Darling prefix

A Darling prefix is a container overlayed on top of a base macOS-like root file system located in $installation_prefix/libexec/darling. The default prefix location is ~/.darling and this can be controlled with the DPREFIX environment variable, very much like WINEPREFIX under Wine.

Note that in order to change the prefix location with DPREFIX, you should export this variable in the current shell before running Darling. Using it only when running Darling (e.g. DPREFIX=foo darling shell) will not work as expected.

The container uses overlayfs along with a user mount namespace to provide a different idea of / for macOS applications.

When you run an executable inside the prefix for the first time (after boot), launchd, the Darwin init process representing the container is started. This init process keeps the root file system mounted.

Updating the prefix

Unlike Wine, Darling doesn't need to update the prefix whenever the Darling installation is updated. There is one caveat, though: since overlayfs caches the contents of underlying file system(s), you may need to terminate the container to see Darling's updated files:

darling shutdown

Note that this will terminate all processes running in the container.

Multiple simultaneously running prefixes

Darling supports having multiple prefixes running simultaneously. All darling commands will use either the default prefix or the prefix specified by DPREFIX, if this environment variable is set. This means, for example, that in order to shutdown a particular prefix, you must set DPREFIX to the desired prefix (or unset it, for the default prefix) before running darling shutdown.