Home Manager

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Home Manager is a system for managing a user environment using the Nix package manager. In other words, Home Manager lets you

  • install software declaratively in your user profile, rather than using nix-env
  • manage dotfiles in the home directory of your user.

Home Manager has many options, which can look daunting at first, but most of those options only boil down to creating some dotfile and installing some software in a way similar way to nix-env.

Note: Before attempting to use Home Manager please read the warning.


Home Manager can be configured as a user in ~/.config/home-manager/home.nix or as a module inside configuration.nix.

Installation as a user

Follow the official guide

Your configuration is stored in ~/.config/home-manager/home.nix. Each time you modify it, rerun home-manager switch for changes to have effect.

Note that to work correctly, home-manager needs your shell to source ~/.nix-profile/etc/profile.d/hm-session-vars.sh. The most convenient way to do so is to have home-manager manage your whole shell configuration, eg programs.bash.enable = true; or programs.zsh.enable = true;. But in this case your whole bashrc is managed with Home Manager: the years of customization you accumulated in your former .bashrc must be migrated to Home Manager options, which may take some time. The quick and dirty way to do the migration is to move your bashrc to some other location and source it from Home Manager:

{ pkgs, ...}: {
  programs.bash = {
    enable = true;
    bashrcExtra = ''
      . ~/oldbashrc

Usage as a NixOS module

Here is a nixos module template you can use:

{ config, pkgs, ... }:
  home-manager = builtins.fetchTarball "https://github.com/nix-community/home-manager/archive/master.tar.gz";
  imports = [
    (import "${home-manager}/nixos")

  home-manager.users.my_username = {
    /* The home.stateVersion option does not have a default and must be set */
    home.stateVersion = "18.09";
    /* Here goes the rest of your home-manager config, e.g. home.packages = [ pkgs.foo ]; */

It can either be incorporated in /etc/nixos/configuration.nix or be placed in a standalone file and imported in configuration.nix: imports = [ ./thefile.nix ].

To use it inside nixosConfigurations in a Flake, put home-manager in your inputs and in your configuration modules import home-manager.nixosModules.home-manager, then you can use it as above.

Whenever you change you home-manager configuration, you must rerun nixos-rebuild switch. With this method, changing the configuration of an unprivileged user requires to run a command as root.


Using Home Manager as a declarative version of nix-env

Nix-env has problematic behavior due to its imperative nature. For example, after installing java 8 with nix-env -i jdk8, running nix-env --upgrade upgrades java to 10 despite the fact that we initially explicitly requested java 8.

Installing software with Home-manager avoids this problem:

{ pkgs, ...}: {
  home.packages = [ pkgs.jdk8 ];

It is a perfectly valid use case for home-manager to only install software with home.packages without managing dotfiles at all.

Usage on non-NixOS Linux

Home Manager has an option to automatically set some environment variables that will ease usage of software installed with nix on non-NixOS linux (fixing local issues, settings XDG_DATA_DIRS, etc.):

{ pkgs, ...}: {
  targets.genericLinux.enable = true;

Managing your dotfiles

Home Manager has options to configure many common tools. As an example, adding the following

  programs.git = {
    enable = true;
    userName  = "my_git_username";
    userEmail = "my_git_username@gmail.com";

will make Home Manager generate a .config/git/config file for you.

Even for programs for which Home Manager doesn't have configuration options, you can use it to manage your dotfiles directly, e.g.

  xdg.configFile."i3blocks/config".source = ./i3blocks.conf;
  home.file.".gdbinit".text = ''
      set auto-load safe-path /nix/store

This will create symlink $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/i3blocks/config and ~/.gdbinit.

Note: In both ways ("source" and "text"), the symlink points to a target in /nix/store. The difference is that, "source" would overwrite the content of the dot file, while "text" would add the text to the dot file that may also be affected in other places.

You have the whole list of the options available in home-manager here



I cannot set GNOME or Gtk themes via home-manager

If you get an error about ca.desrt.conf or dconf.service on NixOS, add

programs.dconf.enable = true;

to your system configuration.

Installed apps don’t show up in Ubuntu's/GNOME's "Show Applications"

Consider some of the workarounds here: https://github.com/nix-community/home-manager/issues/1439.

Workaround with home on tmpfs and standalone installation

home-on-tmpfs users who installed home-manager standalone may meet problems that cannot load configs after reboot, caused by auto cleaning symlink under the toplevel of the home directory. You need to ensure /home/<user>/.nix-profile exists since the standalone install will not act symlink while the system boots.

If your toplevel of home is on tmpfs, one possible workaround is manually write activationScripts to link the directory:

  system.activationScripts = {
    # workaround with tmpfs as home and home-manager, since it not preserve
    # ~/.nix-profile symlink after reboot.
    profile-init.text =
        ln -sfn /home/${user}/.local/state/nix/profiles/profile /home/${user}/.nix-profile

Other files may also need to manually symlink in this case.



  • Wrappers vs. Dotfiles shows how (per-user) wrapper scripts can be used in place of dotfiles in the user's home directory
  • wrapper-manager, an implementation of the idea above using the module system

See also