How to install X11 in OS X

NOTE: As of OS X 10.5 (Leopard) X11 is installed by default. Unless you went out of your way not to install it during the Leopard installation, you’ll find it in /usr/X11

In preparation for a series of tutorials on The Gimp, this tutorial will guide you in installing X11, a required system for the Gimp to run in OS X.

This tutorial is for OS X 10.4 (Tiger). If you’re a 10.3 (Panther) user, visit this page to download X11 if it’s not on your OS X install CD.

  1. Insert your OS X Tiger Install Disc (#1). Scroll down to locate the Optional Installs icon (it’s embarrassing how long it took me to figure that out) and double-click it
  2. installing X11 in OSX
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  3. Click Continue on the first screen
  4. installing X11 in OSX
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  5. Read the Software License Agreement and then click Continue
  6. installing X11 in OSX
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  7. Click Agree
  8. installing X11 in OSX

  9. Select a location and (you guessed it) click Continue
  10. installing X11 in OSX
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  11. Click the small triangle directly next to Applications and then place a check in the box labeled X11. When you’re ready, click Upgrade.
  12. installing X11 in OSX
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  13. Enter your password when prompted, and then click OK
  14. installing X11 in OSX

  15. The installation won’t take too long
  16. installing X11 in OSX
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  17. After X11 has successfully installed, click Close
  18. installing X11 in OSX
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  19. X11 can now be found in Applications > Utilities > X11
  20. installing X11 in OSX
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  • jenn

    *thank you* for posting these directions in detail! i’ve been pulling my hair out trying to find how to install x11 for an entire day. and they are exceptionally clear. *thanks!!!*

  • andy k.

    Yo, big ups and mad respect! I can’t believe Apple doesn’t make this easier to figure out. The “scroll down” hint was key.

    thanks a million

  • nadir

    great…..thanks for the hint…I lost few hours looking for the x11.amazing how is hidden…just a scrool down.

  • Aashna

    Thanks for the info!!

    It’s so not cool that Steve Job could be so sneaky………

  • James

    Thank you so much for the scroll down hint. I can’t believe that it is so hard to figure that out.

  • The link to a X11 download from the apple website is outdated. However, it can be found at

  • Crow

    Thank you. Don’t know how I managed, but I also overlooked the “scroll down”

    Much obliged!

  • THANKS at ton! I’ve been wracking my brain to find x11 on my system!

  • Excellent! I am embarrassed to say that I did not notice that the window had other items that had to be scrolled to when I first saw it today as well. I knew that I did not want to go through the regular install, because it included all of the base OS X files. Thanks for posting these instructions!

  • Abdi

    Thanks a lot, i was really struggling with this. I have to say your instructions were an absolute life saver. Thanks again.

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  • Kiana


    Thanks for the easy and straight forward (and humble) instructions. Believe it or not I also had problems finding the “Optional Installs” icon!!! They hide it well . :)

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  • bermarte

    Thank you, max.respect for people like you.

  • Eric S

    Thanks, this was really helpful.

  • angelina

    I have X11 installed, on Mac OS 10.4.9.

    I have been trying to use GIMP and Gimpshop, with no success, I tried also to find links and sites for it but it gets hard for me to find. X11 launches all right, but Gimp doesn’t -or rather, it does, but I have no Menus (File etc).

    When Gimp is running, the only menus at the top of my screen are for X11. I cannot process any images that way.

    What is at fault? X11 or Gimp?


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  • james waters

    looking forward to useing this site

  • Miguel Lazu

    Thank You!!!!!!!!

  • scoop

    “Scroll down” !!! *smacks head*


  • Install is much the same in Leopard as 10.4. X is part of the optional installs on the DVD as is Xcode.


  • @fred gannett:

    Actually X11 is installed by default in Leopard. You have to go out of your way NOT to install it. Unless you’re referring to a developer built (I’ve only used the actual final/released version that came out a couple days ago).

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  • Reif

    OK, so I have aMacBook Pro, with no Tiger Install disk.

    How do I find the X11 installer?

  • Reif,

    To the best of my knowledge, you can’t. Apple doesn’t offer X11 for Tiger as a download (or, they didn’t as of 3-4 months ago). You need the Tiger disc.

  • Octah

    Really good help, that is.
    Wasn’t sure where to click to get to that Installation screen, so glad you showed it in detail, thanks!


  • dee dee

    ok soo i had tiger on my mac but got leopard
    i dont have the disc with me… but it says that i can’t
    install X11 cuz i have a new version.. wut do i do??

  • koop

    I have OS 10.04.11. When I go to install X11, it tells me “You cannot install on this volume. Newer software already exists on your computer.” So…. what do I do now?

  • Karin

    Everything runs smoothly for me until I reach point 6.

    I don’t get the ‘upgrade’ option. Instead, I get ‘install’ and when I type in my password, it tells me installation failed. No further comments, specifications or whatever. So I don’t know why it failed or what failed…

  • Trevor

    For Tiger 10.4.xx
    Do a search (Apple+F) for x11 or even better use Spotlight, you should find a file called X11.PKG (name may be longer but with x11 in it and ending in .pkg). Double click it should run the installer to install x11.

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  • Frederic

    Hi, i have mac osx 10.4.11 and when i try to install X11 it says that i have newer drivers installed already and refuse to install it. I also doesn’t have any cd’s with this mac. Anything i can do?

    Thanks alot.

  • Ryan

    I have the same problem as Frederic… any thoughts?
    It’s not showing up in spotlight or find.

  • Abby

    Amazingly simple when you know where to go and what to do! Can’t thank you enough for these straightforward directions. I’ve been at this for 3 hours on my own. So glad I found you! Thanks again!!!

  • Ed

    I too had this problem with scrolling down, I thought I had a different DVD – with thanks – Ed

  • i got x11 installed on tiger in a weirdly roundabout way, the online installer doesn’t work, but if you go to file>show files, it gives you a list of various files that should get installed and where they should be on the hd after installation… if you ctrl click the installer file and go to ‘show package contents’, then have a look around in there, you should find a file called archive.gx (or something like that)… anyways, expand that and in there there should be all the files listed in the installer. now, copy x11 into your utilities folder, and by using go>go to folder and copying the necessary files into /private and /usr respectively, within the appropriate nested folders, x11 should work just fine. basically yer doing the installer’s job for it and bypassing the silly fail message.

    somebody lemme know if this isn’t right, cause it seems to work perfectly well

  • ThuyNga Smith

    I never leave a post but I need to say “You are a blessing!!!” Thank you so much. It was so simple…thanks to you! I would have never figure this one out on my own….

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  • Diego O.


  • nicole

    mine one says that i cant that it cant get installed cuz of the newer version already exists . what does that mean ?

  • Tim

    For all the people having the ‘newer software problem’, I also had that problem when downloading form the site, but when I tryed the disk it worked. Turns out the file from is outdated, and that is why your mac says that newer software is on the system. Hope I helped, just dig out the old install disk, and scroll down!

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  • zamuz

    Ross, your instructions were a lifesaver! Thank you so much!

  • Matthew

    Thank you very much, but may I ask more of someone please.
    I have installed X11
    I have tried to lauch Gimp
    It launches with what I believe is called a terminal window ??
    I click on Gimp to start that after X11 opens
    Every time I click the Gimp icon in the dock, the computer immediately puts X11 back “on top”
    Please help me to help my girl who knows even less about technical things than me :)


  • Matthew –

    Which version of OS X are you using?

  • Matthew Standley

    Ross McKillop – the machine has osx10.4.1 and is a 2007 normal mac book, thank you

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