List of macOS Terminal commands

This article lists out different macOS terminal commands you might encounter. You can use this list as a starting point in your search for a command to perform a specific task. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Basic terminal commands are not listed here. Some of them are listed in the following Terminal command articles.
Terminal Commands – Basic
Terminal Commands – Part 2
Terminal Commands – Part 3

Many of the commands have also been used in the article I wrote some time back. You can have a look at the scripts to see some of the commands being used.

To get more information about the commands simply run the following command from within Terminal Application. For example, to view the manual page for tmutil simply type:

man tmutil

For fdesetup

man fdesetup
Here is a nice command to quickly open the man page in the Preview App.
man -t tmutil | open -f -a /System/Applications/Preview.app

Note

  • This is not a complete list of commands
  • Some commands are available through the macOS Recovery Volume only
  • Some commands required other resources such as the OS installer
  • Some commands are available with certain versions of the OS only

Please read the documentation for more details. Use the commands with care. Improper use of commands may result in loss of data or damage to the computer.

Commands


Installation

CommandDescription
startosinstallUsed to start the installation of macOS from the command line.
createinstallmediaUsed to create an external install disk.

Security

CommandDescription
fdesetupManage FileVault configuration.
securityManage keychain and security settings
spctlManage security assessment policy
csrutilConfigure System Integrity Protection (SIP) settings
resetpasswordPassword reset utility located in the Recovery Partition

File System

CommandDescription
hdiutilUsed to manipulate and manage disk images.
diskutilUsed to modify, verify, & repair local disks.

Data Management

CommandDescription
tmutilUsed to configure Time Machine settings in macOS
screencaptureTakes screenshot of the specified screen and saves the image at the specified location.
mdlsUsed to get metadata attributes for a given file
mdutilUsed to manage metadata stores that are used by Spotlight

Settings

CommandDescription
defaultsUsed to modify plist files. Typically used to update preference files.
ioregUsed to view the I/O kit registry
system_profilerUsed to generate system hardware & software reports.
plutilUsed to check syntax of property lists or covert property lists from one format to another
AssetCacheManagerUtilUsed to configure content caching settings.
openUsed to open documents from within the command line.
networksetupPerform network configuration.
systemsetupUsed to configure machine settings in System Preferences.
launchctlUsed to manage and inspect daemons, agents, & XPC Services

Applications

CommandDescription
codesignUsed to create, check, display code signatures.
pkgbuildUsed to build installer packages
productbuildBuilds a product archive
installerSystem software and package installer tool

User Account Management

CommandDescription
dsclThis is a command line Directory service utility that allows us to create, read, and manage Directory Service data.
sysadminctlUser account management
passwdChange user password
loginUsed to login to another user account.

Server & Device Management

CommandDescription
profilesUsed to install, remove, list, or manage Configuration profiles.
serveradminUsed to manage the services in macOS
mdmclientLocated in /usr/libexec/mdmclient it is used to manage interactions with the MDM.
asrApple Software restore: Used to copy volumes.

Scripting

CommandDescription
osascriptUsed to execute the given AppleScript

Share any commands you may know of in the comments window.

Disclaimer

The information Is Provided “As Is”, Without Warranty Of Any Kind, Express Or Implied, Including But Not Limited To The Warranties Of Merchantability, Fitness For A Particular Purpose And Noninfringement. In No Event Shall The Authors Or Copyright Holders Be Liable For Any Claim, Damages Or Other Liability, Whether In An Action Of Contract, Tort Or Otherwise, Arising From, Out Of Or In Connection With The information provided Or The Use Or Other Dealings In The information.

Useful scripts for macOS

Getting Started

You might find these articles useful

One of the advantages with scripts is the fact that you can easily automate many tasks. Here is an article that walks you through that process.

If you come across a situation where you want to perform a set of tasks on multiple computers then scripts come in very handy.

I will be providing the Shell Script version of the task. Feel free to make changes to the scripts as required. I will try to provide an AppleScript version of the tasks a little later.

This is not the only way to implement the scripts. There may be multiple approaches towards achieving the same result. You will have to explore and examine the correct approach.

This is not a comprehensive list. The scripts should give you some ideas and act as a useful reference when you are creating your own scripts.

I have tested these scripts on macOS Catalina 10.15

Download

You can download all the scripts from here.

Script CategoryPage Number
Settings and Accounts1
Security2
Data3
Information Collection4
File System5

Disclaimer

The Software Is Provided “As Is”, Without Warranty Of Any Kind, Express Or Implied, Including But Not Limited To The Warranties Of Merchantability, Fitness For A Particular Purpose And Noninfringement. In No Event Shall The Authors Or Copyright Holders Be Liable For Any Claim, Damages Or Other Liability, Whether In An Action Of Contract, Tort Or Otherwise, Arising From, Out Of Or In Connection With The Software Or The Use Or Other Dealings In The Software.


WARNING

Please try these scripts on a test computer. Some of the scripts do make changes to the system. Always test before using these scripts.

Creating your own Drag and Drop DMG

What are Disk Images?

Disk images are a means of archiving data. They are created using a tool called Disk Utility which is a File System Management Utility of macOS. Disk Images follow the extension ‘.dmg‘ and are only compatible with macOS.

Disk Images are a popular way of distributing applications for macOS. They provide the capability of compressing large files and make delivery over the internet very easy.

In this article we are going to look at how we can create disk images for application distribution.

Creating the DMG Folder for distribution

  1. Create a Background image. This can have any design. It’s a good idea to have arrows or other visual aids to assist others during installation.
  2. Create a new Disk Image. Open Disk Utility.
  3. Click on File > New Image > Blank Image
  4. Leave the default settings as is. Choose the size that you desire.
  5. Mount the Disk Image.
  6. Create a folder called background in the mounted volume.
  7. Save the background image in the folder we just created.
  8. Now we will hide the background folder. Switch to terminal and run the following command.

     
    cd /Volume/InstallDMG/
    mv background .background
    


    Here we are simply renaming the background folder with a ‘.’ before it. This hides the folder from the GUI.

    Now we will prepare the payload. This can be any file or folder we wish to install. For the sake of this demo I will be choosing Mozilla FireFox. In reality you would be distributing your own application.
  9. Copy the FireFox app into the mounted volume.
  10. Open “Show View Options“.
  11. Restrict the mounted volume to icon view only. Feel free to customise the other settings as you wish. This includes icon size.
  12. Drag and arrange the icons in your mounted window to match the background.
  13. Eject the disk image. 
  14. Make a duplicate copy of the image file. This can act as a reference for future images you wish to create.
  15. Now we will convert the disk image into a read only compressed disk image. This will be the one that we will use for distribution. Open Disk Utility.
  16. Click on Images > Convert
  17. Select the InstallerDMG.dmg from Desktop or wherever you had saved it.
  18. Give it a new name and convert it to compressed format.

That’s it. You now have your own drag drop window ready for distribution.