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Installing GNU Radio on MacOS X / macOS

GNU Radio has been compiled and installed on OSX 10.4 ("Tiger") through 10.15 ("Catalina") running any compatible version of Xcode on all recent and many older Macs -- whether Intel or PowerPC/PPC. There is very little support for getting the background libraries and applications installed on OSX 10.5 or earlier, nor 32-bit Intel or any PPC, though all of these should be possible. Primary support is for 64-bit Intel-based Macs running OSX 10.6 or newer.

Prerequisite:, recommended via XQuartz

Running almost any GNU Radio graphical interface (GUI) will require downloading and installing X11/XQuartz first. Through OSX 10.8, Apple provided a means to install, but XQuartz has always been more up to date and hence is recommended for use. Starting in OSX 10.9, Apple no longer provided a full working version of Hence, just use XQuartz from the get-go. Note that unless you experiment with using the Quartz interface to various graphical toolkits (e.g., GTK), you must use as the terminal interface for GNU Radio GUI applications including GRC, the GNU Radio Companion.

A note about DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH and other DYLD environment variables

On OSX, the library search path is set primarily by the environment variable DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH (and the few other DYLD_* variables). Because of the way the OSX dynamic library loader works, this variable works differently than the LD_LIBRARY_PATH on Linux. Its primary purpose is in finding libraries in a local path, such as when testing software before installing it (we use it in make test in GR), or inside an application. We strongly recommend against setting this variable globally as is typically done with Linux and LD_LIBRARY_PATH. Setting any DYLD_* environment variable for general use is highly discouraged, because doing so, in our experience, leads to problems down the road that are very difficult to diagnose. OSX provides robust means for correcting DYLD-based issues even after dependencies are installed.

Via MacPorts (recommended)

If you do not already have MacPorts installed, you will need to install it first. Make sure to follow the MacPorts shell environment changes needed such that MacPorts installed executables are found before all others. These are the only changes to the shell environment needed to execute any MacPorts-installed executable!

Once MacPorts is installed, GNU Radio and all of its dependencies can be installed by executing

sudo port install gnuradio

This method of installing GNU Radio is actively kept up to date by Michael Dickens, and hence is the recommended way to install GNU Radio on Mac OS X.

The latest developments in GNU Radio can be installed via

sudo port install gnuradio-devel

Please note that the gnuradio-devel port, while tested for basic compilation and functionality, is not a formal release and hence should be considered beta software which might contain bugs or major issues.

Other Package Managers

Homebrew formula to install gnuradio:

brew install gnuradio

Finkmight provide a simple way to install GNU Radio; it isuntested (as of early 2020). Conda through conda-forge is another alternative for installing pre-built binaries; see the conda install guide.

From Source

Background Dependencies

There are a number of background libraries and applications that must be installed from source or binary in order to compile or execute GNU Radio. These can be obtained by using MacPorts, Fink, HomeBrew, and/or from source / scratch. MacPorts tends to be more up-to-date with respect to new releases, which can be both a blessing and a curse since sometimes new released are untested and result in build or runtime errors. MacPorts, HomeBrew, and Fink offer thousands of ready-to-install libraries and applications, and hence they are highly recommended to use instead of installing from source / scratch.

NOTE: We highly recommended that you install all dependencies via the same package manager! When issues arise, they are much easier to track down, and your updating to newer versions is also much easier.

Many GNU Radio developers first install GNU Radio using MacPorts in order to get all of the necessary background dependencies installed, then remove just GNU Radio via

sudo port uninstall gnuradio

Compiling GNU Radio using Kate Temkins build script

Kate Temkin's GitHub repository gnuradio-for-mac-without-macports provides a build script that automate the entire process of building and installing GNUradio, it's dependencies, and a number of SDR hardware backends.

Compiling GNU Radio from Source

Installing GNU Radio from source follows the standard build guide, with changes to the cmake command such that it always finds the correct version of Python, uses the desired compiler, and finds Sphinx to build documentation.

For example, using Xcode 5 or later's Apple GCC (llvm flavor), MacPorts installed into /opt/local (the default), and for Python 2.7 (as installed by MacPorts), issue the following commands from within the GNU Radio source directory:

$ mkdir build
$ cd build
$ CC=/usr/bin/llvm-gcc CXX=/usr/bin/llvm-g++ cmake \
-DPYTHON_EXECUTABLE=/opt/local/bin/python2.7 \
-DPYTHON_INCLUDE_DIR=/opt/local/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/Headers \
-DPYTHON_LIBRARY=/opt/local/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/Python \
-DSPHINX_EXECUTABLE=/opt/local/bin/ \
-DGR_PYTHON_DIR=/opt/local/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/lib/python2.7/site-packages \
$ make

If make succeeds, then you can test the build for errors via

$ make test

To install the build, issue

$ sudo make install

Selecting another compiler is as simple as changing the CC and CXX pre-arguments to the cmake command. Note that all of the -DPYTHON* defines must point to the same install of Python, otherwise runtime errors are likely to occur. GR_PYTHON_DIR sets the location into which GNU Radio's Python and SWIG files are to be installed.

By default, the location where cmake built projects will be installed is /usr/local. To change this location, add -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/path/to/new/location to the cmake command line, substituting in the actual desired path for /path/to/new/location. For example, to install into /opt/local, use -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/opt/local. Although we do not generally recommend installing into the same location as some other package manager does, this technique can be useful for debugging purposes; just remember to sudo make uninstall before installing via the owning package manager.

A note about GR_PYTHON_DIR CMake setting and the PYTHONPATH environment variable

In the above cmake command, we use the flag GR_PYTHON_DIR to tell GNU Radio where to install its Python scripts and related SWIG libraries. The path noted in that command will work for the MacPorts installed python2.7 command. All of the rest of the installed files will be under the /usr/local prefix -- the default CMake setting for when -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX is not specified.

If you either do not set the GR_PYTHON_DIR flag, or use some other location, you might need to tell Python where to find the installed files. This is done by setting the environment variable PYTHONPATH to include this path. For example, if no GR_PYTHON_DIR or CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX flag is specified on the cmake command, then the default install directory will be /usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages, and you'll want to set the PYTHONPATH such as the folllwing

export PYTHONPATH=/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages:$PYTHONPATH

This setting might be in the file ~/.profile, ~/.bashrc, or ~/.bash_profile.

When using a package manager such as MacPorts, for most users it is recommended to use the version of GNU Radio provided by the package manager, which will not require changing the PYTHONPATH since that package manager will automatically install the GNU Radio Python files where its Python will find them.

Upgrading to a new version of OSX on the same computer

When you upgrade OSX, you'll generally need to reinstall GNU Radio (and, all of its dependencies). If you are using MacPorts, you can follow their migration guide to do the reinstallation. You can always just remove all of the old installed files and/or reinstall over them.

Typical Errors and Warnings

Library not found

If you are compiling an out of tree module from source, some of them do not set the INSTALL_NAME by default. Without a correct set INSTALL_NAME, the library's self-id will be incorrect and the SWIG library will fail to be able to find the module's primary library. The actual runtime error will look like

ImportError: dlopen(/opt/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/air_modes/, 2): Library not loaded: libair_modes.0.dylib
  Referenced from: /opt/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/air_modes/
  Reason: image not found

Running otool -L on the libraries returns just the dependent library name without path, e.g.,

$ otool -L  /opt/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/air_modes/
        /opt/local/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/Python (compatibility version 2.7.0, current version 2.7.0)
        libair_modes.0.dylib (compatibility version 0.0.0, current version 0.0.0)
$ otool -L /opt/local/lib/libair_modes.dylib 
        libair_modes.0.dylib (compatibility version 0.0.0, current version 0.0.0)

This issue has been fixed within GNU Radio and is in modtool, and has been propagated to many GR projects. The simple solution is to paste the following chunk of code into the module's top-level CMakeLists.txt file (just after GR_LIBRARY_DIR is defined):

# On Apple only, set install name and use rpath correctly, if not already set
            PATH "Library Install Name Destination Directory" FORCE)
            PATH "Library Install RPath" FORCE)
            BOOL "Do Build Using Library Install RPath" FORCE)

Another solution is to change the installed main and SWIG libraries to have the correct settings. In the case above for gr-air-modes, one could do the following to fix the issue:

$ sudo install_name_tool -change libair_modes.0.dylib /opt/local/lib/libair_modes.0.dylib  /opt/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/air_modes/
$ sudo install_name_tool -id /opt/local/lib/libair_modes.0.dylib  /opt/local/lib/libair_modes.0.dylib

Warnings: GTK

When executing a GNU Radio GUI, including gnuradio-companion, GTK will produce the following warnings on OSX 10.8; they can safely be ignored:

** (process:#####): WARNING **: Trying to register gtype 'GMountMountFlags' as enum when in fact it is of type 'GFlags'
** (process:#####): WARNING **: Trying to register gtype 'GDriveStartFlags' as enum when in fact it is of type 'GFlags'
** (process:#####): WARNING **: Trying to register gtype 'GSocketMsgFlags' as enum when in fact it is of type 'GFlags'

Error: Unusable DISPLAY

When executing a GNU Radio GUI, including gnuradio-companion, from a terminal window (e.g.,,, when not the primary user or when the DISPLAY environment variable is not correctly set, one typically sees the following, regardless of OSX version:

/opt/local/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/lib/python2.7/site-packages/gtk-2.0/gtk/ GtkWarning: could not open display warnings.warn(str(e), _gtk.Warning)
/opt/local/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/lib/python2.7/site-packages/gnuradio/grc/gui/ GtkWarning: gdk_keymap_get_for_display: assertion 'GDK_IS_DISPLAY (display)' failed

followed by a host of related failed assertions and errors.

If you are using, you'll need to switch to another terminal application such as XQuartz/ or .

If you are already using an application that correctly sets the DISPLAY environment variable, then you'll want to make sure you're logged in as the primary user (e.g., not as su to another user). If all else fails, try quitting and restarting the application. Try rebooting your computer. When all else fails, contact Michael.

Fatal error: 'unistd.h' file not found

If your install fails and you notice a line in the reported log file that says something like Fatal error: 'unistd.h' file not found, it's likely due to the path to the active developer tools not correctly setup. To fix, simply execute the following command:

xcode-select --install

A confirmation dialog box will pop-up and the tools will be installed. From here, re-kickstart the gnuradio installation and you should be good to go.