Set the latest bash as the default terminal on MacOS Big Sur

by Jesse Perry on Sunday, February 28, 2021

Setting modern Bash as the default terminal on MacOS Big Sur

For a variety of reasons, Apple has set ZSH as the default shell in the terminal. Changing the default terminal is trivial enough with the chsh command. However, the version of Bash that comes with MacOS is oooold, way old. Fortunately it is also trivial to install the latest version of Bash. Let’s install the latest Bash and then set it as our default.

First verify you have the old version of Bash

Verify what version of Bash you have, you can run echo $BASH_VERSION to see what version you are using. If it is less than version 5, it’s old, let’s upgrade it. If the output is blank, you might need to run bash first.

Install the latest Bash with Homebrew

If you aren’t using Homebrew… you should, it takes a TON of headaches out of using your mac. For instructions on how to install Homebrew, visit the website at Once installed, the syntax of homebrew is pretty intuitive, brew install bash installs the latest version of Bash. See the example output below. Once installed, running bash should open the newly installed version. You should verify your version again with echo $BASH_VERSION

% brew install bash
==> Downloading
Already downloaded: /Users/jp/Library/Caches/Homebrew/downloads/dbf7ab25fb4943ebe4048f45cfc40bbeedc6a5d44d76f2546f9d672b9b9428b2--bash-5.1.4.big_sur.bottle.tar.gz
==> Pouring bash-5.1.4.big_sur.bottle.tar.gz
🍺  /usr/local/Cellar/bash/5.1.4: 157 files, 10.9MB

Here is how you set Bash as your default shell.

Let’s set your shiny new Bash install as the default shell in MacOS. First of all, let’s run the which bash command to find out the path for our new version of bash. On my system the path is /usr/local/bin/bash.

With that path we can first make sure that this version of Bash is in the /etc/shells file as an allowed shell. If it is not, you can add /usr/local/bin/bash by editing /etc/shells.

Finally, you will run the chsh -s /usr/local/bin/bash to set our new shell.

If all goes well you will get bash when you open your terminal next. WOOT!