When you read the man pages on Mac OS X, there are references to /var/log/messages, but if you look for the file, it doesn't exist:

$ ls -l /var/log/messages
ls: /var/log/messages: No such file or directory

3 Answers 3


If you refer to the man entry of syslog.conf, I guess the line is just an example:

# Log anything (except mail) of level info or higher.
# Don't log private authentication messages!
*.info;mail.none;authpriv.none          /var/log/messages

If you want to use that directory in your configuration, you'll have to create it.

Edit: The actual syslog.conf on Mac OS X uses the system.log file.

  • 3
    If you look at the actual /etc/syslog.conf instead of the man page, you see *.notice;authpriv,remoteauth,ftp,install.none;kern.debug;mail.crit /var/log/sy stem.log Jul 18, 2009 at 11:00
  • Yes, as I said, the actual entry is system.log - NOT messages. It's in the Example section of man.
    – splattne
    Jul 18, 2009 at 11:15
  • splattne: that was it, my system works the way you described it, I just didn't know where to look for the config.
    – benc
    Jul 18, 2009 at 15:10

It's /var/log/system.log on Mac OS X. You're probably reading man pages from Linux based software which uses the /var/log/messages file instead.

  • I am reading the man pages that are pre-installed in Mac OS X. They must be from the base UNIX distribution (some kind of BSD...)
    – benc
    Jul 18, 2009 at 15:08

The var directory on Mac OS X is symlinked, if you do an ls -l on your root directory you'll see this:

lrwxr-xr-x@   1 root   admin        11 22 Feb  2008 var -> private/var

So your var folder is located at:


However, I am unable to locate the messages folder or file within the log folder, so I can't help you with that part of the question.

Edit: On further inspection, it looks as though the only thing in /var/log/messages on my RHEL server is sshd warning logs. Maybe the Mac OS X sshd binary logs to


or similar.

What messages are you looking for? You might want to try

$ cat /var/log/[process name]

and see if each process writes out its own message file.

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