The macOS command line interface can be intimidating — but there’s lots of value inside. By using the command line, you can solve many tasks on Mac by running commands in Terminal. It helps streamline a lot of work, especially for software developers.
Package managers like Homebrew make the command line interface even more powerful. In this tutorial, we describe how to safely install and uninstall Homebrew on Mac.
What is Homebrew?
“Homebrew installs the stuff you need that Apple didn’t” — this is how Homebrew creators describe it, and we agree. If you want a more informative definition, Homebrew is a free and open-source package manager for macOS, helping you install, update, uninstall, and manage developer tools like Python, Ruby, and Node.js on your Mac.
Why do you need it? With Homebrew, you can benefit from tons of command line tools to automate your work. Best of all, they are all installed, uninstalled, and updated in one location on your Mac. Here are just a few examples of the useful tools you can get through Homebrew:
- imagemick to convert images to other formats
- archey to share the localhost with your team
- hub for a better experience with Git
- tldr for practical examples on how to use the command line.
How Homebrew works
To go easy on the coding jargon, we won’t be explaining how Homebrew works under the hood. The main thing you should know as a user is that Homebrew acts through Terminal commands — you can install, update, and uninstall packages by typing a few words. There are some simple default brew commands for installing single-file utilities, and more advanced subcommands called casks — you’ll have to use those to install multi-directory utilities.
If you already feel confused…
That’s normal. Maybe you’re a newbie or don’t feel comfortable using Terminal (it has a pretty boring interface, let’s admit it). If that’s the case, we recommend looking into Setapp. It’s a subscription service that gives you access to a huge amount of tools — from development tools to productivity apps that help you track time, record screen, convert files to other formats, etc.
The beauty of it is that you don’t have to know these apps or know what they do — you just type your task in search (for example, “edit PDF”), and Setapp gives you the apps that can edit PDF. It’s that simple.
How to install Homebrew on Mac
Moving to the main part — ”install Homebrew Mac” — we should explain that the installation method we describe uses curl to download the installation script. This method is the easiest and it’s recommended by the Homebrew team. The same applies to the process of uninstalling Homebrew. Since some people don’t want to use curl for security reasons, there are ways to manually download and execute the script (but we won’t go into that here).
Before you dive into the process, make sure your macOS meets the following requirements:
- Apple Silicon or 64-bit CPU
- macOS 10.14 or later
- Bourne-compatible shell (bash or zsh syntax)
- Xcode’s command line tools (we explain how to install the tools in the following section).
Step 1: Install command line tools for Xcode
Xcode is Apple’s native IDE, an integrated development environment that has all the tools you need for software development on Mac. To install some of the Homebrew package components, you need to install Xcode’s command line tools first (in case you haven’t done it before).
Here’s how to install command line tools for Xcode:
- Open Terminal and type the following command: xcode-select --install
- In the new dialog window, confirm you want to install the Xcode tools
- Agree to a license agreement and wait for the installation process to complete. It might take a while.
Step 2: Install Homebrew on Mac
Now your Mac is ready for Homebrew. Here’s the full installation process:
- Open Terminal and type the following command:
- Type your admin password (note that you won’t see your keystrokes in the Terminal window — it’s a security measure) > hit Return
- Wait a few minutes until you see the “Installation successful” message in Terminal.
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
Step 3: Set up Homebrew
In Terminal, run brew help to get started. You’ll see examples of commands that will help you install different software, configs, and updates through Homebrew. For example, to install a package, you should type brew install ‘package name’ in Terminal. There are also a few useful troubleshooting commands you should take note of, such as brew doctor that can detect installation issues.
Step 4: Update Mac Homebrew
Anything you install via Homebrew needs to be updated regularly. You should also update the package manager occasionally to make sure it works properly and you’re not missing some important new features:
- To update Homebrew, run brew update in Terminal
- To find out what packages need updating, run brew outdated in Terminal
- To update a specific package, run brew update package name in Terminal.
If you’re new to Homebrew, follow Homebrew’s Community Discussion — you’ll find lots of insights and troubleshooting tips from other Mac users in there.
Tip: Replace many Terminal commands with MacPilot
While it all sounds easy peasy, Homebrew installation can be a nightmare for people who are not familiar with Terminal. This is where apps like MacPilot could be a huge help.
MacPilot is a less intimidating version of Terminal that comes with extensive on-screen help — so you don’t have to worry about where to find the right commands and how to run them. MacPilot covers 1200+ features, most of which are the things you can do manually — but they require some solid knowledge of the macOS. With this app, you don’t need to be a pro Mac user to do your work efficiently. Here are the examples of tasks that MacPilot solves:
- Run maintenance tools, from crontab scripts to databases
- Manage network settings
- Force empty the trash
- Change the default screenshot file format
- Quickly locate files based on advanced search criteria, and much more.
Although MacPilot can’t install brew on Mac, you can use it to view all the files associated with Homebrew in the Tools section. This is particularly useful if you want to uninstall Homebrew (which we’ll talk about in a sec), and need to get rid of all the files that Homebrew brought into your system.
How to uninstall Homebrew from Mac
If you haven’t found much value in the Homebrew Mac tools, you can easily uninstall the package manager through Terminal. Here’s the command you should run:
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/uninstall.sh)"
You’ll be warned about all the Homebrew files that will be deleted from your Mac.
How to uninstall Homebrew packages from Mac
If you don’t want to get rid of the package manager itself — but rather remove specific packages — you can do that. Here are the detailed instructions:
- Make sure there are no dependencies between the package you want to delete and the ones that are in use by running the following command: brew deps package name
- If you’ve found dependencies and decide to ignore them, type the following: brew uninstall --ignore-dependencies package name
- To uninstall the package, run the command brew uninstall package name.
Homebrew leaves your Mac cluttered. Here’s how to fix it
The most common problem with Homebrew is that once you start using it, versatile files and configs start piling up on your drive. This seems logical because the whole point of using Homebrew is to help you install some extra stuff on your computer. But the problem is Homebrew also generates a lot of clutter you don’t need.
Every time you update a specific package or Homebrew itself, a copy of the old version is created. These copies don’t go anywhere — they just sit there, eating up your storage space. You can check how much space is occupied by old copies if you run the command brew cleanup -n in Terminal. The worst thing is it’s nearly impossible to delete all these leftovers by simply uninstalling Homebrew.
CleanMyMac X is the only app that can remove Homebrew completely, with all the files, directories, and copies associated with it. Just run a System Junk cleanup > Clean. Before you agree to delete the junk CleanMyMac X has found on your Mac, you can click on Review Details to make sure you don’t remove anything important. Spoiler: That won’t happen because CleanMyMac X is smart enough to remove only the clutter you don’t need.
If you want a more thorough cleanup, use the Smart Scan feature. It removes the clutter as well as detects malware and optimizes your Mac’s speed and overall performance. Whether you’re new to Mac or a pro user, CleanMyMac X will give you a moment of bliss. Imagine how much time and effort you save by never having to free up storage manually!
If you’re looking to improve your productivity and do more with a Mac, command-line package management is the right direction. Homebrew is one of the best free package managers that is relatively easy to use if you have some experience with Terminal. And if it’s not for you, you can work on boosting your work with tools like MacPilot and Setapp.
MacPilot and CleanMyMac X are both paid apps, but you can try them for free with a Setapp subscription. Setapp is a productivity service that makes you think tasks, not apps. It introduces the whole new approach to using a Mac — instead of searching for apps, you type your task in Setapp and get the app that solves your task immediately. Try it for 7 days free, then $9.99/month.