Manually Build & Install Git

Published on June 14, 2012

This outline for building and installing Git has been tested against Mac OS X 10.7.x (and some more recent versions of OS X with minor tweaks). 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, you have Git!

Xcode includes the Git binary at the application level so it’s available to itself (located at /Applications/ Additionally, Xcode 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).

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:

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.

Use Git to download Git

Note: I prefer to do this in a permanent location as you can easily do a git pull and switch to the latest tag in the repository, at a future date, and run through the build steps again to install a newer version of the binary.

$ 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

Download the Git files

$ curl -O # download the latest stable from [Google code](
$ 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.

$ 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

Installing git-credential-osxkeychain for OS X keychain integration

If the osxkeychain helper isn’t installed and you’re running OS X version 10.9 or above, running git credential-osxkeychain will prompt you to download it as a part of the Xcode Command Line Tools.

Alternatively, if running that command displays git: 'credential-osxkeychain' is not a git command. See 'git --help' you may need to install it manually:

$ curl -s -O
$ chmod u+x git-credential-osxkeychain
$ sudo mv git-credential-osxkeychain "$(dirname $(which git))/"
$ git config --global credential.helper osxkeychain


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.