Installing Autopsy on MacOS Catalina

Table of Contents

What is Autopsy?

Autopsy is a digital forensics tool with a graphical interface that can run on Window, Linux, and macOS. It is developed and provided to the forensics community at no cost by Basis Technology Corp. It's underlying engine is the set of command line tools found in The Sleutkit.

Autopsy support on macOS by Basis Technology is minimal and not all features of the interface currently work, e.g., the TimeLine tool. Windows is the main target platform for Autopsy. That said, it still provides many useful features to the digital forensics examiner working in macOS.

NOTE: This guide is meant to ease the process of installing Autopsy on macOS. It is a prolonged explanation so that you can understand the process and make more meaningful requests for assistance, if needed.

Installation Overview

The process of installing Autopsy on macOS generally involves the following steps:

This guide will assume that the user is employing the Homebrew package manager to facilitate installation.

First Things First

You may have reached this guide after failed installation attempts. This may have left your system in state incompatible with Autopsy and the Sleuthkit. The installation will go smoother if you first clean up your system:

Installing the Java Development Kit

As of this writing, the sleuthkit and autopsy should be run with Bellsoft Liberica JDK. The homebrew openjdk will install with the ant package, but we will force it to build The Sleuthkit java archive in a later step.

IMPORTANT: Uninstall any JDKs currently installed on the system. If you installed with brew, simply brew uninstall <package-name>. If you installed with a downloaded installer, follow the developer's instructions for removal. Autopsy can report errors with competing JDKs installed.

Use brew to add the Bellsoft third-party repository and install the full version of Liberica JDK 8.

Set the JAVA_HOME environment variable so that Liberica Java can be found.

IMPORTANT: The export statement above is only effective in shell process in which it is run, i.e., it doesn't persist when you reopen the shell or open another shell.

Test that you have the correct java JDK-8 installed. It should be Java version 1.8.0, but the build number, represented below as \###, can vary.

JAVA Environment Variable Persistence

To make the JAVA_HOME variable persistent and thus your life much easier, write the export in the section above command into your .~.bashrc (macOS 10.14 and below) and/or ~/.zshrc (macOS 15).

Every new shell instance will now set the required JAVA_HOME variable automatically. To test, reopen the terminal (or open a new tab) and execute:

Building the Sleuthkit

Each version of Autopsy requires a specific version of the sleuthkit. For example, Autopsy 4.16.0 requires Sleuthkit 4.10.0. While sleuthkit is included in the Windows installation package, this is not the case for Linux and macOS. Instead, you must build and install it yourself.

IMPORTANT: The Homebrew package manager has a prebuilt sleuthkit v4.10.0 package, but it was built with the wrong version of Java to support Autopsy. You must build sleuthkit from source with the Liberica-jdk8-full package from the previous section.*

Install Sleuthkit Dependencies

The Sleuthkit requires several packages to build it with full support.

Now create a link from the liberica-jdk8 installation to where ant expects to find openjdk. This is necessary to build sleuthkit with liberica java 1.8.0 support.

Test your link file creation to ensure it is pointing at the correct java developement kit:

NOTE: Your JAVA_HOME variable must be set for the link to be created.

The basic Sleuthkit dependencies should now be met.

Build and Install the Sleuthkit

Download the appropriate Sleuthkit TAR file. For Autopsy 4.16.0, download sleuthkit-4.10.0.tar.gz.

Open a terminal and change to the download directory, likely ~/Downloads/. Then:

You have expanded the sleuthkit source code and changed into the root of the source code directory. Before you configure the installation, you must set the CPPFLAGS variable to achieve postgresql support. Then, from the sleuthkit directory, execute the configuration command.

If you did not see affirmative Java/JNI support in the configure command output, stop. Do not go on. Autopsy 4.16 requires a sleuthkit-4.10.0.jar file built with liberica java 1.8.0 to function. Repeat the dependency installation process with particular focus on the link file creation.

If your configuration file looks like the one above, i.e., support for afflib, libewf, zlib, postgresql, Java/JNI, and Multithreading at the least, then you are ready to proceed with the make command to build sleuthkit.

You will seen many commands, messages, and warnings over the several minutes it will take to build sleuthkit. At the end of the build process, you should see BUILD SUCCESSFUL if all went well.

Now install sleuthkit to put the tools and libraries and make them accessible through your PATH.

TIP: This is the only point of the installation process where you are required to execute a command with sudo (as root). Do not complicate the installation process by executing the other commands as root.

Verify that you have java support by locating the sleuthkit-4.10.0.jar file:

The Sleuthkit is now properly installed and ready to support Autopsy, but Autopsy needs a few more software packages to acheive full functionality.

Installing External Tool Dependencies


The testdisk package includes the photorec tool, a dependency of Autopsy. Photorec is used by Autopsy for file carving.


The gstreamer package is required for video playback. It has plugins that provide the functionality needed by gstreamer applications.

You have now installed the external tool dependencies for Autopsy.

"Installing" Autopsy

You don't really "install" Autopsy in the true sense of the word. You simply expand the Autopsy release ZIP file, run a configuration script, and then start Autopsy from the executable file in the Autopsy bin directory.

First, download the Autopsy ZIP file and expand it in a location where you, as a user, have access (again, you do not need to be, nor should you be, the root user to run Autopsy). The ~/Downloads directory is both an acceptable and convenient location.

In the terminal, change to the autopsy-4.16.0 directory and execute the script to configure Autopsy. The script tells Autopsy where to find the photorec tool, checks that the JAVA_HOME variable is set, and copies the sleuthkit-4.10.0.jar file into the Autopsy tree.

You have successfully installed Autopsy and are ready to run it. If you received errors, do not try to start Autopsy. Doing so can create settings application support settings that will complicate starting Autopsy once you've corrected the errors.

See Troubleshooting if you are having problems starting autopsy after successful configuration.

Running Autopsy

You can execute Autopsy in the manner stated at the end of the configuration output. From the root of the autopsy folder, execute:

Each time you choose to start Autopsy, you'll need to change to the Autopsy installation directory or type a long path, e.g., ~/Downloads/autopsy-4.16.0/bin/autopsy. However, you can simplify the process in many ways, but I'll demonstrate two here:

Tip: open the icon.ico in the Autopsy folder and copy it into the "info" screen to have use the Autopsy icon on your automator application. Google how to change a macOS icon if you need more information on the steps required.

Known Problems with Autopsy on macOS


Make sure your JAVA_HOME environment variable is set in the terminal in which you configuring Autopsy.

NOTE: If nothing returns, JAVA_HOME is not set. Refer to JAVA Environment Variable Persistence for help.

When building Sleuthkit, make sure ant will find the liberica-jdk8 installation:

Check that you, in fact, built Sleuthkit with Java support. If so, you should have a sleuthkit-4.10.0.jar file in /usr/local/share/java.

NOTE: If nothing returns, you did not build sleuthkit with java support. Refer to Building the Sleuthkit for help.

If Autopsy starts without and errors but you don't seee any normal Autopsy controls (New Case dialog and/or a menu bar with "Case | View | Tools | Windows | Help"), then you probably started Autopsy at least one time before the build was correct. To overcome this issue, delete the Autopsy application support folder:

If Autopsy starts with a Java error reporting an incompatible or later version of Java, e.g., "InvocationTargetException" or references to JDK 13, then you built sleuthkit with the wrong Java development kit. Remove any third party Java installations except the liberica-jdk-8. If they were installed with brew, you can find and remove them with:

NOTE: If you download and installed Java runtime or development kit from a website, seek directions for uninstalling at from the creator. It is likely a manual process, but it is essential to your success in runing Autopsy.

Still Having Trouble?

I've tried to make this guide as complete as possible without making it overwhelming (I don't think I succeeded). There is place you can go for individualized assistance: the Sleuthkit Discourse forum.

Before you post a question, look to see if it has already been answered. You'll get faster results. Search the forum with words specific to your problem. Questions that have already been answered elsewhere are less likely to receive a response.

If your installation question has not already been answered, post it in the Autopsy on Linux / MacOS category. Try to be as specific as possible:

Rather than "It didn't work" or "Autopsy doesn't start" statements, be as specific as possible:

Posting your commands, the results commands, screen shots, etc., will help people help you, and it will almost certainly guarantee a response to your question. Questions that are too general are likely to go unanswered because there is no starting point for a resolution.

IMPORTANT: Remember, Basis Tech provides the tool for free. They support when they can, but the paying work has to come first. The people trying to answer your questions are most often volunteering their time and not directly related to Basis Tech. A little clarity and decorum goes a long way...