Writing C Programs on macOS with GCC and Visual Studio Code

As a dedicated macOS enthusiast, my go-to device is my trusty MacBook Air, despite also owning a Microsoft Surface Book 2 and a Gaming PC. However, one significant challenge I’ve encountered, especially with the macOS transition to M1 chips using ARM architecture, is the limited availability of specific applications. To overcome this hurdle, I’ve actively sought solutions that primarily cater to my macOS environment but also offer fallback options on my Windows devices when necessary. Currently enrolled in a Network Security Diploma program, I’m required to delve into the fundamentals of C programming, a pivotal language in the realm of network security and ethical hacking.

For those eager to delve into C programming on their Macs, be assured that it’s a more straightforward process than you might think. In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the uncomplicated steps to set up your C development environment on macOS, utilizing the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) and Visual Studio Code, a user-friendly code editor.

Whether you’re just starting your journey, much like me, or already possess programming experience, this guide will facilitate your C programming endeavors on your Mac.

Getting Started:

Before we begin, make sure you have the following things ready on your Mac:

  1. macOS: Any recent version of macOS will work fine.
  2. Xcode Command Line Tools: Open your terminal and run the following command to install these tools if they’re not already installed:
 xcode-select --install
  1. Visual Studio Code: Download and install it from the official website.
  2. GCC: Although macOS usually comes with the Clang compiler, we’ll use GCC for this guide. You can easily install GCC using Homebrew:
 brew install gcc

Setting Up Visual Studio Code for C Development:

  1. Install the C/C++ Extension: Open Visual Studio Code, go to the Extensions view by clicking on the square icon in the left sidebar, and look for “C/C++” by Microsoft. Click “Install” to add this extension.
  2. Create a New C File: Create a new folder for your C projects, and inside that folder, create a new file with a “.c” extension, like hello.c.
  3. Writing Your C Code: Write your C code in the file you just created. Here’s a simple example:
#include <stdio.h>

int main()
 char str[] = "Hello from MAC";
 printf("%s\n", str);
 return 0;
  1. Building and Running Your Code: Open the terminal in Visual Studio Code by clicking on Terminal > New Terminal. To compile and run your C program, use these commands:
 gcc -o runme hello.c

This will compile your hello.c file into an executable called hello and then run it.

Debugging with Visual Studio Code:

Visual Studio Code also makes debugging your C programs easy:

  1. Add breakpoints to your code by clicking in the gutter next to the line numbers.
  2. Open the Run and Debug panel by clicking on the bug icon in the left sidebar.
  3. Click the green play button to start debugging. You can use the debugging controls to step through your code.


With GCC and Visual Studio Code, you can quickly set up a practical C development environment on your Mac. You can write, compile, and debug your C programs with ease. Whether you’re just starting your programming journey or have been at it for a while, this setup will help you work with C on your Mac and build amazing applications. Enjoy coding!