuration
files from the sources (if you have the /usr/src/etc directory):
The default location of the source files is /usr/src but this may be
overridden with the -s srcdir command line argument:
etcupdate -s /some/where/src
To update the configuration files from binary distribution sets do some-
thing like this:
etcupdate -s /some/where/etc.tgz -s /some/where/xetc.tgz
or like this:
tar -xpzf /some/where/etc.tgz
tar -xpzf /some/where/xetc.tgz
etcupdate -s /tmp/temproot
You have modified only few files in the /etc directory so you would like
install most of the updates without being asked. To automatically update
the unmodified configuration files:
To get a better idea what's going on, use the -v flag:
cmp(1), more(1), rcs(1), sdiff(1), stty(1), aliases(5), postinstall(8)
The etcupdate command appeared in NetBSD 1.6.
In NetBSD 4.0, the -s tgzfile option was added, the -b tempdir option was
converted to -s tgzdir, and the -s srcdir option was changed to refer to
the top of the source directory tree rather than to the etc subdirectory.
In NetBSD 5.0, the ability to specify multiple colon-separated files with
a single -s option was deprecated, and options deprecated in NetBSD 4.0
In NetBSD 7.0, the ability to specify multiple colon-separated files with
a single -s option was removed (multiple -s options must be used
instead), and the -d destdir option was added.
The script was written by Martti Kuparinen <martti@NetBSD.org> and
improved by several other NetBSD users.
The idea for this script (including code fragments, variable names etc.)
came from the FreeBSD mergemaster (by Douglas Barton). Unlike the
FreeBSD mergemaster, this does not use CVS version tags by default to
compare if the files need to be updated. Files are compared with cmp(1)
as this is more reliable and the only way if the version numbers are the
same even though the files are different.
If a source directory is specified via the ``-s srcdir'' option (or if
the /usr/src directory is used by default), then etcupdate will run
``make distribution'' in the etc subdirectory of the source directory,
but it will not use the same options or environment variables that would
be used during a full build of the operating system. For this reason,
use of the ``-s srcdir'' option is not recommended, and use of the ``-s
tgzdir'' or ``-s tgzfile'' options is recommended.
NetBSD 9.99 January 15, 2022 NetBSD 9.99