Building MiKTeX (Unix-like systems)

The MiKTeX source code allows you to build and install a minimal TeX system. MiKTeX provides an integrated package manager, which can automatically download and install missing packages. Thus:

  • you start with a compact TeX setup
  • only packages which are referenced by your projects will be installed

MiKTeX can be built on Windows and Unix-like (including macOS) systems. Please consult these HOWTOs for platform-specific build instructions:


  • C/C++ compiler

    Building MiKTeX requires a modern C/C++ compiler. The minimum required standard versions are C99 and C++14.

  • CMake

    The MiKTeX build is driven by CMake, a tool which will create Makefiles suited for the local system. The minimum required CMake version is 3.7.0.

  • Various build utilities

    In addition to the compiler and the CMake build system, you will need these utilities:

    All platforms:

    • cat
    • fop
    • sed
    • xsltproc

    Windows only:

    • hhc
    • makehm
    • mc
    • midl
    • mt
    • pandoc
  • Libraries

    On Unix-like platforms (including macOS), you will need development packages for these libraries:

    • apr
    • aprutil
    • bzip2
    • cairo
    • expat
    • fontconfig
    • freetype2
    • fribidi
    • gd
    • gmp
    • graphite2
    • harfbuzz-icu
    • hunspell
    • icu
    • jpeg
    • log4cxx
    • lzma
    • mpfr
    • mspack
    • LibreSSL (or OpenSSL)
    • pixman
    • png
    • poppler
    • popt
    • potrace
    • uriparser
    • zzip

    When building UI components with Qt5:

    • poppler-qt5

Please consult the platform-specific HOWTO, for more information.

Running CMake

It is recommended that you build outside the source code directory:

cmake ../source

Here you have to specify the path to the MiKTeX source code directory (../source in the example above).

CMake for Windows may require a generator specification. If you want to generate Makefiles for nmake, run this:

cmake -G "NMake Makefiles" ../source

Useful build variables

When running CMake to generate the Makefiles, it is possible to set build variables as follows:

cmake -DVAR1=VAL1 -DVAR2=VAL2 ...

The most useful build variables are:


    The installation directory used by make install (see below). This variable defaults to /usr/local on Unix-like systems (including macOS).

    Suitable prefixes are:

    • $HOME/miktex

      Use this prefix, if you want to install MiKTeX just for yourself. No administrative privileges are required.

    • /opt/miktex

      Use this prefix, if you want to create a self-contained MiKTeX setup which does not conflict with other system packages.


    Build UI applications (experimental).

Building MiKTeX

Run the Make utility to build MiKTeX, for example:


or, if you build with NMake on Windows:



CMake has created a standard install target which you can use to install everything in the standard location (see the CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX description above). On Linux and macOS, you would run

make install

This will install MiKTeX in the /usr/local-prefixed directory tree.

Relocating the installation

On Unix-like platforms, you can use the DESTDIR mechanism in order to relocate the whole installation:

make DESTDIR=/home/jane install

This will install everything using the installation prefix (CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX) prepended with the DESTDIR value, which finally gives /home/jane/usr/local.

The DESTDIR mechanism is helpful if you want to understand what make install installs where.

First steps

Initialize the package database

MiKTeX has the ability to install missing packages "on-the-fly". The package database must have been set up for this to work:

mpm --admin --update-db

The --admin option is only required if you are building a shared MiKTeX setup. If you are setting up MiKTeX just for yourself (i.e., in your user directory), you have to omit this option.

Please consult the mpm(1) man page, for more information about the utility.

Enabling "on-the-fly" package installation

In order to enable the automatic package installer, run the MiKTeX Configuration Utility as follows:

initexmf --admin --set-config-value [MPM]AutoInstall=1
initexmf --admin --update-fndb

Again, you have to omit --admin, if you intend to use MiKTeX just for yourself.

The option --update-fndb updates the file name database.

Please consult the initexmf(1) man page, for more information about the MiKTeX Configuration Utility.

Symbolic links

Most of the MiKTeX executables are prefixed with miktex-. For example, the file name of the pdfTeX executable is miktex-pdftex. You can create symbolic links targetting the miktex- prefixed executables:

initexmf --admin --mklinks

After running this command, the pdfTeX engine can be invoked as pdftex, provided that pdftex did not exist before (use the --force option to overwrite existing link names).

The --mklinks option will also create symbolic links for format files and scripts. For example, you can invoke pdflatex (pdfTeX with format pdflatex loaded) and latexmk (wrapper for the Perl script

Installing basic packages

You use the MiKTeX Package Manager to install basic MiKTeX packages:

mpm --admin --verbose --package-level=basic --upgrade

In order to make newly installed font map files available for the various TeX engines, you must run

initexmf --admin --mkmaps


These are the final steps: update the file name database again and, if you used the --admin option, remove the .miktex directory, which was created in the previous steps:

initexmf --admin --update-fndb
rm -fr ~/.miktex


Running the pdfTeX engine for the first time

You can now test the MiKTeX setup by running

miktex-pdflatex sample2e

or, if you want to omit the miktex- prefix:

pdflatex sample2e

This will create the PDF file sample.pdf.

Test suite

In order to validate the MiKTeX setup, you can run the MiKTeX test suite.


If you want to completely wipe out MiKTeX, you have to

  • remove symbolic links
  • undo the effect of make install
  • remove MiKTeX directories

Before you proceed, you should run initexmf --report in order to find the locations of the MiKTeX directories.

Removing symbolic links


initexmf --admin --force --remove-links

to remove the symbolic links created by initexmf --mklinks (see above).


There is an uninstall target which allows you to remove all files installed by make install (see above):

make uninstall

Removing MiKTeX directories

There are a couple of MiKTeX directories which have to be removed manually. For example:

rm -fr ~/.miktex
rm -fr /var/lib/miktex-texmf
rm -fr /var/cache/miktex-texmf
rm -fr /usr/local/share/miktex-texmf

Please inspect the output of initexmf --report in order to find out the exact locations.