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Xcode is the Mac app that developers use to create apps for Apple’s platforms, like iOS. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how you can download and install Xcode on your Mac.

Here’s what we’ll get into:

  • 3 approaches to download and install Xcode on your Mac
  • Tips and tricks to keep your Xcode up-to-date
  • How to install Xcode betas on your Mac

Ready? Let’s go.

Xcode can only be installed on a Mac. Want to build apps with a PC? Check out your alternatives here.

How To Download Xcode for macOS

How do you download Xcode for macOS? You’ve got a few options:

  1. Get Xcode via the Mac App Store
  2. Download Xcode via developer.apple.com/downloads
  3. Install through Mac App Store CLI (see below)

Let’s walk through the approaches you can use to download and install Xcode on your Mac, and their advantages. We’ll start with the Mac App Store, because that’s the simplest option.

Here’s how you can download and install via the Mac App Store:

  1. Make sure you’re logged into macOS with your Apple ID
  2. Open the Mac App Store app
  3. Search for “xcode” in the search field, at the top-left
  4. Click on the Xcode app item that appears
  5. Click on the Get or Install buttom at the top-right to download and install Xcode

There are a few things you should know, though. Xcode is a huge app, about 7 gigabyte (GB) in size. You’ll need about 15 GB of free space on your Mac to install Xcode this way.

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Installing via the App Store is simple, easy and seamless. Unfortunately, issues with downloading, like a lost connection, etc., usually means you’ll have to reattempt the download.

Author’s Note: Installing Xcode via the App Store never maxes out my download speed — not even close. On a 500 Mbps fiber line, it regularly drops down to 200 KB/s.

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Installing Xcode on Mac

Installing Xcode via the Mac App Store is as simple as clicking Install. However, there’s an approach that gives you more control: developer.apple.com/download.

Here’s how that works:

  1. Go to developer.apple.com/download and log in with your Apple ID
  2. Click on More in the top-right of the page, next to Beta and Release
  3. In the search field on the left, type “xcode” and press Enter
  4. Locate and click the appropriate version of Xcode in the list
  5. In the panel slides out, click the .xip filename, i.e. Xcode 12.xip and save/download that file onto your Mac

This will download a .xip file, which includes Xcode. The download size is currently about 7 gigabyte (GB). You’ll need at least twice that size of free storage on your Mac to install Xcode with this approach. Downloading Xcode this way is often faster than through the Mac App Store.

Once you’ve downloaded Xcode, open and unzip the .xip file. This may take a while. You can then drag-and-drop the Xcode.app file to your ~/Applications folder. Finally, start the Xcode app. You’ll be greeted with the following prompt:

Click Install in this prompt. Xcode will now attempt to install the Xcode Command Line Tools on your Mac. They are CLI tools used to compile apps with Xcode, among other things. You often need these tools to work with other programming languages on Mac, as well.

A disadvantage of manually installing Xcode through the Developer portal is that Xcode won’t automatically update. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, because you can use this approach to install multiple versions of Xcode side-by-side. This is helpful for debugging or trying out beta versions of Xcode (see below).

There’s another, more hidden benefit. Installing Xcode through the Mac App Store limits you to the most recent version of Xcode. If your version of macOS or Mac OS X doesn’t support the latest version of Xcode, you can usually install older versions via developer.apple.com!

You can pinpoint the latest version of Xcode that your Mac supports by cross-referencing a few tables on Wikipedia. First, figure out what macOS version you have. Then, go to the Xcode wiki, and find your version of macOS in the min macOS version to run column between Xcode 9.x and 12.x. The version of Xcode you can run is in the row above the one you found. For example, the latest version of Xcode you can run on macOS 10.13.6 (High Sierra) is Xcode 10.1. Keep in mind that running an older version of Xcode often limits for which iOS, Swift and SwiftUI versions you can build.

Updating Xcode to The Latest Version

How do you keep your Xcode up-to-date? Apple regularly releases new versions of Xcode. They typically include bug fixes and performance improvements, as well as new Xcode features, like the minimap.

More importantly, new Xcode versions include new versions of the iOS SDKs, Swift and SwiftUI. You can only use these new technologies with the latest versions of Xcode.

You can update your Xcode to the latest versions like this:

  1. If you’ve installed Xcode via the App Store, updates happen automatically, or you can manually initiate an update in the Updates tab of the app
  2. If you’ve manually installed Xcode via developer.apple.com, you’ll also need to manually install the newer version; updates aren’t automatic

How do you know if Xcode has a new version?

  • You get a notification on your Mac (if installed via App Store)
  • Keep an eye on developer.apple.com/news/releases (official)
  • Check out xcodereleases.com
  • Follow @XcodeReleases on Twitter

By the way, there’s a 3rd way to download and install Xcode on your Mac. It’s called mas-cli, and it’s essentially a Command Line Interface (CLI) wrapper for the Mac App Store. It uses the App Store – from the command line… Nice!

You can install mas-cli via Homebrew, a package manager for Mac. Installing mas-cli via Homebrew happens like this:

You can then list apps installed through the App Store on your Mac, with:

You can then search for Xcode like this:

Then, copy the numerical code you see on screen to install Xcode:

You can find outdated apps with mas outdated. You can then upgrade all outdated apps with mas upgrade, or selectively update Xcode by its identifier:

Awesome!

Author’s Note: As I understand it, you’ll need to have installed an app via the App Store before you can install it again with mas-cli.

Getting Xcode Beta Versions

Apple regularly releases beta versions of upcoming software, like iOS, macOS and Xcode. This enables developers to try out new features before they become available to the general public, and provide feedback and bug reports back to Apple.

How can you download and install Xcode’s beta versions? Here’s how:

  1. Go to developer.apple.com/download and log in with your Apple ID
  2. Choose one of the following:
    • Click Beta in the top-right:
      1. Select Applications
      2. Locate the featured Xcode beta you need
      3. Click Download
    • Click More in the top-right
      1. Use the search field to find “xcode”
      2. Locate the Xcode beta you need
      3. Expand the panel by clicking on it
      4. Click the .xip to download
  3. Once you’ve got a .xip, unzip it, copy the .app to your ~/Applications folder, and start the Xcode app.

As we’ve discussed before, you can install multiple versions of Xcode side-by-side with this approach. You can, for example, have the regular Xcode installed via the App Store, and install a beta version of Xcode next to it.

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You don’t need to have a paid Developer Account to install betas of Xcode. Just use the free Apple Developer Account. It can occasionally happen that Apple restricts beta software to paid subscribers only, however.

If you’re installing multiple Xcodes, change their filenames to reflect their versions. That makes it easier to tell them apart! Just so you know: when you switch between installed Xcode versions, you usually get that “Install additional components” prompt again. There are ways around that, but it’s simplest to just let it install again whenever Xcode needs to.

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Further Reading

Managed to install Xcode on your Mac? Awesome! Now you know how to install Xcode’s betas next to it, and keep everything up-to-date. Here’s what we discussed in this tutorial:

  • 3 approaches to download and install Xcode on your Mac
  • Tips and tricks to keep your Xcode up-to-date
  • How to install Xcode betas on your Mac

Want to learn more? Check out these resources:

Xcode is the tool developers use to build apps for the Apple ecosystem – MacOS, iOS, and all things Apple.

This guide will walk you through how to successfully install Xcode onto your Mac, from start to finish.

Here are some handy tips to know before you get started:

  • Xcode only runs on a mac. If you are on a PC, sadly you won't be able to use Xcode.
  • You'll need a good, stable internet connection. The latest version is around 8 gigabytes in size.
  • Be sure to have at least 30 gigabytes of free space on your computer. The latest .xip file (v11.4.1 at the time of writing) is ~8 gigabytes zipped. When you unzip it, that's another 17 gigabytes. Then you'll need the command line tool, which is yet another 1.5 gigabytes.

Here's an overview of the steps to install Xcode

  1. Download Xcode
  2. Install the command line tool
  3. Open the new version
  4. Delete files

Note that I have listed some Terminal commands in the steps below. These commands can be typed into your present working directory. This means that you don't need to navigate to any particular folder.

If you really want to, you can first type cd before typing the commands in the below steps. This will return you back to the home folder.

Step #1: Download Xcode

There are two ways to do this. For the latest version and a theoretically 'easy' installation, you can use the App Store. I don't recommend this option.

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I prefer to use the developer site. This comes with the bonus option of being able to download any version you'd like.

Option #1: Download via the App Store for the latest version (not my preferred option)

In theory, this should be a seamless and pain-free process. But if the installation fails for any reason on the last step, it is very hard to troubleshoot.

Mac

There are a few reasons for failure, and no easy way to know which is the underlying cause. If you do encounter a failure, you will need to re-download the entire file again each time you try to fix the failure. As the latest version is 8 gigabytes, I didn't much enjoy this approach.

But if you're feeling brave, here are the steps:

  • Open the App Store on your mac
  • Sign in
  • Search for Xcode
  • Click install or update

Option 2: Download via the Developer site for a specific version (my preferred option)

  1. Head to the 'more' section of the Apple developer website
  2. Sign in with your iTunes account id
  3. Type in the version that you'd like, and download the Xcode_x_x_x.xip file. Keep in mind that Xcode 11.4.1 is 8 gigabytes, so this will take awhile depending on your internet connection.
  4. Once the file is downloaded, click on .xip to extract it. Your laptop will extract it to the same folder you downloaded it to. This extraction process is automatic. You don't need to do anything more after you click on the .xip file. This step will take a few minutes.
  5. [Optional] Once extracted, rename the application to “Xcode11.x.x” if you are using multiple versions.
  6. Drag application to the Applications folder
  7. [Optional] Set the new Xcode version as the default. Open Terminal and type sudo xcode-select -switch /Applications/Xcodex.x.x.app . Replace x.x.x with the version number. For example: Xcode11.4.1.app. You will need to enter in your computer admin password. I'm pretty sure this will update the default Xcode version for all users on your computer, so best to check with other users first

Step #2: Install the command line tool (CLT)

If you have multiple users on your computer, you will need to update the CLT for each user.

Download .dmg

To update the CLT, go to app developer website and download the command line tool .dmg.

If you have never installed Xcode before, you may be able to update with your Terminal by typing in xcode-select --install instead of visiting the developer website.

But if you have an existing version of Xcode installed on your machine, you'll probably see this error:

This means you'll need to go to the developer website instead.

Installing the CLT

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When the .dmg has finished downloaded, double click the file to open it. This will open a little window that looks like this:

Double click the box and follow the prompts to install the CLT. It will take a few minutes to complete.

It may ask you at the end of the installation whether you want to move this to the trash bin. When it does this, it's talking about moving the .dmg file to the trash bin. Since you should no longer need this file. I always say yes to this.

Step #3: Open Xcode

Open the Applications folder and open the new version of Xcode. If you renamed Xcode, make sure you open the correct application

Xcode may prompt you to install additional components. Click install. This will take a few minutes.

While it's installing, check that your default Xcode version is the one you just downloaded:

  • Open Terminal
  • Type brew config
  • You should see “CLT” and “Xcode” versions, as well as everything else. This should reflect the version that you have just downloaded. In my case, I downloaded Xcode 11.4.1.

Once the components are installed, Xcode will launch. You should be able to pick up your old projects and continue where you left off seamlessly*.

*Note that if you use any proxy tools, such as Charles, you will need to re-install those certificates in your simulator again.

If you encounter any errors while trying to build or run a project, check which device you are trying to launch. The new version may not remember the device you were using before. If so, click on the device and choose 'Add additional simulators' from the drop down menu to add the device you want.

Step #4. Delete the files

If you don't need the older versions of Xcode on your computer, you can uninstall them and get some hard drive space back.

You can also delete the .xip file of the version you just downloaded, as well as the CLT.dmg file.

That's everything. I hope this has helped you successfully install Xcode. Have fun with it!