B Updating packages

Package developers will occasionally release updates to their packages. This is typically to add in new functions to the package, or to fix or amend existing functions. Be aware that some package updates may cause your previous code to stop working. This does not tend to happen with minor updates to packages, but occasionally with major updates, you can have serious issues if the developer has made fundamental changes to how the code works. For this reason, we recommend updating all your packages once at the beginning of each academic year (or semester) - don't do it before an assessment or deadline just in case!

To update an individual package, the easiest way is to use the install.packages() function, as this always installs the most recent version of the package.


To update multiple packages, or indeed all packages, RStudio provides helpful tools. Click Tools - Check for Package Updates. A dialogue box will appear and you can select the packages you wish to update. Be aware that if you select all packages, this may take some time and you will be unable to use R whilst the process completes.

Updating packages with RStudio

Figure B.1: Updating packages with RStudio

Occasionally, you might have a few problem packages that seemingly refuse to update, for me, rlang and vctrs cause me no end of trouble. These aren't packages that you will likely ever explicitly load, but they're required beneath the surface for R to do things like knit your Markdown files etc.

If you try to update an existing package and get an error message that says something like Warning in install.packages : installation of package ‘vctrs’ had non-zero exit status or perhaps Error in loadNamespace(i, c(lib.loc, .libPaths()), versionCheck = vI[[i]]) : namespace 'rlang' 0.4.9 is being loaded, but >= 0.4.10 is required one solution I have found is to manually uninstall the package, restart R, and then install the package new, rather than trying to update an existing version. The installr package also has a useful function for uninstalling packages.

# Load installr

# Uninstall the problem package

# Then restart R using session - restart R
# Then install the package fresh


B.1 Updating R

Finally, you may also wish to update R itself. The key thing to be aware of is that when you update R, if you just download the latest version from the website, you will lose all your packages. The easiest way to update R and not cause yourself a huge headache is to use the installr package. When you use the updateR() function, a series of dialogue boxes will appear. These should be fairly self-explanatory but there is a full step-by-step guide available for how to use installr, the important bit is to select "Yes" when it asked if you would like to copy your packages from the older version of R.

# Install the installr package

# Load installr

# Run the update function

As always, if you're having issues, please ask on Teams or book into a GTA session.