svnserve allows access to Subversion repositories using the svn network protocol. You can run svnserve either as a standalone server process, or you can have another process, such as inetd, xinetd or sshd, launch it for you.

Once the client has selected a repository by transmitting its URL, svnserve reads a file named conf/svnserve.conf in the repository directory to determine repository-specific settings such as what authentication database to use and what authorization policies to apply. See the section called “svnserve, a custom server” for details of the svnserve.conf file.

svnserve Switches

Unlike the previous commands we've described. svnserve has no subcommands—svnserve is controlled exclusively by switches.

--daemon (-d)

Causes svnserve to run in daemon mode. svnserve backgrounds itself and accepts and serves TCP/IP connections on the svn port (3690, by default).


Causes svnserve to listen on PORT when run in daemon mode.


Causes svnserve to listen on the interface specified by HOST, which may be either a hostname or an IP address.


When used together with -d, this switch causes svnserve to stay in the foreground. This switch is mainly useful for debugging.

--inetd (-i)

Causes svnserve to use the stdin/stdout file descriptors, as is appropriate for a daemon running out of inetd.

--help (-h)

Displays a usage summary and exits.


Displays version information, a list of repository back-end modules available, and exits.

--root=ROOT (-r=ROOT)

Sets the virtual root for repositories served by svnserve. The pathname in URLs provided by the client will be interpreted relative to this root, and will not be allowed to escape this root.

--tunnel (-t)

Causes svnserve to run in tunnel mode, which is just like the inetd mode of operation (serve one connection over stdin/stdout) except that the connection is considered to be pre-authenticated with the username of the current uid. This flag is selected by the client when running over a tunnel agent such as ssh.

--tunnel-user NAME

Used in conjunction with --tunnel switch; tells svnserve to assume that NAME is the authenticated user, rather than the UID of the svnserve process. Useful for users wishing to share a single system account over SSH, but maintaining separate commit identities.

--threads (-T)

When running in daemon mode, causes svnserve to spawn a thread instead of a process for each connection. The svnserve process still backgrounds itself at startup time.

--listen-once (-X)

Causes svnserve to accept one connection on the svn port, serve it, and exit. This option is mainly useful for debugging.