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Building and installing Git from source on OS X Lion

Building and installing Git from source on OS X Lion

This outline for building and installing Git has only been tested against Mac OS X 10.7.x (Lion). While these steps may work for previous versions of Mac OS X, I cannot confirm this. Furthermore, you're on your own, if you screw something up, it's not my fault.

If you have Xcode 4, you have Git!

Xcode 4 includes the Git binary at the application level so it's available to itself (located at /Applications/ Additionally, Xcode 4 includes a new "Downloads" preference pane to install optional components, one of which are the Command Line Tools (similar to the Dev Tools package that shipped with older versions of Xcode) and once installed, Git (and many other utilities, such as make) is installed at the system level (located at /usr/bin).

Note: You don't have to install Xcode to use the Command Line Tools; it can be downloaded independently from the Apple Developer site (you need to login, but it's free). Here's a direct link for the June 2012 download (dmg file):

If you don't want to use the version provided by Apple...

Now, because the the Git binary provided by Apple is placed in /usr/bin you need to make sure your $PATH environment variable is setup properly (see below) and that you install your own build of Git into /usr/local/bin for two reasons:

  1. Apple will silently overwrite whatever Git binary lives at /usr/bin whenever Xcode and/or the Command Line Tools are updated.
  2. If /usr/bin is in the $PATH variable BEFORE the location where you install your own build of the Git binary (I'm suggesting /usr/local/bin/git) then the Apple binary located at /usr/bin/git will always be used when the git command is run.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn't make managing the $PATH environment variable easy -- there are nearly a dozen ways this variable can be set or changed. I've done plenty of digging on this topic over the years, and here's the skinny (to my knowledge) listed in order of operation:

  • /etc/profile (interactive login shell, or as a non-interactive shell with the --login option, if exists)
  • /etc/paths (relies on /usr/libexec/path_helper being called from /etc/profile)
  • /etc/paths.d/* (relies on /usr/libexec/path_helper being * called from /etc/profile)
  • /etc/bashrc (sourced from /etc/profile, if exists)
  • ~/.bash_profile (if exists)
  • ~/.bashrc (optional, usually sourced from .bash_profile, if exists)
  • ~/.bash_login (if .bash_profile does not exist)
  • ~/.profile (if .bash_login does not exist)
  • ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist (searched by loginwindow, useful for paths needed by CLI daemons)

It's easy to get all twisted up here, but all you need to do is ensure /usr/local/bin is in the $PATH variable BEFORE /usr/bin. For me that simply meant reordering the directories listed in /etc/paths to the following, ensuring /usr/local/bin is first:


*Note: When making $PATH changes, you'll likely need to restart your console session (either a new window or a new tab) to test/verify your changes (which is as easy as $ echo $PATH).

Building the Git binary

There are two ways to do this, the first uses Git (if you've installed Command Line Tools, either with or without Xcode) and the second simply downloads a compressed archive of the files needed from the Google project page.

  1. Use Git to download Git
    • $ git clone git://
    • $ cd git
    • $ git fetch
    • $ git tag -v v1.7.10.4 (verify latest stable tag)
    • $ git checkout v1.7.10.4 (checkout latest stable tag)
  2. Download the Git files
    • $ curl -O
    • $ tar -xzvf git-
    • $ cd git-

Configure & Build

  • $ make configure (this is optional, requires GNU Autoconf be installed)
    • $ ./configure --prefix=/usr/local (you can only run this if you've run the command above)
  • $ make prefix=/usr/local
  • $ sudo make prefix=/usr/local install

Building the Git documentation

A whole separate mission is getting the Git documentation to build on OS X. For the sake of time, here are the steps, and if anyone decides to dive in, feel free to ping me with questions on how I did it.

  • Install AsciiDoc
  • Install xmlto
    • Install getopt
    • Install gettext
    • Install DocBook
  • $ make prefix=/usr/local doc
  • $ sudo make prefix=/usr/local install-doc

An alternative (read FASTER/BETTER/EASIER) method...

If you're lazy (I wasn't, however I didn't learn about this "alternative" method until AFTER going through the steps above) there's a MUCH easier way to install the Git documentation:

  • $ cd ..
    • the directory where you cloned the git repo (not into the git repo directory, but it's parent)
  • $ git clone
  • $ cd git
  • $ make prefix=/usr/local
  • $ sudo make quick-install-man


This isn't for the faint of heart. If you skipped to down here, you should probably just download the Git OS X Installer package (generally one maintenance release behind latest), or use MacPorts or Homebrew both of which are current to the latest stable release of Git.

Reference Links


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@digitaljhelms digitaljhelms commented Aug 17, 2012

I've reblogged this on my Jekyll powered GitHub hosted blog:


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@gnanakeethan gnanakeethan commented Feb 6, 2015

awesome, it worked on my machine with OS X 10.10 without any problems. thanks a lot. I had xcode installed.


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@Herk-O Herk-O commented May 26, 2015

Great piece! Very nice. On my own, I'd gotten to "xmlto needs getopt." I found your page while searching for 'getopt' -- for which I never did find a source. I ended up using your alternative doc method, instead. I would, however, still like to build the documentation. Do you by any chance (still) have a source/link for 'getopt'?


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@aj-willi aj-willi commented Jan 3, 2017

times like these I wish I had a windows

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