I recently installed Ubuntu 10.04 over-top of Ubuntu 9.04, preserving my /home partition, but aside from that partition, it was a fresh install. I installed the texlive package (2009-7) from Ubuntu's main repository.

Now, when I try to run latex or pdflatex on a .tex file, I get the not so helpful error:

brian@thoralf:~/tmp$ pdflatex test.tex 
This is pdfTeX, Version 3.1415926-1.40.10 (TeX Live 2009/Debian)
 restricted \write18 enabled.
---! /home/brian/.texmf-var/web2c/pdftex/pdflatex.fmt doesn't match pdftex.pool
(Fatal format file error; I'm stymied)

What can I do to fix this problem?

4 Answers 4


[I asked, then search the net. I've made my answer community wiki so as not to look like I'm rep-hunting.]

There was a bug filed against ubuntu 10.04 beta. I'm somewhat surprised it's not been fixed as it makes latex rather useless.

One commentator on the bug thread said that deleting /home/.texmf-var worked for them. Worked for me, too.

  • 1
    I guess this tells you the balance of users who use LaTeX doing 'over the top' installations against those who do fresh ones!
    – Joseph Wright
    Aug 23, 2010 at 5:58
  • 1
    depending on your distribution, you may need to rm -rf ~/.texlive/texmf-var
    – deeenes
    Sep 5, 2015 at 10:38

As mentioned in the other answers, the problem is caused by some local files not being updated upon an texlive upgrade. In my case fmtutil --all fixed the problem. (Neither sudo nor the fmtutil-sys version, those files seem to be upgraded by the package, just the stuff in the user dir isnt.)


I was having the exact same problem when I upgraded from 11.10 to 12.04 and then to 12.10 (even thought I'm a year behind). I could not compile latex, similar to the first post. This is what I was getting:

$ latex file_name.tex 
This is pdfTeX, Version 3.1415926-2.4-1.40.13 (TeX Live 2012/Debian)
restricted \write18 enabled.
---! /home/myUname/.texmf-var/web2c/pdftex/latex.fmt doesn't match pdftex.pool
(Fatal format file error; I'm stymied)

I used the solution stated above. Instead of deleting, I just renamed it. ie.

$ mv .texmf-var/ .texmf-var-BackUp

In my case, the .texmf-var folder was in the /home/myUname folder and not in /home folder. Now it compiles like it used to. Just wanted to add this in case others were looking for the same solution.


I was having the same problem, and saw this fix on a few community pages. I was hesitant to delete that directory, so I simply moved it. It totally worked, and now I can compile again. Thank you! I was afraid I'd lose billable hours over this, but it was an easy fix!

  • 4
    ~/.texmf-var contains only automatically generated content, so it is always safe to delete it.
    – mpg
    Nov 10, 2010 at 3:38
  • @mpg: That is not true for me; I've got a manual font entry in pdftex.map. (Maybe I should have done that differently??) Nov 10, 2010 at 14:46
  • HUm... good point. How did you add this line? updmap --enable Map=name.map or manual editing of the file? With updmap, information should (not 100% sure) be kept in TEXMFCONFIG (probably ~/.texmf-config for you). However, you need to rerun updmap after deleting TEXMFVAR, indeed.
    – mpg
    Nov 11, 2010 at 2:47

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