How to Install and Use wget on Mac

A download button.

There are plenty of ways you can download resources from the web. Other than your browser, you can also use a tool like wget to download resources from the Web while you do something else. In this article, we show you how to download and use wget on Mac.

What is wget (And What It’s Used For)?

For the unaware, wget is an open-source non-interactive command-line utility to help you download resources from a specified URL. Because it is non-interactive, wget can work in the background or before you even log in.

It’s a project by the GNU team, and it’s great if you have a poor Internet connection. This means it’s robust in otherwise non-optimal conditions.

Once you install wget, you’ll run commands and specify a destination for your files. We show you how to do this next.

How to Install wget on Mac

Before you install wget, you need a package manager. While wget doesn’t ship with macOS, you can download and install it using Homebrew – the best Mac package manager available.

1. Download and Install Homebrew

To install Homebrew, first open a Terminal window and execute the following command:

This uses the curl command to download files that ship within the pre-installed Ruby installation on macOS.

Once you press Enter to run the command, the installer will give you explicit details on what will happen.

Installing Homebrew.

After you confirm, the installer will run.

2. Install wget From the Command Line

Next up, we want to use Homebrew to install wget. From the Terminal again, run:

Installing wget.

The installer will give you live progress updates, and there’s little you need to do here. The process is straightforward and automated. Though, if you already have Homebrew installed, be sure to run brew update to get the latest copies of all your formulae.

Once you see a new prompt within your Terminal, you’re ready to use wget on Mac to download resources.

How to Use wget to Download Web Resources

To download a remote resource from a URL using wget, you’ll want to use the following structure:

That will save the file specified in the URL to the location specified on your machine.

Using wget to download a file.

If you exclude the -O “flag,” your download location will the the current working directory.

Downloading a file to the current working directory.

For example, we want to download a webpage to the Downloads folder:

Though, to do the same without the -O flag, we’d need to change the directory (cd downloads) before we run wget:

You’ll get the full details on the download progress, although, with how quick wget is, this information is akin to a summary of the download rather than real-time updates.

How to Download a Recursive Directory

To download an entire directory tree with wget, you need to use the -r/--recursive and -np/--no-parent flags:

This will cause wget to follow any links found on the documents within the specified directory. From there it will perform a recursive download of the entire specified URL path.

Also, note the -e robots=off command. This ignores restrictions in the robots.txt file. In general, it’s a good idea to disable robots.txt to prevent abridged downloads.

Using Additional Flags with wget

You’ll find that wget is a flexible tool, as it uses a number of other additional flags. This is great if you have specific requirements for your download.

Let’s take a look at two areas in our focus on controlling the download process and creating logs.

Control How wget Will Download Resources

There are many flags to help you set up the download process. Here are just a few of the most useful:

  • wget -X /absolute/path/to/directory will exclude a specific directory on the remote server.
  • wget -nH removes the “hostname” directories. In other words, it skips over the primary domain name. For example, wget would skip the www.w3.org folder in the previous example and start with the History directory instead.
  • wget --cut-dirs=# skips the specified number of directories down the URL before starting to download files. For example, -nH --cut-dirs=1 would change the specified path of “ftp.xemacs.org/pub/xemacs/” into simply “/xemacs/” and reduce the number of empty parent directories in the local download.
  • wget -R index.html/wget --reject index.html will skip any files matching the specified file name. In this case, it will exclude all the index files. The asterisk (*) is a wildcard, such as “*.png”. This would skip all files with the PNG extension.
  • wget -i file specifies target URLs from an input file. This input file must be in HTML format, or you’ll need to use the --force-html flag to parse the HTML.
  • wget -nc/wget --no-clobber will not overwrite files that already exist in the destination.
  • wget -c/wget --continue will continue downloads of partially downloaded files.
  • wget -t 10 will try to download the resource up to 10 times before failing.

wget can do more than control the download process, as you can also create logs for future reference.

Adjust the Level of Logging

You can also consider the following flags as a partial way to control the output you receive when using wget.

  • wget -d enables debugging output.
  • wget -o path/to/log.txt enables logging output to the specified directory instead of displaying the log-in standard output.
  • wget -q turns off all of wget’s output, including error messages.
  • wget -v explicitly enables wget’s default of verbose output.
  • wget --no-verbose turns off log messag\es but displays error messages.

You would often want to know what’s happening during a download, so you may not use these flags as much as others. Still, if you have a big batch of downloads and want to make sure you can fix any issues, having a log or lack of output is a valid approach.

Conclusion

While you could use your browser or another GUI to download web pages and other resources, you can save time with the command line. A tool such as wget is powerful – more so than your browser – and is snappy, too. For a full description of wget’s capabilities, you can review wget’s GNU man page.

If you find that wget isn’t working for you, it might be time to diagnose a problem with your Wi-Fi connection. Will you use wget on Mac to download web resources? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Tom Rankin Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

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