Pete Freitag Pete Freitag

How to Run SQL Server on a Mac

Updated on August 10, 2020
By Pete Freitag

So you use a Mac, but you need to run Microsoft SQL Server. I never thought this would be so easy, but here's how I've been doing this for the past few years.

You need Docker

If you already have docker installed, great news for you, you can skip to the next step. If not, go and download docker for mac.

Once you have docker for Mac installed you should be able to run docker-compose -v from Terminal and it should output the version number.

Create a docker-compose.yml file

Docker Compose lets you define one or more servers (or docker containers) in a single YAML file. We will use docker-compose.yml to make it very easy to start or stop SQL Server on our Mac.

You don't have to use docker-compose but I find it makes the process easy, especially if you leave a project and come back to it 6 months later.

Here's a simple docker-compose.yml file for running SQL Server on a Mac.

version: '3'
    image: microsoft/mssql-server-linux:2017-latest
      - "1401:1433"
      - ./db:/tmp/data
      - /tmp/data/

A few key points here. The ports section is mapping SQL Server port 1433 to my local port 1401. The password for the SA account will be set to the value of my DB_PASS environment variable, you may want to change how that works to suit your needs.

Now I have a sub folder called db with a few other files. The folder structure looks like this:


Let's take a look at


chmod a+x /tmp/data/
/tmp/data/ &

Here is


#wait for sql server to start
sleep 10

#import database from bak file
/opt/mssql-tools/bin/sqlcmd -S localhost -U SA -P "$MSSQL_SA_PASSWORD" -Q "RESTORE DATABASE ExampleDb FROM DISK='/tmp/data/myDB.bak' WITH MOVE 'ExampleDb' TO '/var/opt/mssql/data/ExampleDb.mdf', MOVE 'ExampleDb_log' TO '/var/opt/mssql/data/ExampleDb.ldf'"

#run SQL to modify the DB
/opt/mssql-tools/bin/sqlcmd -S localhost -U SA -P "$MSSQL_SA_PASSWORD" -d ExampleDb -i /tmp/data/mods.sql

If you are not working with a SQL Server backup and just have some SQL create statements, you can just put them in mods.sql and comment out the line of the script that imports the database from a backup.

Now Start SQL Server

Just run the following in terminal from the directory that has your docker-compose.yml file:

docker-compose up

At this point it should boot up SQLServer. It will be listening on port 1401, you can connect to it using SA and the password you set (eg DB_PASS environment variable).

Note that we could have done everything from the docker-compose.yml file if we wanted to, but I decided to break it up into scripts. This makes it easier to maintain a list of DB modifications or additions in the mods.sql file for example.

That's all there is to it, you've now installed SQL Server on your Mac! If you knew the Microsoft of the 90's you probably never would have thought it would be so easy to install SQL Server on a Mac and especially on Linux as it is in 2020.

sqlserver docker mac databases

How to Run SQL Server on a Mac was first published on September 27, 2019.

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Quality! Thanks (:
by Paul Stewart on 08/04/2022 at 2:55:43 PM UTC