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I have MacPorts installed on my iMac with a fair number of ports installed.

I'm interested in trying out Homebrew, though, as I've heard many good things about it, and because I've noticed that it contains more up-to-date versions of several of the tools that I use.

But can the two coexist on the same machine, or do I need to uninstall MacPorts entirely first?

Also, if the two can be installed at the same time, will they be completely independent of each other? One of the features of Homebrew is that is doesn't reinstall new versions of things which are already included in the system (e.g. python). Does this also extend to it not installing versions of things which are already maintained by MacPorts?

What happens if I then subsequently uninstall MacPorts?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

They will not coexist well together. The Apple gcc looks in /usr/local for some things. This means that a macports compile could find something the porter did not expect. See macports mail lists and bugs for examples of things found in /usr/local.

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I've only had a very cursory look at homebrew, but if you changed the default install location for homebrew from /usr/local to something like /opt/homebrew/usr/local, would that problem be avoided? –  Babu Sep 12 '10 at 20:27
@Babu - According to brew, you should proceed with caution –  Peter Ajtai Sep 19 '12 at 18:21
@babu - possibly but there will be issues with which of homebrew or macports is forst pn the path and the other picking up those executables also I suspect the ports of either system aren't fully tested using another path –  Mark Sep 19 '12 at 20:51

I gave another answer on a similar question:

Homebrew will cause problems when building software from source if it is installed in /usr/local. This is the default, which is a bad choice as this path is in the default search path of compilers and other tools. Therefore builds from other packaging software might pick up the wrong dependency, using Homebrew's version instead of their own.

Years ago, in the very beginning of the project, even MacPorts was using /usr/local. But it turned out not to cooperate with other tools as is documented in their FAQ. Unfortunately Homebrew developers didn't want to hear about prior experiences and ignored such facts...

In general, it is usually better to stick to one tool only to avoid all problems. MacPorts is doing their best to patch out any harcoded paths, e.g. to /sw which is used by Fink. So usually it will work, but having anything installed in /usr/local will definitely cause problems for it.


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Looks like it is also possible to install homebrew in ~/.homebrew. Would it still interfere with MacPorts if it is installed there instead? –  Behrang Mar 24 '12 at 3:14
Any other location than /usr/local should be okay. –  Raim Mar 25 '12 at 11:21
Will MacPort and Homebrew coexists well if one would install Homebrew to /opt/local, where MacPort is installed? –  Adam L. S. Dec 13 '13 at 0:52
You should not install other software manually into /opt/local when MacPorts is already installed there. It will definitely interfere as you place files there that are unknown to MacPorts, leading to conflicts when installing ports. –  Raim Dec 14 '13 at 15:34

Worries about what the Gnu build tools will make of /usr/local are verging on paranoid. The build tools expect there to be lots of things there: in the good old days before package managers, we compiled whatever to /usr/local.

The risk of trouble with Autoconf finding something it shouldn't under /usr/local needs to be balanced about the maintenance nuisance having two, three, or four different different copies of Perl, Tcl, and Ruby, each with different coverage of their different package libraries.

Since my experience with MacPorts and Fink has typically been exasperation caused by exactly this, and at some point switching to compiling the old-fashioned way to /usr/local, I was pleased to see that Homebrew didn't mess about with that. I tried configuring MacPorts to install to /usr/local, but MacPorts goes out of its way to make that difficult. I understand that the motivation is to make life easier for themselves when dealing with cries for help on their mailing list and bug tracker. I wonder how long Homebrew will last.

So I'll say, yes, it's safe, provided you are willing to bear some risk, and are willing to figure out things a bit yourself if things go wrong. Homebrew, in this respect at least, does things the way they are supposed to be done, and MacPorts tries not to interfere.

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Well, my question is asked from the perspective of a dumb user that is just using the package manager to "get stuff". It's not at all certain that I would be able "to figure out things a bit [my]self if things go wrong." Still, upvote anyway for the extra clarification. Thanks! –  Rich Nov 26 '10 at 13:52
MacPorts as good reasons not to use /usr/local, see trac.macports.org/wiki/FAQ#defaultprefix –  Raim Feb 18 '11 at 20:07
@Raim: Good reasons for them - it is pretty much a trade off between their bug-tracking convenience and the simplicity of the install on the user's machine. I care about the latter. –  Charles Stewart Feb 18 '11 at 21:12

While installing homebrew on a computer where I've been using ports for years, here is what I can read:

Warning: You have MacPorts or Fink installed:

This can cause trouble. You don't have to uninstall them, but you may want to
temporarily move them out of the way, e.g.

  sudo mv /opt/local ~/macports

Be careful!

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According to the MacPorts FAQ:

Note that starting with 2.3.0, MacPorts can automatically hide /usr/local (and all other files a port does not depend on) from ports' build systems. This feature is called trace mode and is activated by providing the -t flag to port, e.g.

sudo port -t install <portname>

This is relevant because according to the Homebrew Installation Page:

One of the reasons Homebrew just works relative to the competition is because we recommend installing to /usr/local. Pick another prefix at your peril!

Therefore, and with little personal experience, I theorize that always using the -t flag for MacPort installs should prevent most problems of having MacPorts and Homebrew coexist on the same system. To address your last question: I don't see any reason why uninstalling MacPorts would cause any problems.

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