Install and configure Git on a fresh new macOS 11 Big Sur in 2021 — A complete guide

Tony Lai
5 min readMay 7, 2021


Last updated: May 2021.

Install Git on a fresh macOS 11 Big Sur

1. Install XCode 12 (optional)

Xcode is an IDE for macOS containing a suite of software development tools for developing software for macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. Even if you’re not a full time professional Apple developer, we still recommend to install it on your brand new laptop/iMac. Xcode has some long term benefits that you’ll need in the future.

Xcode 12 is around 11 GB and downloading it though Apple Store might need some times, depends on how fast your Internet connection is.

2. Install Xcode Command Line Tools (required)

$ xcode-select --install

Xcode CTL will bring Git to you systems, along with other tools to build and compile software packages such as: GCC, Make..

When it’s done, to test that it installed properly you can run:

$ git --version
git version 2.30.1 (Apple Git-130)

And $ which git should output /usr/bin/git.

Another way to install Git is to install Homebrew and then install Git though brew commands. Homebrew calls itself The missing package manager for macOS and is an essential tool for any developer. We highly recommend it.

After HomeBrew is installed with /bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL" you can run:

$ brew install git

When done, to test that it installed properly you can run:

$ git --version

And which git should output /usr/local/bin/git.

Notice that the Git version installed from brew is likely more update-to-date than the Git version in Xcode CTL. Homebrew always put it things on /usr/local/bin/ path which owned by a local user, in stead of the /usr/bin/ in Xcode CTL which owned by the macOS system.

Git setup at global level

1. Set global and

$ git config --global "Your Name" 
$ git config --global ""

The global Git configuration file is stored at $HOME/.gitconfig on all platforms, i.e: ~/.gitconfig. You shouldn’t need to manually tweak this file, unless you particularly want to. Use this command to open up Vim editor with that file loaded, if you’re keen:

$ git config --global --edit

2. Enable Git password caching

Let’s macOS save the Git credentials on its keychain, so that you won’t have to type Git passwords many times:

$ git config --global credential.helper osxkeychain

3. Only allow git pull in fast-forward mode

$ git config --global pull.ff only

It’s a good practice and if you’re wondering why, here is the reason:

4. macOS globally ignored files

On a Mac, it is important to remember to add .DS_Store (a hidden macOS system file that’s put in folders) to your ~/.gitignore files. If you want to never include .DS_Store files in your Git repositories, you can configure your Git to globally exclude those files:

# specify a global exclusion list:
$ git config --global core.excludesfile ~/.gitignore
# adding .DS_Store to that list:
$ echo .DS_Store >> ~/.gitignore

If you would like to use some ready-to-use file, consider Github’s default .gitignore for macOS environment:

$ curl -o ~/.gitignore

5. Force Git to use https:// instead of git://, or vice versa

Some package manager, such as NPM has package.json file fixed with SSH protocol and you might behind a corporate firewall that does not allow SSH..

"dependencies": {
"package_name": "git+ssh://",

The only option is to force Git to change its protocol to HTTPS for you to be able to install the package — notice the semicolon in must be included

$ git config --global url."".insteadOf
$ git config --global url."https://".insteadOf git://

If you want to switch it back:

$ git config --global url."".insteadOf
$ git config --global url."git://".insteadOf https://

6. Global Git config file — final result

Final ~/.gitconfig will be something similar to this:

name = Your Name
email =
ff = only
excludesfile = /Users/user1/.gitignore
helper = osxkeychain
[url ""]
insteadOf =
[url "https://"]
insteadOf = git://

Starting to work with remote repositories

There are 2 ways to communicate with a GitHub/GitLab/BitBucket server:

  • SSH:

Pros: you don’t need to supply your username and password each time pull/push your code. And you can use multiple GitHub/GitLab/BitBucket accounts, each account just need a SSH key pairs.

Cons: required additional steps to generate SSH key pairs and SSH config file.

  • HTTPS:

Pros: need to supply your username and password each time, unless you use a credential helper so Git will remember your credentials every time it talks to GitHub or GitLab. It’s a simple and fast way to clone a new repo without any additional setups.

Cons: could not easily use multiple Git accounts on the same computer, or switching between them.

1. Cloning a repo using HTTPS

This is the quickest way to download from another private repository without additional setup:

$ git clone

Updating remote URL for repositories that already cloned to HTTPS:

$ git remote set-url origin

To ensure that the commits appear as performed by USERNAME, one can setup the and locally for this project:

$ git config USERNAME
$ git config

To view the local Git config file content, use git config --local --edit

2. Cloning a repo using SSH

GitLab already documented it well here:

Basically, you need to generate SSH key pairs so that Git can use them to securely communicate with GitHub/GitLab/BitBucket server using SSH protocol under the hood. So do you need multiple Git accounts? just create multiple SSH key pairs.. simple enough!

Just remember to generate SSH keys using ED25519:

$ ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -C ""

The book Practical Cryptography With Go suggests that ED25519 keys are more secure and performant than RSA keys.

OpenSSH 6.5 introduced ED25519 SSH keys in 2014 and they should be available on most operating systems.

# ensure ssh agent is running:
$ eval $(ssh-agent -s)
# add the private key to ssh agent:
$ ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_ed25519

Edit SSH settings in the ~/.ssh/config file:

# default Git user:
User git
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_ed25519

Head over to or GitLab’s relevant to add your new public key and you’re now ready to clone a repo:

$ git clone<username>/<repo-name>.git

Setup multiple Git accounts on the same computer

As above said, you can only achieve this while using SSH protocol when connect with your remote repos.

The sample ~/.ssh/config file for multiple Git accounts will be similar to below, with key pairs generated by previous steps for user1 and user2:

# default setting for SSH:
Host *
AddKeysToAgent yes
UseKeyChain yes
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa
ForwardAgent yes
# Git user1 account
User git
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_ed25519_user1
IdentitiesOnly yes

# Git user2 account
User git
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_ed25519_user2
IdentitiesOnly yes

git clone your respective user’s repository:

$ git clone

In summary

# edit and list global Git config:
git config --global --edit
git config --global --list
# edit and list local Git config
git config --local --edit
git config --local --list