Mac OS X limits number of processes to 266 and open files to 256. Sometimes this is problem; 256 open files and 266 processes aren't that much.

How it's possible to change default ulimit values in Mac OS X 10.6.7?

(Hopefully there's no difference between 10.6.7 and other Snow Leopard releases.)

Related question in serverfault. Unfortunately, answer is for Mac OS X 10.5, and it's not working in 10.6.

  • For a quick change: ulimit -n 1024. But it doesn't change the default.
    – Cœur
    Sep 23, 2016 at 7:20

4 Answers 4


launchctl has control over that now.

You can do a

launchctl limit maxfiles 2048 2048 

to set the soft and hard limits for maximum files open. For more information see the 'limit' section of:


  • 1
    This still works in OS X 10.9
    – Olli
    Feb 16, 2014 at 12:03
  • I'm running 10.9.4 and when I launchctl limit maxfiles 2048 2048 and mongo I'm still getting the soft rlimits too low error. Anything else I can try?
    – Ryan
    Jul 1, 2014 at 15:04
  • after changing the limit with sudo launchctl etc., then close/open the terminal and set the ulimit -n 2048. this time it should work. check it with ulimit -n
    – chrismarx
    Feb 6, 2015 at 3:47
  • 7
    After doing 'launchctl limit maxfiles 2048 2048' I got 'too many open files' on my Mac when I tried to do anything in the shell, and Cocoa apps showed empty menus. System was pretty much toasted. A reboot thankfully fixed it. Oct 31, 2015 at 22:06
  • 6
    Do not run this command on macOS Sierra. The correct command would be launchctl limit maxfiles 2048 unlimited though I would suggest viewing your current settings with launchctl limit maxfiles before doing so, else you'll completely lock up your computer.
    – snowe2010
    May 8, 2018 at 15:55

There's an answer on StackOverflow for this one. Apparently ulimit does it now.

  • 1
    You can change values with ulimit, but it's not saving those. Linked post do not include any way to save defaults.
    – Olli
    Apr 6, 2011 at 7:22
  • 3
    A quick fix: Edit your ~/.bash_profile and add this on a line: ulimit -n 1024 (using whatever number you like, of course)
    – PapaFreud
    Jun 12, 2013 at 7:50
  • 2
    @PapaFreud That's only executed when you open the terminal/bash. Not all programs are executed from terminal.
    – Olli
    Jan 30, 2014 at 14:34

As @snowe2010 said in a comment, the correct command for Sierra+ would be:

launchctl limit maxfiles 2048 unlimited



.bash_profile update didn't help me for OS v10.10.3, but reinstallation NodeJS from 0.10.35 to 0.12.3 helped me, and error disappear.

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