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How to Install Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac

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Last updated: September 14, 2023

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Ready to unleash your Mac’s development potential without the heavy lifting? Xcode Command Line Tools is your ticket to a streamlined coding experience. Whether you’re a software guru or a newbie eager to dabble in C, C++, or other languages, this lightweight package has your back.

No need for the full-fledged Xcode IDE; get the essentials and hit the ground running. Installing Xcode Command Line Tools may seem like a daunting task, but this guide makes it easy, breaking down the process to install Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac into simple, easy-to-follow steps.

Before We Begin

Unnecessary files on your Mac, including old Xcode files, are responsible for slowing it down. So, before downloading Command Line Tools, ensure your Mac is as clutter-free as possible. To do this, MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup tool can help. It helps delete junk files on your Mac, freeing up space and improving performance.

What Are Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac?

Xcode Command Line Tools are a set of utilities and frameworks that allow developers to perform tasks from the command line, without needing to install the full Xcode IDE (Integrated Development Environment) on their Mac.

This package includes essential tools like compilers for C, C++, and Objective-C, as well as other utilities like git for version control. These tools are especially useful for developers who prefer a minimalistic environment, or for those who need to automate tasks via scripts.

They are also foundational for certain software installations, package managers like Homebrew, and development frameworks. In essence, Xcode Command Line Tools offer a lightweight but powerful way to develop and manage code on a Mac.

What Is Included in Xcode Command Line Tools?

The Xcode Command Line Tools are a subset of the Xcode software development environment provided by Apple. These tools are designed for developers and power users who need to perform tasks like compiling code, installing software packages, or version control, but do not require the full suite of features found in the Xcode IDE (Integrated Development Environment).

Here’s a rundown of what’s typically included in the Xcode Command Line Tools:

  1. 🛠 Compilers: gcc and clang for compiling C, C++, and Objective-C code.
  2. 🔗 Linkers and Build Tools: ld and Make for linking and building software projects.
  3. 🐞 Debuggers: lldb for debugging code directly from the command line.
  4. 📚 Libraries: Standard system libraries and headers.
  5. 🌐 Git: A distributed version control system commonly used for source code management.
  6. 🔄 SVN: Apache Subversion, another version control system.
  7. 📦 Package Managers: Tools like Homebrew often rely on Xcode Command Line Tools for building software from source.
  8. 🛡 Other Utilities: Essential command-line utilities like scp, sftp, curl, and many others for various tasks like file transfer and data retrieval.
  9. 💻 SDKs (Software Development Kits): Headers and libraries for macOS system frameworks, which are essential for developing macOS apps.
  10. 🏗 Command Line Interface to Xcode: xcodebuild, a utility to build Xcode projects from the command line.
  11. 📱 Simctl: A command-line utility to control the Simulator, useful for automated testing of iOS apps.

By installing the Xcode Command Line Tools, you essentially equip your Mac with a powerful set of tools for software development, without the need to install the full Xcode IDE, saving disk space and resources.

Check for Existing Command Line Tools

Before diving into the installation process for Xcode Command Line Tools, it’s wise to first check if they’re already installed on your Mac. Why? Well, some software installations or macOS updates may have quietly added them for you.

Knowing whether or not the tools are pre-installed can save you valuable time and potentially prevent duplicate installations. Below, I’ll walk you through the simple steps to verify the presence of these indispensable tools before you install Xcode Command Line Tool on Mac.

To check if you have Xcode installed on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Terminal by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
launch terminal from utilities
  1. Type the following command and press Enter:
xcode-select -p
type xcode select p in terminal

If you have Xcode installed, the output should be the path to the Xcode installation.

path to the xcode installation

To check if you have Command Line Tools installed, enter the following command in the Terminal:

xcode-select -v
type xcode select v in terminal

The output should show the version number if Command Line Tools is installed.

version number of command line tools

Install Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac If They Are Not Already Installed

So you’ve checked, and it turns out the Xcode Command Line Tools are missing from your Mac’s developer toolkit. Installing these essential utilities is a straightforward task, and once you’ve got them, you’ll unlock a plethora of development capabilities right from your Terminal.

Below, I’ve shared the different methods you can use to install Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac

1. Get Xcode Command Line Tools From the Web

The easiest way to install Xcode Command Line Tools is by manually downloading them directly from Apple’s developer website. This approach offers the advantage of choosing the exact version you need and also gives you a downloadable file you can archive for future use.

To download the Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac via the web, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to Apple’s developer website and sign in using your Apple ID.
apple developer website homepage
  1. Type command line tools into the search bar and press Enter.
  2. Select View Details beneath the version you’d like to install, and click the corresponding DMG file to start the download.
  3. Once downloaded, locate the file in your Downloads folder and double-click to mount it as a virtual disk.
  4. Open the Command Line Tools.pkg file from the mounted disk, which will initiate the installer.
  5. Follow the installer’s on-screen prompts to complete the setup.

2. Use Terminal to Install Xcode Command Line Tools

If you’re a fan of efficiency and prefer to cut straight to the chase, using the Terminal to install Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac is the way to go. A few simple commands will get the job done, making this method quick, direct, and ideal for those comfortable with a command-line interface.

Follow these steps to install Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac through the Terminal:

  1. Open the Terminal by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
launch terminal from utilities
  1. Type the following command and press Enter:
xcode-select --install
type xcode select install in terminal
  1. Click Install on the pop-up prompting you to confirm installing Xcode Command Line Tools.
click install on the pop up to confirm installing xcode command line tools
  1. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish the installation.
  2. The process can take a while. Once done, a pop-up window will appear, reading, “The software was installed.” Click Done.

3. Use Homebrew to Install Command Line Tools

Homebrew is a popular Mac package manager that allows users to easily install various Command Line Tools and other utilities on their system. Installing Xcode Command Line Tools through Homebrew is a simple process you can complete in just a few steps.

But you need to install Homebrew before you can use it to install Xcode Command Line Tools on Mac. Below, I’ve shared how you can go about it.

a. Checking If Homebrew Is Installed on Your Mac

Before diving into the world of Homebrew, first determine if it’s already installed on your Mac. Homebrew is a popular package manager that many developers use, and it’s possible that it was installed as a dependency for another application or during a previous coding venture.

Knowing its status will not only save you time but also avoid potential conflicts or redundancies. Here’s how to check if Homebrew is already installed on your Mac:

  1. Open Terminal by searching for it in Spotlight search (Command ⌘ + Space).
type terminal in spotlight search
  1. Type the following command and press Enter:
$ brew
type brew in terminal
  1. If you get a message like zsh: command not found: $, it means Homebrew isn’t installed on your Mac yet.
result indicating homebrew is not installed on mac

b. Installing Homebrew With Xcode on Your Mac

So you’ve verified that Homebrew isn’t already on your system—now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get it installed. Follow these steps to install Homebrew with Xcode on your Mac:

  1. Open Terminal by searching for it in Spotlight search (Command ⌘ + Space).
type terminal in spotlight search
  1. Type the following command in the Terminal and press Enter:
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
type the command to install homebrew on mac
  1. You’ll be prompted to input your Mac’s user password during the Homebrew installation. Type it in and press Enter.
  2. The script will notify you and automatically install Xcode Command Line Tools. Just follow the on-screen prompts.

The installation duration can vary, ranging from a few minutes to up to 15 minutes, depending on your machine and internet speed.

For Intel-based Macs, you’re good to go after installation. Homebrew installs itself in the /usr/local/bin directory, which is already included in macOS’s default $PATH.

On Apple Silicon Macs, you’ll need to perform one additional step. Homebrew installs in the /opt/homebrew directory, which isn’t in the default $PATH. Follow the guidance given at the end of the installation to create a ~/.zprofile file and add Homebrew to your $PATH:

echo 'eval "$(/opt/homebrew/bin/brew shellenv)"' >> ~/.zprofile
eval"$(/opt/homebrew/bin/brew shellenv)"

After installing Homebrew, run the following command to ensure everything is set up correctly:

$ brew doctor

You should see a message indicating your system is ready to brew. Homebrew will now be located in either /usr/local (for Intel Macs) or /opt/homebrew (for Apple Silicon Macs). You now have both Homebrew and Xcode Command Line Tools installed and ready for use.

Delete Old Xcode Files and Free Up Hard Drive Space

Apps, programs, and Command Line Tools take up plenty of hard drive space, especially when you’re a developer. Your Mac will have iOS simulators, app archives, and derived data that can quickly fill the gigabytes.

While cleaning up these items manually is a hassle, you can use a third-party app like MacKeeper to declutter your Mac and free up storage space. Here’s how to use MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup tool to clean your Mac’s junk files:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click Safe Cleanup under the Cleaning section.
click safe cleanup under the cleaning section
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan

4. Wait for the scan to complete and select the files you want to delete or click Check All.

click check all
  1. Then, click Clean Junk Files.
click Clean Junk Files
  1. When the junk files are deleted, you’ll get a Cleaning Completed notification. You can tap Rescan if you want to run the scan again.
click rescan

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides deleting the cache files on your Mac, MacKeeper can do much more to optimize your Mac and keep it secure. It can help uninstall unwanted apps, remove login items from your Mac, and scan your Mac for viruses. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about its features.

Install Xcode Command Line Tools on Your Mac

Congratulations, you’ve successfully navigated the ins and outs of installing Xcode Command Line Tools and Homebrew on your Mac. These essential tools serve as the backbone of a versatile and efficient development environment, whether you’re a seasoned developer or just getting started on your coding journey.

With these utilities now at your fingertips, you’ve unlocked a whole new world of software development capabilities, package management, and so much more. If you want to improve your productivity further, consider these tips:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between a CLI and Terminal?

    A CLI (Command Line Interface) is a user interface where users interact with software by typing commands into a console. Terminal, on the other hand, is the actual physical or software-based environment where the CLI is accessed. In simpler terms, the CLI is what you use, and the Terminal is where you use it.

  2. Can I uninstall Xcode Command Line Tools?

    Yes, you can uninstall the Xcode Command Line Tools from your Mac if you no longer need them. However, doing so may affect other software and development tools that rely on these utilities. The process usually involves removing specific directories and files. It’s important to know what you’re doing when removing system-level software, as incorrect steps may cause issues with your operating system.

  3. Can I install Xcode Command Line Tools on Windows?

    The Xcode Command Line Tools are specific to macOS and are not directly available for Windows. However, you can use similar functionalities on Windows through alternatives like Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), Cygwin, or Git Bash. These tools offer command-line utilities that mimic some features available in a macOS environment.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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