Using the Tex Live installer, I can do a regular installation and a portable installation. In either scenario, I can choose the directories to install into. So, what is actually the difference in the installed system and in its usage?

  • 2
    Portable = One that can be installed for instance on a flash disk so that you can use it at moreorless any computer.
    – yo'
    Jan 24 '16 at 18:54
  • @yo' And in a regular installation I can't? What's the difference?
    – ana
    Jan 24 '16 at 19:08
  • 1
    The regular installation puts some configuration and other similar files in system folders, so they are not in the directory to which you install.
    – yo'
    Jan 24 '16 at 19:13

Portable does make a few changes:

  • (win32) no creation of menu items and shortcuts and uninstaller
  • (unix) no linking of executables/man/info pages to system directories

But the biggest difference is the locations of files and setup of TEXMF variables, namely that everything, absolutely everything is located in the same directory: In particular what happens is that

  • TEXMFHOME is mapped into TEXMFLOCAL
  • TEXMFVAR is mapped into TEXMFSYSVAR

That means, if you have installed onto your USB stick into STICK/texlive/2015, then all files generated, changed, searched are under this directory, which means that there is no configuration in you home directory.

  • I created a portable installation that was mounted at /mnt at the time of creation. The "portable" installation was created with absolute symbolic links which makes me suspect that the portable installation expects to run from /mnt. That doesn't seem very portable to me.
    – Melab
    Oct 1 '17 at 17:53
  • Of course, if you create links then it is not portable. But the whole point is that you can carry the stick somewhere else and add the binary directory from the usb stick to the path and be set.
    – norbert
    Oct 1 '17 at 23:26

Aside from the notes in the accepted answer, I wanted also to note this: Here is a comparison I ran in meld for the changes in directories between non-portable (left) and portable (right) of TexLive 2015 install-tl-unx.tar.gz:


So, as I used TEXLIVE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/media/mymount/texlive ./install-tl-20160405/install-tl --repository=ftp://tug.org/historic/systems/texlive/2015/tlnet-final --force-arch=i386-linux (tried on Ubuntu 14):

  • The non-portable installation would end up in a folder /media/mymount/texlive/2015
  • The portable installation would end up in a folder /media/mymount/texlive - without a year subfolder

So, if I still wanted to use a year in the folder name, even with a portable install, I'd have to change my TEXLIVE_INSTALL_PREFIX ...

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