Take the 2-minute tour ×
Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm using Homebrew to manage package installs on Lion (Lion Server actually but this shouldn't matter).

Homebrew was installed under one user. Now a different user would like to add a package and Homebrew isn't happy:

$ brew update
fatal: Unable to create '/usr/local/.git/index.lock': Permission denied
Error: Failure while executing: git checkout -q master

Is this considered bad? I thought one of the advantages of using /usr/local/ for your installs was that you don't need sudo. But clearly we do.

All users who would need to modify Homebrew are members of admin group. So, I could chmod -R g+w /usr/local/ but afraid this will bork something or create security issues?!?


$ ls -al /usr/local/.git/
total 432
drwxr-xr-x  14 ladmin  admin     476 Feb 24 11:48 .
drwxrwxr-x  14 root    admin     476 Feb  9 15:27 ..
-rw-r--r--   1 ladmin  admin      94 Feb 24 11:48 FETCH_HEAD
-rw-r--r--   1 ladmin  admin      23 Feb 24 11:48 HEAD
-rw-r--r--   1 ladmin  admin      41 Feb  9 15:28 ORIG_HEAD
drwxr-xr-x   2 ladmin  admin      68 Feb  9 15:27 branches
-rw-r--r--   1 ladmin  admin     218 Feb  9 15:27 config
-rw-r--r--   1 ladmin  admin      73 Feb  9 15:27 description
drwxr-xr-x  12 ladmin  admin     408 Feb  9 15:27 hooks
-rw-r--r--   1 ladmin  admin  200272 Feb 24 11:48 index
drwxr-xr-x   3 ladmin  admin     102 Feb  9 15:27 info
drwxr-xr-x   4 ladmin  admin     136 Feb  9 15:27 logs
drwxr-xr-x   4 ladmin  admin     136 Feb  9 15:27 objects
drwxr-xr-x   5 ladmin  admin     170 Feb  9 15:27 refs
share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 43 down vote accepted

Is this considered bad? I thought one of the advantages of using /usr/local/ for your installs was that you don't need sudo. But clearly we do.

Homebrew, by default, sets itself up for single-user access to /usr/local. So you need to open up the permissions on the directory tree for it to be administered by more than one person.

People don't need to run sudo here to administer homebrew. You just need to change some permissions. Since you already have:

All users who would need to modify Homebrew are members of admin group.

You need to two things:

  1. Make sure everything under /usr/local belongs to the group admin; and
  2. Make sure anyone from the group admin can write to anything under /usr/local.

In your case the changes to make are:

chgrp -R admin /usr/local
chmod -R g+w /usr/local
chgrp -R admin /Library/Caches/Homebrew
chmod -R g+w /Library/Caches/Homebrew

And any user from the admin group should be able to manage the homebrew installation on the machine.

For sanity on the machine, you may want to consider creating your own fork of Homebrew and have your local homebrew git repository point to the local fork. That lets you customize Homebrew for your environment and control the versions of packages that people are able to install with the brew command. With multiple people doing installs you could run in to version issues or dependency issues.

share|improve this answer
I have the same problem and have changed group ownership and group permissions as suggested. brew doctor still complains that e.g. /usr/local/include is not writable even though I manually can verify that I can write to a file here (e.g. using echo "hello" > /usr/local/include/testfile). I am member of the admin group. Any ideas for debugging? –  mgd Jun 22 '12 at 21:40
This solution worked for me, but it doesn't address Homebrew's local cache. I also suggest running: chmod -R g+w /Library/Caches/Homebrew –  Drew Dara-Abrams May 8 '13 at 15:57

You can enable homebrew permissions for more than one user via the admin group, or via any other user group. Here is a slightly expanded recipe to configure this:

The group needs to administer the local homebrew install directory. So assign /usr/local to admin group (or your preferred group) and enable group write permissions:

chgrp -R admin /usr/local
chmod -R g+w /usr/local

The group also needs permissions for homebrew's local cache of formulae and source files at /Library/Caches/Homebrew:

chgrp -R admin /Library/Caches/Homebrew
chmod -R g+w /Library/Caches/Homebrew

If you run into further similar permissions issues while using homebrew from multiple accounts, note the offending path and consider trying the same approach.

Leif Hanack has blogged a similar solution, where he creates and configures a dedicated user group brew for the purpose.

share|improve this answer

I would vote for setting the group permission - and to me it seems that's just what it's there for and should not create a security problem.

  • Don't use sudo.

tl;dr Sudo is dangerous, and you installed TextMate.app without sudo anyway.

Homebrew is designed to work without using sudo. You can decide to use it but we strongly recommend not to do so. If you have used sudo and run into a bug then it is likely to be the cause. Please don’t file a bug report unless you can reproduce it after reinstalling Homebrew from scratch without using sudo.

share|improve this answer
So, your advice would be to sudo chmod -R g+w /usr/local/? –  Meltemi Feb 29 '12 at 21:03
Yes, but you may want to ask for a second opinion using one of these: IRC (irc://irc.freenode.net/#machomebrew) ; Mailing List (homebrew@librelist.com) ; Twitter (twitter.com/machomebrew) –  iolsmit Feb 29 '12 at 22:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.