Long story short, I have limited install rights on my Mac. I believe the only limitation is that I can only write files inside my user directory. I also have limited read rights to files outside my user directory. So, is there a way to install LaTeX on a Mac without root access? I do know about online alternatives such as ShareLaTeX, but my internet coverage is spotty on occasion and I compile frequently to see what the final result is since I'm not very good at using LaTeX.

1 Answer 1


according to this tutorial it should be possible, you just need to manually install files in your home directory:

intalling TeXLive without root access

Since installing MacTeX without root access requires some non trivial cutomizations, I sugget you to install TeXLive instead, with this easy method (I'll add a tutorial for MacTex when I have more time):

1) Download the TeXLive install script
2) extract the tar archive with your preferred software
3) run the install script with ./install-tl
4) you'll be prompted with this screen

======================> TeX Live installation procedure <=====================

=======> Note: Letters/digits in <angle brackets> indicate menu items <=======
=======>       for commands or configurable options                   <=======

 Detected platform: <your platform>

 <B> platforms: 1 out of 18

 <S> installation scheme (scheme-full)
     84 collections out of 85, disk space required: 3739 MB

 Customizing installation scheme:
   <C> standard collections
   <L> language collections

 <D> directories:
   TEXDIR (the main TeX directory):
     !! default location: /usr/local/texlive/2012
     !! is not writable, please select a different one!
   TEXMFLOCAL (directory for site-wide local files):
   TEXMFSYSVAR (directory for variable and automatically generated data):
   TEXMFSYSCONFIG (directory for local config):
   TEXMFVAR (personal directory for variable and automatically generated data):
   TEXMFCONFIG (personal directory for local config):
   TEXMFHOME (directory for user-specific files):

 <O> options:
   [ ] use letter size instead of A4 by default
   [X] allow execution of restricted list of programs via \write18
   [X] create all format files
   [X] install macro/font doc tree
   [X] install macro/font source tree

 <V> set up for portable installation

 <I> start installation to hard disk
 <H> help
 <Q> quit

the most interesting part is <D>, you need to move all the directories starting with /usr in a convenient place in your home folder. To do this, just type d and press enter, you'll be prompted with this second screen:

Directories setup:

!! The default location as given below is forbidden or
!! can't be written to.
!! Either change the destination directory using <1> or create it
!! outside this script.
 <1> TEXDIR:       /usr/local/texlive/2012
     support tree: /usr/local/texlive/2012/texmf

 <2> TEXMFLOCAL:     /usr/local/texlive/texmf-local
 <3> TEXMFSYSVAR:    /usr/local/texlive/2012/texmf-var
 <4> TEXMFSYSCONFIG: /usr/local/texlive/2012/texmf-config

 <5> TEXMFVAR:       ~/.texlive2012/texmf-var
 <6> TEXMFCONFIG:    ~/.texlive2012/texmf-config
 <7> TEXMFHOME:      ~/texmf

 Note: ~ will expand to $HOME (or to %USERPROFILE% on Windows)

 <R> return to main menu
 <Q> quit

just type 1 and enter the directory where you want to install texlive, e.g. <your home>/Library/texlive/2012. After you change the first directory, all the other will be moved accordingly. After setting the directories return to the main installation screen R and the start the installation with I. Done.

  • 6
    It is worthwhile to make this standalone irrespective of the mac-wiki link with some explanation to make it newbie friendly. Mar 31, 2013 at 0:44
  • Could you clarify? I'm not quite sure what the wiki page's instructions are. It seems to be just stating that it is possible to install in the user directory. I don't believe it actually says how.
    – Kevin Dong
    Mar 31, 2013 at 2:16
  • sorry, I thought the wiki instructions were straightforward, I'll update my answer with more details asap.
    – Old Nick
    Mar 31, 2013 at 9:43
  • Sorry it took so long to reply, but this works perfectly. Thank you so much!
    – Kevin Dong
    Apr 12, 2013 at 19:50
  • 1
    another possibility: TEXLIVE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/path/you/want/texlive ./install-tl. Note that the default scheme-full leads to a 5.7 gig download! the small scheme sits at a more reasonable 180 mb
    – xdavidliu
    Dec 25, 2018 at 0:38

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