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Jaka Hudoklin 2e13c3cdfd nixos: use usercfg.home.username for username 1 year ago
doc ba0375bf06 docs: add systemd type change to 19.03 release notes 1 year ago
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modules d726afd9e4 imapnotify: specify notmuch configuration path 1 year ago
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nixos 2e13c3cdfd nixos: use usercfg.home.username for username 1 year ago
tests d2ed39f103 alacritty: don't create file if settings is empty 1 year ago
.gitignore 36ecad6cbe Add basic gitignore file 1 year ago
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.travis.yml b8b391ad18 tests: remove tests attribute from root default.nix 1 year ago 9de2549dfb contributing: explain how to use local clone 2 years ago fd2bc150d8 faq: add entry about missing `ca.desrt.dconf` 1 year ago
LICENSE e15cd64ac9 Update LICENSE file for 2019 1 year ago 8ecc311bcc Update stable version to 19.03 1 year ago
default.nix 2c07829be2 home-manager: use `callPackage` where appropriate 1 year ago
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Home Manager using Nix

This project provides a basic system for managing a user environment using the Nix package manager together with the Nix libraries found in Nixpkgs. Before attempting to use Home Manager please read the warning below.

Words of warning

This project is under development. I personally use it to manage several user configurations but it may fail catastrophically for you. So beware!

In some cases Home Manager cannot detect whether it will overwrite a previous manual configuration. For example, the Gnome Terminal module will write to your dconf store and cannot tell whether a configuration that it is about to be overwrite was from a previous Home Manager generation or from manual configuration.

Home Manager targets NixOS unstable and NixOS version 19.03 (the current stable version), it may or may not work on other Linux distributions and NixOS versions.

Also, the home-manager tool does not explicitly support rollbacks at the moment so if your home directory gets messed up you'll have to fix it yourself. See the rollbacks section for instructions on how to manually perform a rollback.

Now when your expectations have been built up and you are eager to try all this out you can go ahead and read the rest of this text.


You can chat with us on IRC in the channel #home-manager on freenode. The channel logs are hosted courtesy of samueldr.


Currently the easiest way to install Home Manager is as follows:

  1. Make sure you have a working Nix installation. If you are not using NixOS then you may here have to run

    $ mkdir -m 0755 -p /nix/var/nix/{profiles,gcroots}/per-user/$USER

    since Home Manager uses these directories to manage your profile generations. On NixOS these should already be available.

    Also make sure that your user is able to build and install Nix packages. For example, you should be able to successfully run a command like nix-instantiate '<nixpkgs>' -A hello without having to switch to the root user. For a multi-user install of Nix this means that your user must be covered by the allowed-users Nix option. On NixOS you can control this option using the nix.allowedUsers system option.

    1. Add the appropriate Home Manager channel. Typically this is
    $ nix-channel --add home-manager
    $ nix-channel --update

    if you are following Nixpkgs master or an unstable channel and

    $ nix-channel --add home-manager
    $ nix-channel --update

    if you follow a Nixpkgs version 19.03 channel.

    On NixOS you may need to log out and back in for the channel to become available. On non-NixOS you may have to add

    export NIX_PATH=$HOME/.nix-defexpr/channels${NIX_PATH:+:}$NIX_PATH

    to your shell (see nix#2033).

  2. Install Home Manager and create the first Home Manager generation:

    $ nix-shell '<home-manager>' -A install

    Once finished, Home Manager should be active and available in your user environment.

    1. If you do not plan on having Home Manager manage your shell configuration then you must source the


    file in your shell configuration. Unfortunately, in this specific case we currently only support POSIX.2-like shells such as Bash or Z shell.

    For example, if you use Bash then add

    . "$HOME/.nix-profile/etc/profile.d/"

    to your ~/.profile file.

If instead of using channels you want to run Home Manager from a Git checkout of the repository then you can use the programs.home-manager.path option to specify the absolute path to the repository.


Home Manager is typically managed through the home-manager tool. This tool can, for example, apply configurations to your home directory, list user packages installed by the tool, and list the configuration generations.

As an example, let us expand the initial configuration file from the installation above to install the htop and fortune packages, install Emacs with a few extra packages enabled, install Firefox with the IcedTea plugin enabled, and enable the user gpg-agent service.

To satisfy the above setup we should elaborate the ~/.config/nixpkgs/home.nix file as follows:

{ pkgs, ... }:

  home.packages = [

  programs.emacs = {
    enable = true;
    extraPackages = epkgs: [

  programs.firefox = {
    enable = true;
    enableIcedTea = true;

  services.gpg-agent = {
    enable = true;
    defaultCacheTtl = 1800;
    enableSshSupport = true;

  programs.home-manager = {
    enable = true;
    path = "…";

To activate this configuration you can then run

$ home-manager switch

or if you are not feeling so lucky,

$ home-manager build

which will create a result link to a directory containing an activation script and the generated home directory files.

Documentation of available configuration options, including descriptions and usage examples, is available in the Home Manager manual or offline by running

$ man home-configuration.nix


While the home-manager tool does not explicitly support rollbacks at the moment it is relatively easy to perform one manually. The steps to do so are

  1. Run home-manager generations to determine which generation you wish to rollback to:

    $ home-manager generations
    2018-01-04 11:56 : id 765 -> /nix/store/kahm1rxk77mnvd2l8pfvd4jkkffk5ijk-home-manager-generation
    2018-01-03 10:29 : id 764 -> /nix/store/2wsmsliqr5yynqkdyjzb1y57pr5q2lsj-home-manager-generation
    2018-01-01 12:21 : id 763 -> /nix/store/mv960kl9chn2lal5q8lnqdp1ygxngcd1-home-manager-generation
    2017-12-29 21:03 : id 762 -> /nix/store/6c0k1r03fxckql4vgqcn9ccb616ynb94-home-manager-generation
    2017-12-25 18:51 : id 761 -> /nix/store/czc5y6vi1rvnkfv83cs3rn84jarcgsgh-home-manager-generation
    1. Copy the Nix store path of the generation you chose, e.g.,


    for generation 763.

    1. Run the activate script inside the copied store path:
    $ /nix/store/mv960kl9chn2lal5q8lnqdp1ygxngcd1-home-manager-generation/activate
    Starting home manager activation

Keeping your ~ safe from harm

To configure programs and services Home Manager must write various things to your home directory. To prevent overwriting any existing files when switching to a new generation, Home Manager will attempt to detect collisions between existing files and generated files. If any such collision is detected the activation will terminate before changing anything on your computer.

For example, suppose you have a wonderful, painstakingly created ~/.config/git/config and add

  # …

  programs.git = {
    enable = true;
    userName = "Jane Doe";
    userEmail = "";

  # …

to your configuration. Attempting to switch to the generation will then result in

$ home-manager switch
Activating checkLinkTargets
Existing file '/home/jdoe/.gitconfig' is in the way
Please move the above files and try again

Graphical services

Home Manager includes a number of services intended to run in a graphical session, for example xscreensaver and dunst. Unfortunately, such services will not be started automatically unless you let Home Manager start your X session. That is, you have something like

  # …

  services.xserver.enable = true;

  # …

in your system configuration and

  # …

  xsession.enable = true;
  xsession.windowManager.command = "…";

  # …

in your Home Manager configuration.