How do I set the default Java (JDK) version on Mac OS X?

In this post you will learn how to set the default JAVA_HOME in OS X when you have more than one JDK installed in your computer. First you need to run /usr/libexec/java_home -V command to get the list of installed JDK. The command will print out something like the following depending on the available JDK in your computer.

On my machine I have the following version of Java.

Matching Java Virtual Machines (3):
    9, x86_64:  "Java SE 9"     /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk-9.jdk/Contents/Home
    1.8.0_121, x86_64:  "Java SE 8"     /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.8.0_121.jdk/Contents/Home
    1.7.0_80, x86_64:   "Java SE 7"     /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.7.0_80.jdk/Contents/Home

From the list above pick which version you want to be the default JDK. For example I will choose the 1.8.0_121 version to be my default JDK. To set it run the command below.

export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.8.0_121`

If the major version of the available JDK is unique you can just use the major version, like:

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

After setting the JAVA_HOME and you run the java -version command you will see that JDK 1.8 is the new default JDK in your computer.

java version "1.8.0_121"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_121-b13)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.121-b13, mixed mode)

The change above will only active in the current running shell. If you close or terminate the shell, next time you open the shell you will need to set it again. To make this change permanent you need to set it in your shell init file. For example if you are using bash then you can set the command in the .bash_profile. Add the following lines at the end of the file.

# Setting default JDK to version 1.8.
export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.8`

To activate this configuration right away your can run source .bash_profile. This command reads and executes the .bash_profile in the current shell.

Wayan Saryada

Founder at Kode Java Org
I am a programmer, a runner, a recreational diver, currently live in the island of Bali, Indonesia. Mostly programming in Java, Spring Framework, Hibernate / JPA. If these posts help, you can support me, buy me a cup of coffee or tea. Thank you 🥳

6 Comments

  1. after export JAVA_HOME=/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.8.0_121

    got bellow error

    java --version

    Unrecognized option: --version
    Error: Could not create the Java Virtual Machine.
    Error: A fatal exception has occurred. Program will exit.
    
    Reply
  2. I’m not sure if it’s worked. When I write java -version command it shows me the desired version 1.8. But when I write /usr/libexec/java_home command it shows /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk-11.0.1.jdk/Contents/Home. I’m confused is 1.8 my default version or not?

    Reply
    • Hi Sumaia,

      When you get the correct version when running the java -version it means your setting is correct. While the java_home command when executed will give you an example path for setting the JAVA_HOME variable. In your case it return JDK 11.

      From the manual the java_home command:

      The java_home command returns a path suitable for setting the JAVA_HOME environment variable. It determines this path from the user’s enabled and preferred JVMs in the Java Preferences application. Additional constraints may be provided to filter the list of JVMs available. By default, if no constraints match the available list of JVMs, the default order is used. The path is printed to standard output.

      Reply
  3. If you’re using Mac OS Catalina, it may block graalvm from executing.

    Do ensure you change the user and group after copying the graalvm directory to /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/ as follows:

    $ sudo chown -R root:wheel
    $ sudo xattr -rc

    Reply

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