• 2024-3-20: Created the technical note while evaluating macOS 14.4 upgrade and Homebrew update.

Homebrew installs softwares in /usr/local

/usr/local is the default file path that Homebrew install softwares in for Mac computers with an Intel CPU.

The Homebrew documentation says:

The script installs Homebrew to its default, supported, best prefix (/opt/homebrew for Apple Silicon, /usr/localfor macOS Intel and /home/linuxbrew/.linuxbrew for Linux) so that you don’t need sudo after Homebrew’s initial installation when you brew install. This prefix is required for most bottles (binary packages) to be used. It is a careful script; it can be run even if you have stuff installed in the preferred prefix already. It tells you exactly what it will do before it does it too. You have to confirm everything it will do before it starts.

The macOS .pkg installer also installs Homebrew to its default prefix (/opt/homebrew for Apple Silicon and /usr/local for macOS Intel) for the same reasons as above. It’s available on Homebrew/brew’s latest GitHub release. To specify an alternate install user, like in situations where the package is installed at the login window before a user has logged in, write a property list file to /var/tmp/.homebrew_pkg_user.plist with the value HOMEBREW_PKG_USER. For example, defaults write /var/tmp/.homebrew_pkg_user HOMEBREW_PKG_USER penny. The file and user must exist prior to install.

(c.f. https://web.archive.org/web/20240320193541/https://docs.brew.sh/Installation)

brew doctor compalining on owner and permission of files and sub-directories in /usr/local/

brew doctor sometimes advices chaning owner of files and directories in /usr/local to yourself.

For experimenting, temprarily change the owner of /usr/local/include sub-directory to root:

$ sudo chown root /usr/local/include

$ ls -ld /usr/local/include

Then observe brew doctor suggests changing it: ``` $ brew doctor Please note that these warnings are just used to help the Homebrew maintainers with debugging if you file an issue. If everything you use Homebrew for is working fine: please don't worry or file an issue; just ignore this. Thanks!

Warning: The following directories are not writable by your user: /usr/local/include

You should change the ownership of these directories to your user. sudo chown -R xxx /usr/local/include

And make sure that your user has write permission. chmod u+w /usr/local/include `` (wherexxx` is the username of the current user.)

macOS's System Integrity Protection feature protects /usr/local directory but not files and directories inside it

Before macOS's System Integrity Protection (SIP) feature was introduced in OS X El Capitan in 2015 , the root user, and Homebrew and any software that obtained root-level permission when the administrator entered the username and password to install the software, can modify or overwrite any system file or app. SIP protects /usr and /usr/local/ (but NOT the files and sub-directories inside /usr/local/) among others and prevent its owner and permission to be modified:

$ ls -ld /usr/local
drwxr-xr-x  18 root  wheel  576 Mar 15 20:02 /usr/local
$ sudo chown $(whoami):wheel /usr/local
chown: /usr/local: Operation not permitted

However, all the files and directories inside /usr/local are allowed can be modified by the root user and Homebrew.

So, the sudo user and softwares with sudo-level permission are allowed to change the ownership and permission of files and sub-directories inside /usr/local/, i.e. /usr/local/*.

c.f. Apple. “About System Integrity Protection on your Mac”. 2023. https://web.archive.org/web/20240320060257/https://support.apple.com/en-us/102149.

But Homeberew does NOT need to change the owner of /usr/local directory itself

Since 2016, Homebrew creates necessary directories inside /usr/local and check their ownership and permission instead of requiring it on /usr/local directory itself (c.f. https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/253404/how-does-homebrew-no-longer-need-ownership-of-usr-local).

Finding out the unique user and group values on your computer

Using [OpenBSD's version of stat][stat], one can find the unique ownership values of files and sub-directories in /usr/local/, but be aware this took as long as 2 and a half hours on my computer:

$ gfind "$(brew --prefix)" -mindepth 1 -exec stat -f '%Su:%Sg' '{}' \; | sort -u

You can also exclude "$(id -un):wheel":

$ gfind "$(brew --prefix)" -mindepth 1 -not -user $(id -un) -or -not -group wheel -exec stat -f '%Su:%Sg' '{}' \; | sort -u
$ xxx:_lpoperator

More commands for reference:

#+ Finding sub-directories and files in $(brew --prefix) that do not have
#+ ownership as $(id -un):wheel
#$FIND_BIN "$(brew --prefix)" -mindepth 1 -not -user $(id -un) -or -not -group wheel -exec sudo chown $(id -un):wheel '{}' \;
#$FIND_BIN /opt/homebrew-cask -not -user $(id -un) -or -not -group wheel -exec sudo chown $(id -un):wheel '{}' \;
#$FIND_BIN "$HOME/Library/Caches/Homebrew" -not -user $(id -un) -exec sudo chown $(id -un) '{}' \;

Fixing the owner, group, and permission of the content in /usr/local

As of 2024-3, it is still a open question for myself what user and group should be set to the sub-directories and files in /usr/local and how best to do so.

One possibility I'm evaluating is to set all sub-directories and files in /usr/local to root:wheel first then run brew doctor and set the problematic ones to xxx:wheel or whatever it suggests.

It looks roughly as:

echo "[INFO] Start checking and fixing file ownership and permission:"

sudo chown -R root:wheel $(brew --prefix)/*

sudo chown -R $(id -un):wheel \
     /usr/local/Caskroom \
     /usr/local/Cellar \
     /usr/local/Frameworks \
     /usr/local/Homebrew \
     /usr/local/bin \
     /usr/local/etc \
     /usr/local/include \
     /usr/local/lib \
     /usr/local/opt \
     /usr/local/sbin \
     /usr/local/share \

sudo chown -R $(id -un):wheel /opt/homebrew-cask

sudo chown -R $(id -un) "$HOME/Library/Caches/Homebrew"

#+ Fix read and write permission of files and folders recursively for the
#+ user so Homebrew can create and modify files there for installing
#+ softwares without using sudo.
sudo chmod -R u+rw $(brew --prefix)/* /opt/homebrew-cask "$HOME/Library/Caches/Homebrew"

#+ Fix execute permission of folders recursively, so content inside
#+ are accessible by the user and the group
#+ (c.f. <https://superuser.com/questions/168578/why-must-a-folder-be-executable>.)
sudo $FIND_BIN $(brew --prefix) /opt/homebrew-cask "$HOME/Library/Caches/Homebrew" -type d -exec chmod ug+x '{}' \;

## Fix write permission of zsh folders. c.f. <https://archive.ph/dL8U1>
type zsh >/dev/null 2>&1 && type compaudit >/dev/null 2>&1 && compaudit | xargs chmod g-w

TeXLive manager tlmgr also has the same permission issue with /usr/local

Observe that TeXLive manager tlmgr also have permission issue with /usr/local:

$ tlmgr install standalone
You don't have permission to change the installation in any way,
specifically, the directory /usr/local/texlive/2024/tlpkg/ is not writable.
Please run this program as administrator, or contact your local admin.
tlmgr: An error has occurred. See above messages. Exiting.

Check its current owner, group, and permission: $ ls -ld /usr/local/texlive/2024/tlpkg/ drwxr-xr-x 13 root wheel 416 Mar 12 11:13 /usr/local/texlive/2024/tlpkg/

root:wheel is the default owner when mactex is installed via Homebrew: $ brew install --cask mactex

See https://github.com/orgs/Homebrew/discussions/4226#discussioncomment-5008376.


blog comments powered by Disqus