Problems running without root

Rpm/yum assume they are managing an entire single system (unlike, say, Zero Install), and generally assume root like privileges. Here is a list of things to think about if you are trying to break this assumption.

Problems running rpm without root

  • A significant portion of packaged rpm software assumes that scriptlets will be run as root, to do operations like add users or load SELinux policy into the kernel.
  • Rpm assumes root like privileges, so it can change the owner of files and/or permissions, SELinux labels etc.
  • Rpm needs to be able to write to at least the rpm DB files, which are owned by root.
  • Rpm --relocate is generally considered to be unusable.

Problems running yum without root

  • Because of the above rpm problems, yum calls geteuid() and refuses to do certain commands unless that returns 0 (root).
  • Even if you just used the yum API, yum would need to be able to write to at least /var/lib/yum/* /var/log/yum.log and a cache directory. Some rpm API calls will be untested (or at least much less tested) if run as non-root.
  • --installroot is not intended to change the above, the assumption is that you will still be running yum as root.


  • Use mock shell, if you want chroot type environments that normal users can create.
  • Use some other packaging format, if you want to be able to "install packages" into $HOME/blah (but there are significant downsides which you should be aware of).