How to Install SQL Server on a Mac

Here I’ll show you how to get SQL Server 2017 up and running on your Mac in less than half an hour. And the best part is, you’ll have SQL Server running locally without needing any virtualization software.

Prior to SQL Server 2017, if you wanted to run SQL Server on your Mac, you first had to create a virtual machine (using VirtualBox, Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, or Bootcamp), then install Windows onto that VM, then finally SQL Server.

Starting with SQL Server 2017, you can now install SQL Server directly on to a Linux machine. And because macOS is Unix based (and Linux is Unix based), you can run SQL Server for Linux on your Mac. The way to do this is to run SQL Server on Docker.

So let’s go ahead and install Docker. Then we’ll download and install SQL Server.

  1. Install Docker

    Download the (free) Docker Community Edition for Mac (unless you’ve already got it installed on your system). This will enable you to run SQL Server from within a Docker container.

    To download, visit the Docker CE for Mac download page and click Get Docker.

    To install, double-click on the .dmg file and then drag the Docker.app icon to your Application folder.

    Screenshot of the Docker installation.
    Docker installation on a Mac.

  2. Launch Docker

    Launch Docker the same way you’d launch any other application (eg, via the Applications folder, the Launchpad, etc).

    When you open Docker, you might be prompted for your password so that Docker can install its networking components and links to the Docker apps. Go ahead and provide your password, as Docker needs this to run.

    Screenshot of the password request dialog
    The password request dialog

  3. Increase the Memory

    By default, Docker will have 2GB of memory allocated to it. SQL Server needs at least 3.25GB. To be safe, increase it to 4GB if you can.

    To do this:

    1. Select Preferences from the little Docker icon in the top menu
    2. Slide the memory slider up to at least 4GB
    3. Click Apply & Restart
    Screenshot of selecting the Preferences
    Selecting the preferences.

    Screenshot of increasing the memory
    Increasing the memory.

  4. Download SQL Server

    Now that Docker is installed and its memory has been increased, we can download and install SQL Server for Linux.

    Open a Terminal window and run the following command.

          docker pull microsoft/mssql-server-linux
          

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

  5. Launch the Docker Image

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

          docker run -d --name sql_server_demo -e 'ACCEPT_EULA=Y' -e 'SA_PASSWORD=reallyStrongPwd123' -p 1433:1433 microsoft/mssql-server-linux
          

    But of course, use your own name and password.

    Here’s an explanation of the parameters:

    -d
    This optional parameter 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 sql_server_demo
    Another optional parameter. This parameter allows you to name the container. This can be handy when stopping and starting your 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 have SQL Server for Linux run on your Mac.
    -e 'SA_PASSWORD=reallyStrongPwd123'
    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.
    microsoft/mssql-server-linux
    This tells Docker which image to use.
  6. Check the Docker container (optional)

    You can type the following command to check that the Docker container is running.

          docker ps
          

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

    CONTAINER ID        IMAGE                          COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS              PORTS                    NAMES
    4e4aa21eb391        microsoft/mssql-server-linux   "/bin/sh -c /opt/m..."   23 seconds ago      Up 21 seconds       0.0.0.0:1433->1433/tcp   sql_server_demo
    

  7. Install sql-cli (unless already installed)

    Run the following command to install the sql-cli command line tool. This tool allows you to run queries and other commands against your SQL Server instance.

          npm install -g sql-cli
          

    This assumes you have NodeJs installed. If you don’t, download it from Nodejs.org first. Installing NodeJs will automatically install npm which is what we use in this command to install sql-cli.

  8. Connect to SQL Server

    Now that sql-cli is installed, we can start working with SQL Server via the Terminal window on our Mac.

    Connect to SQL Server using the mssql command, followed by the username and password parameters.

          mssql -u sa -p reallyStrongPwd123
          

    You should see something like this:

          Connecting to localhost...done
    
          sql-cli version 0.6.0
          Enter ".help" for usage hints.
          mssql>
          

    This means you’ve successfully connected to your instance of SQL Server.

  9. Run a Quick Test

    Run a quick test to check that SQL Server is up and running and you can query it.

    For example, you can run the following command to see which version of SQL Server your running:

           select @@version
          

    If it’s running, you should see something like this (but of course, this will depend on which version you’re running):

          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Microsoft SQL Server vNext (CTP2.0) - 14.0.500.272 (X64) 
            Apr 13 2017 11:44:40 
            Copyright (C) 2017 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
            Developer Edition (64-bit) on Linux (Ubuntu 16.04.2 LTS)
    
          1 row(s) returned
    
          Executed in 1 ms
          mssql>
          

    If you see a message like this, congratulations — SQL Server is now up and running on your Mac!