I am getting an error when using tlmgr to update or install latex packages. For example, the command tlmgr update -all in the terminal yields the following response:

(running on Debian, switching to user mode!)

cannot setup TLPDB in home/USER/texmf at /usr/bin/tlmgr line 5308.

  • tlmgr update --self --all --reinstall-forcibly-removed?
    – Werner
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 22:57
  • I guess you installed TL through Debian's package manager? In this case, you can't update the installation itself using tlmgr as that would conflict with the package manager. So it is trying to switch to 'user mode' which would install updates in your personal texmf tree. For some reason, that is failing. Are you running this as yourself? You should be i.e. don't use root or sudo since you can't update the installed stuff anyway. Do you have write permission to /home/USER (USER should be your username)? What does ls -l /home/USER/texmf give?
    – cfr
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 23:01
  • @Werner, running that command once again gave the same response as above. I installed TL according to this post - stackoverflow.com/questions/1017055/…. Yes, I am using a regular user mode, not root or sudo. When I tried "ls -l /home/USER/texmf," it gave "ls: cannot access /home/USER/texmf: No such file or directory"
    – user43760
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 23:09
  • I tried doing: sudo which tlmgr update --self --all --reinstall-forcibly-removed. However, it gave the same message as above (cannot setup TLPDB).
    – user43760
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 2:30
  • Same question here without answer - tex.stackexchange.com/questions/137428/tlmgr-cannot-setup-tlpdb.
    – user43760
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 3:17

2 Answers 2


you should, either install the Debian packages of texlive, or the install TeXLive using its own installer; details are in



https://github.com/scottkosty/install-tl-ubuntu provides for an automated way to install a seemingly working version of texlive.

As some users have noticed, there seems to be a bug with tlmgr when using the default version from Ubuntu repositories. This can be avoided by using this approach while still allowing for the use of debian's apt-get for further package installation.

I got the idea from http://www.latex-community.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=23749

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