When working on macOS and Windows, users will often download and install package binaries, rather than sources, as provided by CRAN. However, CRAN only provides binaries for the latest-available version of a package, and so binaries for older versions of a package will become inaccessible as that package is updated.

MRAN is a service provided by Microsoft that mirrors CRAN every day, and allows users to use particular snapshots of CRAN as their active repositories within their R session.

Starting with renv 0.10.0, renv can also make use of MRAN binary packages when restoring packages on Windows and macOS. When invoking renv::install() or renv::restore(), renv will attempt to install the package from the latest-available MRAN snapshot that still had this package available.

As an example, the stringi package was updated from version 1.4.5 to version 1.4.6 on 2020-02-17, and binaries for that version of stringi were made available for macOS on 2020-02-20. Because of this, the last date on which stringi 1.4.5 macOS binaries were available on CRAN was 2020-02-19.

Fortunately, because MRAN snapshotted CRAN on this date, we can retrieve that binary. For example, on macOS with R 3.6:

> renv::install("stringi@1.4.5")
Retrieving 'https://mran.microsoft.com/snapshot/2020-02-19/bin/macosx/el-capitan/contrib/3.6/stringi_1.4.5.tgz' ...
    OK [file is up to date]
Installing stringi [1.4.5] ...
    OK [installed binary]

When binaries are available from MRAN, renv should transparently download and use them when possible. When binaries are not available, renv will fall back to the old behavior, and attempt to install packages from sources.

If you prefer not to make use of MRAN (e.g. because you are using renv in an environment without external internet access), you can disable it with:

options(renv.config.mran.enabled = FALSE)

See also the ?renv::equip function, which can assist you in preparing your environment for compilation of packages.