How to set or change the default Java (JDK) version on macOS? – Dev

The best answers to the question “How to set or change the default Java (JDK) version on macOS?” in the category Dev.


How can you change the default version of Java on a mac?


This answer is an attempt to address: how to control java version system-wide (not just in currently running shell) when several versions of JDK are installed for development purposes on macOS El Capitan or newer (Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave). As far as I can tell, none of the current answers do that (*).

As a developer, I use several JDKs, and I want to switch from one to the other easily. Usually I have the latest stable one for general use, and others for tests. But I don’t want the system (e.g. when I start my IDE) to use the latest “early access” version I have for now. I want to control system’s default, and that should be latest stable.

The following approach works with Java 7 to 12 at least (early access at the time of this writing), with Oracle JDK or OpenJDK (including builds by AdoptOpenJDK produced after mid-October 2018).

Solution without 3rd party tools:

  • leave all JDKs at their default location, under /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines. The system will pick the highest version by default.
  • To exclude a JDK from being picked by default, rename its Contents/Info.plist to Info.plist.disabled. That JDK can still be used when $JAVA_HOME points to it, or explicitly referenced in a script or configuration. It will simply be ignored by system’s java command.

System launcher will use the JDK with highest version among those that have an Info.plist file.

When working in a shell with alternate JDK, pick your method among existing answers (jenv, or custom aliases/scripts around /usr/libexec/java_home, etc).

Details of investigation in this gist.

(*) Current answers are either obsolete (no longer valid for macOS El Capitan or Sierra), or only address a single JDK, or do not address the system-wide aspect. Many explain how to change $JAVA_HOME, but this only affects the current shell and what is launched from there. It won’t affect an application started from OS launcher (unless you change the right file and logout/login, which is tedious). Same for jenv, it’s cool and all, but as far as I can tell it merely changes environment variables, so it has the same limitation.


First run /usr/libexec/java_home -V which will output something like the following:

Matching Java Virtual Machines (3):
1.8.0_05, x86_64:   "Java SE 8" /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.8.0_05.jdk/Contents/Home
1.6.0_65-b14-462, x86_64:   "Java SE 6" /System/Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/1.6.0.jdk/Contents/Home
1.6.0_65-b14-462, i386: "Java SE 6" /System/Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/1.6.0.jdk/Contents/Home


Pick the version you want to be the default (1.6.0_65-b14-462 for arguments sake) then:

export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.6.0_65-b14-462`

or you can specify just the major version, like:

export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.8`

Now when you run java -version you will see:

java version "1.6.0_65"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_65-b14-462-11M4609)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 20.65-b04-462, mixed mode)

Add the export JAVA_HOME… line to your shell’s init file.

For Bash (as stated by antonyh):

export JAVA_HOME=$(/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.8)

For Fish (as stated by ormurin)

set -x JAVA_HOME (/usr/libexec/java_home -d64 -v1.8)

Updating the .zshrc file should work:

nano ~/.zshrc

export JAVA_HOME=$(/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.8.0)

Press CTRL+X to exit the editor
Press Y to save your changes

source ~/.zshrc
java -version


A small fish function based on /usr/libexec/java_home

function jhome
    set JAVA_HOME (/usr/libexec/java_home $argv)
    echo "JAVA_HOME:" $JAVA_HOME
    echo "java -version:"
    java -version

If you don’t use fish, you can do something similar in bash:


jhome () {
  export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home [email protected]`
  echo "java -version:"
  java -version

Then to switch between javas do:

$> jhome           #switches to latest java
$> jhome -v 1.7    #switches to java 1.7
$> jhome -v 1.6    #switches to java 1.6



Adding to the above answers, I put the following lines in my .bash_profile (or .zshrc for MacOS 10.15+) which makes it really convenient to switch (including @elektromin’s comment for java 9):

alias j12="export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 12`; java -version"
alias j11="export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 11`; java -version"
alias j10="export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 10`; java -version"
alias j9="export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 9`; java -version"
alias j8="export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.8`; java -version"
alias j7="export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.7`; java -version"

After inserting, execute $ source .bash_profile

I can switch to Java 8 by typing the following:

$ j8
java version "1.8.0_102"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_102-b14)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.102-b14, mixed mode)