Chapter 4 Installing R under macOS

(‘macOS’ was known as ‘OS X’ from 2012–2016 and as ‘Mac OS X’ before that.)

The front page of a CRAN site has a link ‘Download R for OS X’. Click on that, then download the file R-3.4.2.pkg and install it. This runs on macOS 10.11 and later (El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, …).

Installers for R-patched and R-devel are usually available from (Some of these packages are unsigned: to install those Control/right/two-finger click, select ‘Open with’ and ‘Installer’.)

For some older versions of the OS you can in principle (it is little tested) install R from the sources (see macOS).

It is important that if you use a binary installer package that your OS is fully updated: look at ‘Updates’ from the ‘App Store’ to be sure. (If using XQuartz, check that is current.)

To install, just double-click on the icon of the file you downloaded. At the ‘Installation Type’ stage, note the option to ‘Customize’. This currently shows four components: everyone will need the ‘R Framework’ component: the remaining components are optional. (The ‘Tcl/Tk’ component is needed to use package tcltk. The ‘Texinfo’ component is only needed by those installing source packages or R from its sources.)

This is an Apple Installer package. If you encounter any problem during the installation, please check the Installer log by clicking on the “Window” menu and item “Installer Log”. The full output (select “Show All Log”) is useful for tracking down problems. Note the the installer is clever enough to try to upgrade the last-installed version of the application where you installed it (which may not be where you want this time …).

Various parts of the build require XQuartz to be installed: see These include the tcltk package and the X11 device: attempting to use these without XQuartz will remind you. Also the cairographics-based devices (which are not often used on macOS) such as png(type = “cairo”).

If you update your macOS version, you should re-install R (and perhaps XQuartz): the installer may tailor the installation to the current version of the OS.

When running under High Sierra (10.13), R may not be able to deduce the system timezone, in which case you will need to set the environment variable TZ: see ?Sys.timezone.

For building R from source, see macOS.

4.1 Running R under macOS

There are two ways to run R on macOS from a CRAN binary distribution.

There is a GUI console normally installed with the R icon in /Applications which you can run by double-clicking (e.g. from Launchpad or Finder). (If you cannot find it there it was possibly installed elsewhere so try searching for it in Spotlight.) This is usually referred to as R.APP to distinguish it from command-line R: its user manual is currently part of the macOS FAQ at and can be viewed from R.APP’s ‘Help’ menu.

You can run command-line R and Rscript from a Terminal17 so these can be typed as commands like any other Unix-alike: see the next chapter of this manual. There are some small differences which may surprise users of R on other platforms, notably the default location of the personal library directory (under ~/Library/R, e.g. ~/Library/R/3.4/library), and that warnings, messages and other output to stderr are highlighted in bold.

It has been reported that running R.APP may fail if no preferences are stored, so if it fails when launched for the very first time, try it again (the first attempt will store some preferences).

Users of R.APP need to be aware of the ‘App Nap’ feature ( which can cause R tasks to appear to run very slowly when not producing output in the console. Here are ways to avoid it:

Using the X11 device or the X11-based versions of View() and edit() for data frames and matrices (the latter are the default for command-line R but not R.APP) requires an X sub-system to be installed: see macOS. So do the tcltk package and some third-party packages.

4.2 Uninstalling under macOS

R for macOS consists of two parts: the GUI (R.APP) and the R framework. The un-installation is as simple as removing those folders (e.g. by dragging them onto the Trash). The typical installation will install the GUI into the /Applications/ folder and the R framework into the /Library/Frameworks/R.framework folder. The links to R and Rscript in /usr/local/bin should also be removed.

If you want to get rid of R more completely using a Terminal, simply run:

sudo rm -rf /Library/Frameworks/R.framework /Applications/ \
   /usr/local/bin/R /usr/local/bin/Rscript

The installation consists of up to four Apple packages:18 org.r-project.R.el-capitan.fw.pkg, org.r-project.R.el-capitan.GUI.pkg, org.r-project.x86_64.tcltk.x11 and org.r-project.x86_64.texinfo. You can use pkgutil –forget if you want the Apple Installer to forget about the package without deleting its files (useful for the R framework when installing multiple R versions in parallel), or after you have deleted the files.

Uninstalling the Tcl/Tk or Texinfo components (which are installed under /usr/local) is not as simple. You can list the files they installed in a Terminal by

pkgutil --files org.r-project.x86_64.tcltk.x11
pkgutil --files org.r-project.x86_64.texinfo

These are paths relative to /, the root of the file system.

4.3 Multiple versions

The installer will remove any previous version19 of the R framework which it finds installed. This can be avoided by using pkgutil –forget (see the previous section). However, note that different versions are installed under /Library/Frameworks/R.framework/Versions as 3.3, 3.4 and so on, so it is not possible to have different ‘3.x.y’ versions installed for the same ‘x’.

A version of R can be run directly from the command-line as e.g.


However, R.APP will always run the ‘current’ version, that is the last installed version. A small utility, (available at, can be used to change the ‘current’ version. This is of limited use as R.APP is compiled against a particular version of R and will likely crash if switched to an earlier version. This may allow you to install a development version of R (de-selecting R.APP) and then switch back to the release version.