USGS - science for a changing world

R Installation Instructions

Below are the instructions for installing R and RStudio. If you do not have install access to your computer (often called “PR access”), you will need to contact your IT representative to have them install it. You can give them a link to this page for instructions.

Install R and RStudio

These instructions are for Windows install. Download and install R for Mac here. If you have trouble installing R on a Mac or Linux machine, please contact us directly at

Download and install R

Go to CRAN and download the R installer for Windows. Make sure to choose the latest stable version (v3.6.2 as of January 2020).

Once the installer downloads, Right-click on it and select “Run as administrator”.

Type in your PR credentials and click yes (or have your IT rep install with Admin privileges).

Run as

You can click next through the standard dialogs and accept most defaults. But at the destination screen, please verify that it is installing it to C:Files(version number may vary)

Install Destination

At the “Select Components” screen, you can accept the default and install both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.


At this screen, uncheck ‘Create a desktop icon’ because non-admin users in Windows will be unable to delete it.

Uncheck desktop

Download and install RStudio

Download RStudio Desktop

Double-click the installer. It will ask for your administrator credentials to install (you might need to have your IT rep install again). Accept all the default options for the RStudio install.

RStudio install

Check Install

Open RStudio

Once installed, RStudio should be accessible from the start menu. Start up RStudio. Once running it should look something like:

RStudio Window

Find “Console” window

By default the console window will be on the left side of RStudio. Find that window. It will looking something like:


Verify your installed R version

Ideally you should be running the latest stable release (v3.6.2 as of January 2020). If you have an older version, please install the newest version using the instructions above.

Click in the “Console” window and paste in the code from below to see what version of R you have:


Verify your installed RStudio version

You should be running the at least RStudio 1.0.0. The more recent the version of RStudio, the more features you will have.

Click in the “Console” window and paste in the code from below to see what version of RStudio you have:


Add packages and GRAN

Install general packages

Install packages available for all R users from CRAN by pasting the following code and hitting ENTER.

install.packages(c("dplyr","dataRetrieval","ggplot2","tidyr","RColorBrewer","EGRET", "rmarkdown", "geoknife"))

If you see

Dialog box

That’s OK! There’s a dialog box hiding behind RStudio asking if you want to create a personal folder in your Documents folder. Click Yes. It will look something like this when done:


Add GRAN as a default repository

Modifying the .Rprofile file will tell your R environment to always look in the GRAN repository when installing packages and updating packages. This is the preferred method because of the ability to automatically get GRAN updates. Paste the following code into the Rstudio console to update your .Rprofile:

rprofile_path = file.path(Sys.getenv("HOME"), ".Rprofile")
      append =  TRUE)

cat('Your Rprofile has been updated to include GRAN.
    Please restart R for changes to take effect.')

Restart RStudio (close and open). Now, you’ll automatically have access to USGS packages and updates.

Package best practices

Now that you have installed R and some basic packages, you should get in a good habit of updating them regularly in case the authors fix bugs or add new features. It’s best to do this on a weekly basis so that your code is never outdated. To update, click the icon in your packages tab. You can update them all at once or individually.

Update your

Optional: Install Rtools

Rtools is used in package development, which is an advanced skill, but one which you might be doing as you become more experienced. It would be handy to have Rtools installed. You will need to install this using admin privileges. Install from here. Rtools is only needed for Windows users; Mac users do not need Rtools for package development.