Install SQL Server on a Mac

Install SQL Server directly to your Mac — no virtual machine required!

Microsoft has made SQL Server available for macOS and Linux systems. This is made possible by running SQL Server from a Docker container. Therefore, there's no need to install a virtual machine with Windows (which was the only way to run SQL Server on a Mac prior to SQL Server 2017).

Install and Configure Docker

This is a prerequisite for installing SQL Server on your Mac. Because the Mac runs SQL Server inside a Docker container, the first thing we need to do is download and install Docker (unless it's already installed). Once installed, we'll increase its memory allocation to a more suitable level for running SQL Server.

  1. Download Docker from the download page, extract it, and drag it into your Application folder.
  2. Launch Docker, and go to Preferences > Advanced and increase its memory allocation to 4GB

If I've confused you, don't worry. I've written a tutorial with screenshots: Install Docker on a Mac and Configure for SQL Server.

OK, we're now ready to install SQL Server on your Mac.

Now the Actual SQL Server Installation

Now that we've installed Docker and increased its memory allocation, we can go ahead and install SQL Server. The Mac uses the Linux image (the SQL Server for Linux Docker image).

  1. Pull the SQL Server Image

    Open a Terminal window and run the following command:*

    This pulls the latest SQL Server for Linux Docker image to your computer.

  2. Launch the SQL Server Image

    Run the following command to launch an instance of the Docker image you just downloaded:

    Replace the container name and password with your own. Also be sure to make a strong password, or you may get an error (see below).

    Also, if you downloaded a different container image, replace microsoft/mssql-server-linux with your container image.

    Here's an explanation of the above parameters:

    This is an optional parameter that launches the Docker container in daemon mode. This means that it runs in the background and doesn't need its own Terminal window open. You can omit this parameter to have the container run in its own Terminal window.
    --name Homer
    This optional parameter provides a name for the container. This can be handy when stopping and starting the container from the Terminal.
    -e 'ACCEPT_EULA=Y'
    The Y shows that you agree with the EULA (End User Licence Agreement). This is required in order to install SQL Server.
    -e 'SA_PASSWORD=myPassw0rd'
    Required parameter that sets the sa database password.
    -p 1433:1433
    This maps the local port 1433 to port 1433 on the container. This is the default TCP port that SQL Server uses to listen for connections.
    This tells Docker which image to use. If you downloaded a different one, use that instead.
  3. Check the Docker container (optional)

    Type the following command to check that the Docker container is running.

    If it's up and running, it should return something like this:

    CONTAINER ID        IMAGE                          COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS              PORTS                    NAMES
    740fcb5193c6        microsoft/mssql-server-linux   "/bin/sh -c /opt/m..."   33 seconds ago      Up 31 seconds>1433/tcp   Homer

Check your Installation & Manage SQL Server

Now that you've installed SQL Server on your Mac, you'll probably want to check that you can access it and query it, etc. Then you'll probably want to start creating databases and doing other DB-related tasks. You'll need some sort of management tool for this.

Here are three options: