If I buy a Mac from a non-English speaking country can I choose if I get the English version or a localized version of OS X?

For example, say I buy a Mac from Germany. I'd like OS X to be in English. When I boot the machine up for the 1st time, is the language one of the things I can set during the initial configuration? If not, and I have the installation media, can I re-install and choose English?


Mac OS X has support for multiple languages. You can choose to not install some of them, but many common languages are installed by default. I bought all my three Macs in Germany and use them in English.

The default language chosen during installation (or probably German for a German machine) determines the login window language and probably the default language for new user accounts. Apple describes how to change it here.

To change your preferred language, go to System Preferences » Language & Text » Language. You can select multiple languages, in case a third party software is not available in your preferred language.

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Changing the language here affects only applications started after you changed the preference. You can use this setting as a workaround when you want to run a particular program in a different language, since Finder's capability to do this was removed in 10.6. You can use the Terminal (or possibly AppleScript, Automator, etc.) to do this as @mankoff describes in this topic.

One thing to remember is that e.g. the Date Modified column in Finder uses your Formats preferences (same preference pane). This is why you might have German month names on an otherwise English system:

enter image description here

  • When ordering directly from Apple, you can select to either have the German or English Mac OS X installed by default IIRC. This way, you can save yourself the steps described above.
    – Daniel Beck
    Jan 24 '11 at 14:13
  • 1
    The key takeaway is that there is no "German" or "English" Mac OS X. There is just plain Mac OS X running using language packs that are provided for free by Apple and are included with every Mac OS X install DVD. Whether you're running it in one language or another is just a preference supported by some resource files, not something intrinsic to the version of the OS you installed. Jan 24 '11 at 17:34
  • @Jeremy It's even more than that. In a way, the other answers are slightly wrong. The system language is what's used for the login screen, and that can be changed. Many more languages are supported for a user's personal language preference, and different users can select different languages -- none of which is bound to the system language.
    – Daniel Beck
    Jan 25 '11 at 11:10

Mac OS X is multilingual. You can choose at set up, but you can also change at any time you want.

  • @Diago: I undeleted my answer. I do not quite understand why you deleted it in the first place. I can accept it being deleted if you give me a good reason... but otherwise it just seems like moderator tyranny to me.
    – Nicojo
    Jan 25 '11 at 1:06
  • @nicojo. Love moderator tyranny, however, your question failed the review process and was flagged as a low quality answer. Super User expects high quality answers, and answers that don't meet that requirement are flagged for review. Please compare your answer to @Daniel's answer and it should be self explanatory. Jan 25 '11 at 6:41
  • Also please read my answer here to a similiar question to learn more about how the system works. Jan 25 '11 at 8:24
  • @Diago: Thanks for the explanation :) I hope you understand that I could be puzzled, considering Mark's answer which is not much more detailed than mine but was not deleted.
    – Nicojo
    Jan 26 '11 at 9:33
  • Considering Mark's reputation, the algorithm is not applied to his posts. The community did flag his, and it is not acceptable, however he is given grace due to his other answers. The algorithm, is in place for new users, and to guide new users into how to use the site correctly going forward. It is a fairly new system, and it will start having an effect on users like Mark in the future however. Jan 26 '11 at 9:48

Yes, when you set up your Mac initially you get to choose the language for the system. You can also change the UI language via System Preferences.

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