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When managing the limits of the operating system (specifically OSX), what is the difference and overlap between the functionality and history of these three tools:

  1. ulimit
  2. launchctl, launchd
  3. sysctl

I found it confusing to adjust the maximum processes and open files limits on OSX.

Does it matter if some processes are launched via the terminal versus the GUI?

Possibly related:

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1. ulimit

This is a builtin command of your shell (bash/ash/zsh etc). It temporarily sets process limits for the current shell. This is not OS X specific by the way.

2. sysctl

Most unix-like (Linux/*BSD/OS X) systems set global limit/kernel settings via the sysctl command//etc/sysctl.conf config file. But see below for the OS X caveat.

3. launchd

Seems like OS X does not honor sysctl.conf on startup anymore (https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2781309?start=0&tstart=0). So on OS X, it looks like sysctl is merely usable for temporarily setting the global limits.

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