How To: Set up Caffe Environment and pycaffe on OS X 10.12 Sierra

Recently at work, our research team has started working on a deep learning project and for technical reasons we’ve decided to go with the Caffe framework by BVLC. For some of us the installation process went smoothly. For others… not so much. While installing the framework on linux and AWS servers was relatively straightforward, many things broke down when trying to install it on my personal Macbook Pro. Following is a post I put in our internal confluence Research space – may it help others find inner peace.

tl;dr The installation process for Caffe on OS X can be extremely frustrating, especially if things don’t go right. Here’s what worked for me.


The official installation instructions are out of date and incomplete. If you are very good with installations on Mac, go ahead and use them and fill in the blanks yourself. If you’re not – this page is for you.

Most of the guides I’ve encountered are for installing Caffe on OS X 10.10, while I was working on 10.12 Sierra. Apparently, in 10.11 there was a big security update that screwed up some of the steps in existing guides.

The installation involves installing various prerequisites and then downgrading some of them to the versions that Caffe works with. Then you configure a `makefile.config`, tinker with some files and run make commands and tests.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get Caffe to work with Anaconda and opencv3. I might take another stab at it now that I’ve managed to finish the process once, but I’ll need a god damned vacation first.

Managing expectations

Set aside at least an entire day for the installation process. If all goes well – you’ll be done in a couple of hours. If it doesn’t – well, just look at the wall of frustration below – you’re in good company.

It took me almost 3 days of tinkering, following ~6 different guides, solving several different errors using google searches, to finally be able to get “import caffe” to run without errors. Admittedly, in this case I’m probably an outlier and the average installation process should be easier.

The working guide to install caffe on OS X 10.12 Sierra

  1. Uninstall anaconda completely if you have it
  2. Uninstall brew python if you have it
  3. Follow the instructions in the only (almost) working guide I found: (also coppied in the appendix below)
    1. In my case, I installed OpenBLAS
    2. For the python installation, I Installed virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper
      1. There is a bug with virtualenvwrapper installation since el capitan.
        Error and solution:

Other Errors and Solutions I Encountered

  1. make pytest doesn’t work!! Veclib issue:
    1. “ld: framework not found vecLib”
    2. Solved by reinstalling xcode command line tools
  2. import caffe doesn’t work! Due to a Malloc error. This is a leveldb issue.
    1. Almost solution:
      1. Compiling without leveldb broke the basic mnist example from the caffe website, so not the best solution
      2. He suggests installing leveldb 1.9 (not trivial!), which still doesn’t solve it.
    2. True solution:
      1. Install a fixed version of leveldb:
        1. Install via brew with url by pressing the “raw” button:
          brew install

Wall of Frustration

At some point I started collecting dispirited quotes from the various guides I’ve encountered along the way. Here are some snippets:

  1. “For the past couple of days, I struggled to get Caffe to work on my macbook.” –
  2. “Our goal is to run python -c “import caffe” without crashing. For anyone who doesn’t spend most of their time with build systems, getting to this point can be extremely difficult on OS X.”
      1. Comment: “DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH is ignored in 10.11 because of system integrity protection, so this guide is as “wrong” as nearly every other guide you’ll find.”
  3. “However, it is not an easy task to get a working Caffe environment for a standard user. Of course, there are plenty of online documentation and some very nice guides but I didn’t find any for a Mac OS X 10.11.4 version working out of the box,…”
    1. “#   Do not install python through brew. Only misery lies there
      #   We’ll use the versions repository to get the right version of boost and boost-python
      #   We’ll also explicitly upgrade libpng because it’s out of date”
    2. “Re: renaming _caffe.dylib, yep, just pretty much ignore what other people say, they basically never follow their own steps on clean machines, so files are found in all sorts of places and they think stuff works when it really does not. Also, I believe this does not use CMAKE, while that PR does.”



  1. Official installation instructions:
  2. Support:!forum/caffe-users
  5., Based on:

Original Guide

Saved here in case it disappears / changes: Source:

# Install brew
/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
# Apple hides old versions of stuff at
# Install the latest XCode (8.0).
#   We used to install the XCode Command Line Tools 7.3 here, but that would just upset the most recent versions of brew.
#   So we're going to install all our brew dependencies first, and then downgrade the tools. You can switch back after
#   you have installed caffe.
# Install CUDA toolkit 8.0 release candidate
#   Register and download from
#   or this path from
#   Select both the driver and the toolkit, no documentation necessary
# Install the experimental NVIDIA Mac drivers
#   Download from
# Install cuDNN v5 for 8.0 RC or use the latest when it's available
#   Register and download from 
#   or this path:
#   extract to the NVIDIA CUDA folder and perform necessary linking
#   into your /usr/local/cuda/lib and /usr/local/cuda/include folders
#   You will need to use sudo because the CUDA folder is owned by root
sudo tar -xvf ~/Downloads/cudnn-8.0-osx-x64-v5.0-ga.tar /Developer/NVIDIA/CUDA-8.0/
sudo ln -s /Developer/NVIDIA/CUDA-8.0/lib/libcudnn.dylib /usr/local/cuda/lib/libcudnn.dylib
sudo ln -s /Developer/NVIDIA/CUDA-8.0/lib/libcudnn.5.dylib /usr/local/cuda/lib/libcudnn.5.dylib
sudo ln -s /Developer/NVIDIA/CUDA-8.0/lib/libcudnn_static.a /usr/local/cuda/lib/libcudnn_static.a
sudo ln -s /Developer/NVIDIA/CUDA-8.0/include/cudnn.h /usr/local/cuda/include/cudnn.h
# Install the brew dependencies
#   Do not install python through brew. Only misery lies there
#   We'll use the versions repository to get the right version of boost and boost-python
#   We'll also explicitly upgrade libpng because it's out of date
#   Do not install numpy via brew. Your system python already has it.

brew install -vd snappy leveldb gflags glog szip lmdb
brew install hdf5 opencv
brew upgrade libpng
brew tap homebrew/versions

brew install --build-from-source --with-python -vd protobuf
brew install --build-from-source -vd boost159 boost-python159

# Clone the caffe repo
cd ~/Documents
git clone
# Setup Makefile.config
#   You can download mine directly from here, but I'll explain all the selections
#     For XCode 7.3:
#     For XCode 8.0 and later (Sierra):
#   First, we'll enable cuDNN
#     USE_CUDNN := 1
#   In order to use the built-in Accelerate.framework, you have to reference it.
#   Astonishingly, nobody has written this anywhere on the internet.
#     BLAS := atlas
#     If you use El Capitan (10.11), we'll use the 10.11 sdk path for vecLib:
#       BLAS_INCLUDE := /Applications/
#     Otherwise (10.12), let's use the 10.12 sdk path:
#       BLAS_INCLUDE := /Applications/
#     BLAS_LIB := /System/Library/Frameworks/Accelerate.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/vecLib.framework/Versions/A
#   Configure to use system python and system numpy
#     PYTHON_INCLUDE := /System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Headers \
#          /System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/Extras/lib/python/numpy/core/include
#     PYTHON_LIB := /System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/lib
#   Configure to enable Python layers. Some projects online need this
curl -o Makefile.config
# Download the XCode Command Line Tools for 7.3, since NVIDIA does not yet support Xcode 8.0's tools
# Now, choose those tools instead
sudo xcode-select --switch /Library/Developer/CommandLineTools
# Go ahead and build.
make -j8 all
# To get python going, first we need the dependencies
#   On a super-clean Mac install, you'll need to easy_install pip.
sudo -H easy_install pip
#   Now, we'll install the requirements system-wide. You may also muck about with a virtualenv.
#   Astonishingly, --user is not better known. 
pip install --user -r python/requirements.txt
#   Go ahead and run pytest now. Horrible @rpath warnings which can be ignored.
make -j8 pytest
# Now, install the package
#   Make the distribution folder
make distribute
#   Install the caffe package into your local site-packages
cp -r distribute/python/caffe ~/Library/Python/2.7/lib/python/site-packages/
#   Finally, we have to update references to where the libcaffe libraries are located.
#   You can see how the paths to libraries are referenced relatively
#     otool -L ~/Library/Python/2.7/lib/python/site-packages/caffe/
#   Generally, on a System Integrity Protection -enabled (SIP-enabled) Mac this is no good.
#   So we're just going to change the paths to be direct
cp distribute/lib/ ~/Library/Python/2.7/lib/python/site-packages/caffe/
install_name_tool -change @rpath/ ~/Library/Python/2.7/lib/python/site-packages/caffe/ ~/Library/Python/2.7/lib/python/site-packages/caffe/
# Verify that everything works
#   start python and try to import caffe
python -c 'import caffe'
# If you got this far without errors, congratulations, you installed Caffe on a modern Mac OS X 

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