Skip to content

Installing Puppeteer on a FreeBSD server

  • FreeBSD
  • Puppeteer
  • Node.js
  • Unix

This is a good one. I was recently tasked with setting up the web application on a brand-new server provisioned by a client. Nothing extraordinary, the tech stack was based on Laravel talking to a few React pages using Inertia.js.

I SSHed into the server, installed the composer dependencies and tried to run npm install. That's when I hit the first snag:

npm ERR! file://[omitted]/node_modules/puppeteer/lib/esm/puppeteer/node/install.js:39
npm ERR!         throw new Error('The current platform is not supported.');
npm ERR!               ^
npm ERR!
npm ERR! Error: The current platform is not supported.
npm ERR!     at downloadBrowser (file://[omitted]/node_modules/puppeteer/lib/esm/puppeteer/node/install.js:39:15)
npm ERR!     at file://[omitted]/node_modules/puppeteer/install.mjs:40:3

Interesting. The Node.js version seems to be correct, and I've never run into any issues with dependencies on this project before, neither on my Mac locally, nor on the Ubuntu staging server. Let's try to see how the puppeteer package checks the platform. In node_modules/puppeteer/install.mjs we can see what's being executed which throws the exception:

try {
  const {downloadBrowser} = await (async () => {
    try {
      return await import('puppeteer/internal/node/install.js');
    } catch {
        'Skipping browser installation because the Puppeteer build is not available. Run `npm install` again after you have re-built Puppeteer.'
} catch (error) {
  console.warn('Browser download failed', error);

Let's dig deeper, looking inside puppeteer/internal/node/install.js there's the downloadBrowser() function which in turn calls detectBrowserPlatform():

const platform = detectBrowserPlatform();
  if (!platform) {
    throw new Error('The current platform is not supported.');

And that seems to be a simple switch:

export function detectBrowserPlatform(): BrowserPlatform | undefined {
  const platform = os.platform();
  switch (platform) {
    case 'darwin':
      return os.arch() === 'arm64'
        ? BrowserPlatform.MAC_ARM
        : BrowserPlatform.MAC;
    case 'linux':
      return BrowserPlatform.LINUX;
    case 'win32':
      return os.arch() === 'x64' ||
        // Windows 11 for ARM supports x64 emulation
        (os.arch() === 'arm64' && isWindows11(os.release()))
        ? BrowserPlatform.WIN64
        : BrowserPlatform.WIN32;
      return undefined;

OK! Let's try it out. I created a temporary .js script with the following content:

import os from 'os';

const platform = os.platform();

console.log({ platform });

Let's run it:

$ node test-platform.js

And look at the output:

{ platform: 'freebsd' }

Bingo! For the first time in 20 years of doing web development professionally, I'm having to deal with a FreeBSD unix server. Puppeteer doesn't support it out of the box, apparently due to lack of official binaries for Chromium on FreeBSD.

Let's get this fixed:

$ pkg install chromium
$ chrome --version
Chromium 123.0.6312.122

And now we only need to run npm install and make sure puppeteer doesn't try to download the binaries. We need to set the env variable PUPPETEER_SKIP_DOWNLOAD (or npm_config_puppeteer_skip_download or npm_package_config_puppeteer_skip_download):

export: Command not found.

Ops! FreeBSD again, everything needs to be different. Let's try this:

$ setenv PUPPETEER_SKIP_DOWNLOAD 1 && npm install

All done, finally. If you run into the same problem, hopefully this will save you a few minutes of Googling.

PS. If you liked this article, please share to spread the word.


Looking for a handy server monitoring tool?

Check out StackScout, a project I've been working on for the past few years. It's a user-friendly web app that keeps an eye on your servers across different clouds and data centers. With StackScout, you can set custom alerts, access informative reports, and use some neat analytics tools. Feel free to give it a spin and let me know what you think!

Learn more about StackScout

StackScout server monitoring tool screenshot