Or rather, was it safe? I mean... I probably should have asked before actually doing so... :-P

My understanding was that on FreeBSD systems, system stuff goes in /usr, while userland stuff goes into /usr/local.

The Mac still boots just fine and seems happy, but I'm getting excruciating difficulties reinstalling things using homebrew in the aftermath... hence my wondering... Was it actually safe, or am I heading for a complete OSX reinstall?


It's completely safe. The /usr/local directory does not even exist on a clean Mac OSX install.

  • Thanks for confirming! The Mac was so old I no longer was sure... May 9 '13 at 17:06
  • Keep in mind that some database installs via package managers (such as Homebrew) will store the data in /usr/local/var. So be careful. I suggest moving the directory to another location and/or back it up.
    – dissolved
    May 9 '14 at 4:25

If you have installed TrueCrypt, it might stop working if you remove files for MacFUSE in /usr/local/. See https://github.com/mxcl/homebrew/issues/14430.

easy_install, pip, and many installers also use /usr/local/. This lists non-Homebrew stuff in /usr/local/bin/:

find /usr/local/bin ! -lname '../Cellar/*' -ls


How do I uninstall Homebrew?

If you installed to /usr/local then you can use the script in this gist to uninstall — it will only remove Homebrew and the stuff Homebrew installed leaving anything else in /usr/local alone.

Provided you haven’t put anything else in Homebrew’s prefix (brew --prefix), you can generally just rm -rf that directory. This is because Homebrew won’t touch files outside its prefix.


In OS X, /usr/local isn't used for anything by default.

You can safely remove it if you know what's in there and do not depend on anything, e.g. Homebrew, which is probably the most popular use for /usr/local in OS X. Tex Live uses /usr/local as well IIRC.

If you have troubles reinstalling Homebrew, make sure you uninstall it completely with the help of this Gist (pick the commands individually though if you've already forcefully removed stuff), and that you properly sudo chown -R $(whoami):admin /usr/local.

  • Thanks! I'll likely open a separate question for the homebrew-related errors. :-) May 9 '13 at 17:05

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