I'm wondering if it is possible (and if so, how) to install Homebrew package manager to /usr directory rather than /usr/local directory. I have macOS High Sierra.

  • 1
    This is not a good idea. Why? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 31 '20 at 0:14
  • why not? i'm just wondering if it is possible. and so it is more like apt, so i don't notice it. – Lennon McLean Mar 31 '20 at 0:15
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    Homebrew is designed to go in /usr/local, which is the correct place for third-party software. If you upgrade your OS, Apple's security will prohibit (and remove) files in /usr. Going against expected assumptions about file locations will usually cause unforeseen problems. It may be technically possible, but unless you have a strong need for doing this (as distinct from a 'want'), I would advise against it. – benwiggy Mar 31 '20 at 10:18
  • @benwiggy I guess you're right. – Lennon McLean Mar 31 '20 at 11:05
  • +1 even though my gut check is this is a very bad idea. Let’s see what people think. Is there a benefit you expect to follow by avoiding /usr/local And overloading the parent directory? – bmike Oct 18 '20 at 0:56

One way is to modify the install.sh script in homebrew git source and change HOMEBREW_PREFIX to point to whereever you want homebrew to install.

In my case, I've decided to use /usr/local2, because of some restrictions on /usr/local in OSX Catalina, so modify install.sh with HOMEBREW_PREFIX=/usr/local2 and HOMEBREW_REPOSITORY=/usr/local2/Homebrew before running ./install.sh.

Two problems you have to watch:

  1. Some packages insist on installing in /usr/local unless you manually hunt down and modify the source (not trivial)
  2. Installing in a directory that already has similar/equal files can overwrite them and render your system unstable. Especially /usr, where a lot of system commands exist there, which you never want to replace at all.

This is a bad idea if your goal is to be productive and use the tools. But you can learn a ton by disabling SIP on a machine you don’t need and seeing what breaks when you modify the tool. If your goal is to learn, go for it. Here is why it’s “bad” and some very good resources on the history of where to add customizations on unix.

Apple protects /usr via system integrity protection and the closest place to / that’s encouraged to write files is /usr/local

Package managers (and the people that write and spend a lot of time using them) can be as passionate (and sometimes prickly) in terms of preference as those debating text editors like [ed|sed|vi|emacs] as well as newer programming editors with more graphical basis.

This answer particularly has some good thinking and clear discussion as well as the above questions. There would have to be a very compelling basis to diverge from the standard for homebrew even if you didn’t but heads with Apple on SIP in the process (which is what happens in /usr).

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