EncFS on Lion in 5 minutes

Make EncFS work, fast.

For some reason, installing and running EncFS on Mac seems to be unnecessarily difficult. This is what I ended up with, and it should take you about 5 minutes to set up, start to finish if you’ve already got homebrew installed.

  1. Install homebrew from http://mxcl.github.com/homebrew/. The site is pretty informative on how to do so.
  2. Open Terminal (cmd-space, type Terminal, enter, although if you don’t know where to find terminal I don’t know what business you have with EncFS).
  3. Run $ brew install encfs
    This installs both EncFS and Fuse4X and their dependencies. If you’re copying-and-pasting, don’t include the $, it just means ‘beginning of terminal line’
  4. Run $ sudo cp -rfX /usr/local/Cellar/fuse4x-kext/0.9.0/Library/Extensions/fuse4x.kext /Library/Extensions
    This copies the fuse4x kernel extension into the right spot.
  5. Run $ sudo chmod +s /Library/Extensions/fuse4x.kext/Support/load_fuse4x
    This makes the command to load the kernel module always run as root (necessary to load the module).
  6. Download and install Macfusion from http://macfusionapp.org/ (http://macfusionapp.org/releases/Macfusion_2.0.4.zip). This provides a lovely interface to mount/unmount filesystems.
  7. Finally, Download and install the EncFS For Macfusion plugin from t-haeberle.com/encfs/EncFS for Macfusion2.dmg. This installs EncFS support into the Macfusion GUI.
  8. (BONUS STEP) Make sure that in Finder’s preferences (open Finder, Finder>Preferences) the ‘Connected Servers’ box is checked under ‘Show these items on the desktop,’ otherwise mounted filesystems won’t appear there and will be difficult or impossible to find.

From this point on you should have Fuse4X/EncFS/Macfusion all set up and ready to go! To use it, launch Macfusion from /Applications.

When it opens, you can add filesystems from the + menu, as below. You can either select a folder with an existing EncFS system or create a new one.

Macfusion is a two year old, unmaintained project. There are a bunch of bugs, and until I get around to fixing them myself and claiming resume cred, here are some workarounds I’ve found:

  1. For some reason, you can’t delete filesystems – neither ‘cancel’ nor ‘okay’ on the confirmation work, leaving you to force quit. Should you need to do so, the way to do it is to unmount everything, quit Macfusion, open Activity Monitor, find ‘macfusionAgent’ and kill it, then, in terminal,
    $ cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/Macfusion/Filesystems
    $ rm -r *
    Given that the entries in that folder are randomly named, the only way to figure out which entry is which (if you only want to delete one) is to
    $ cat [random named file here]
    and look at the ‘name’ key to find the right one. I hope you don’t have too many entries!
  2. You can’t rename the filesystem entry once it’s created, or Macfusion looses its brain (it’ll prompt for a server password for user (null) on server (null) at the next attempted mount). The only way I can see around this is to delete the offender as in (1) and recreate it with a new name. Alternately, you might be able to edit the ‘name’ key in the FS file found in (1), but then really it’s about as much trouble either way.


  1. March 22, 2013

    The version number is now 0.9.2, and -x wasn’t supported on my Mountain Lion machine. This caused step 4 to have some issues, but was able to figure it out. Thanks for the guide!

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