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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54 thoughts on “How to install X11 in OS X”

  1. *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!!!*

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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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  7. Hi

    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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  9. 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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  11. @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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  15. Hi,
    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!


  16. 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??

  17. 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?

  18. 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…

  19. 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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  22. 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.

  23. 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!!!

  24. 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

  25. 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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  27. 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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  30. 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 :)


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