macOS System Configuration Guide

Configuring a PHP, MySQL, Apache, and friends stack on macOS


This guide will walk through the steps (and common issues/workarounds) to installing PHP, Apache, MySQL, Redis, Mongo DB, and Couch DB, as well as all necessary dependencies and their configuration with PHP and the OS X/macOS system.

It is important to remember Mac OS X/macOS runs atop UNIX, so all of these technologies install easily on your OS. Furthermore, Apache and PHP are included by default. In the end, you only install MySQL and the other databases and then simply “turn everything on.”

Important notes on updating OS X/macOS: with every update of OS X (Yosemite, El Capitan, etc) and now macOS Sierra, your Apache configuration file will be overwritten to httpd.conf.pre-update and a stock file will be added. Your virtual hosts file, /extras/httpd-vhosts.conf will also be overwritten and not backed up automatically. You need to diff httpd.conf and your backed up version, add your virtual host configuration from your own backup, and re-apply your modifications below 😡
More importantly, starting with 10.11 El Capitan, “System Integrity Protection” will remove all of your PHP extensions. You can install a separate version and change your path to that, or boot into recovery mode (Cmd+R), open Terminal, run csrutil disable, restart, move your existing extensions from quarantine or rebuild them, reboot into recovery and re-enable SIP with csrutil enable, then restart as normal again.
You can jump to section 11 below on updating macOS.

0. Environment Tools

First, open Terminal and switch to root to avoid permission issues while running these commands.

sudo su -

Next install XCode via the App Store if you haven’t already done this or if it isn’t already pre-installed on your machine. After XCode is ready, install the Command Line Tools by entering the following in Terminal:

xcode-select --install

This will open up a dialog prompt and ask if you want to install the tools. It should take about a minute to install.

1. Enable Apache

Apache comes pre-installed on OS X/macOS (hereinafter only referred to as “macOS” for simplicity) and just needs to be turned on. To turn on Apache, run:

apachectl start

To verify that Apache is running navigate to http://localhost and check to see that “It works!” is displayed. Success!

2. Enable and Configure PHP

Enable PHP for Apache

PHP also comes pre-installed in macOS but needs to be enabled and configured. First, make a backup of the default Apache configuration. This is good practice and serves as a comparison against future versions of macOS.

cd /etc/apache2/
cp httpd.conf httpd.conf.bak

Now edit the Apache configuration file. We’re going to do this in vi (review any vi cheat sheet for a list of commands and how to edit text); you can also use any regular text editor but you may need to enable hidden files and sometimes edits may not save if the editor does not have correct permissions. Open up the file:

vi httpd.conf

Enter insert mode (press i) and uncomment the following lines by removing the pound signs (#). The first adds the php module, the second makes sure the rewrite module is enabled:

LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/
LoadModule rewrite_module libexec/apache2/

We’re going to come back to this file when we enable virtual hosts (which is optional and why we’re not addressing it here). If you’re not interested in turning on virtual hosts, make a backup of this file now for when you update macOS in the future:

cp httpd.conf httpd.conf.sierra

I added .sierra as that’s my system’s current version of macOS. Restart Apache to see the changes take effect:

apachectl restart

Customize the PHP .ini File

The default location for the php.ini file is /etc. Importantly, there is no .ini file in here; there is instead a php.ini.default file that contains the default settings PHP runs with. You cannot edit this file and see changes however, you need to copy it to a php.ini file in this folder and PHP will then use this new file when it starts.

Copy and create the new php.ini file as root in the Terminal:

sudo cp /etc/php.ini.default /etc/php.ini

You can then edit this .ini file to change some settings (like max_execution_time, post_max_size, and upload_max_filesize) to something more realistic. You will also need to edit this later to add PHP extensions for software you’ll run.

3. Install MySQL

MySQL “Community Server” comes prepackaged with a few convenient tools in a DMG archive. Step through the following steps to install everything. After that we’ll connect PHP with MySQL.

Install MySQL and Friends

  1. Download the MySQL DMG for macOS
  2. Install MySQL
  3. Install the Preference Pane
  4. Open System Preferences → MySQL (the Preference Pane)
  5. Ensure the MySQL Server is running (the status is in red or green)
  6. Enable MySQL to start automatically with macOS by checking off that option

Configure the Path

Next we need to make sure the MySQL binaries are available in your path. We’re going to be doing this for other important software as well so it’s best to create a .bash_profile file now in the user directory to handle this and other terminal tasks. This file gets called first by the Terminal when you open it up.

touch ~/.bash_profile
vi ~/.bash_profile

Now add the following lines at the top to edit the path (we’re also adding two important functions to show/hide hidden files in Finder as well):

# Update the $PATH
export PATH=/usr/local/mysql/bin:$PATH
# Utilities
alias showfiles='defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES; killall Finder /System/Library/CoreServices/'
alias hidefiles='defaults write AppleShowAllFiles NO; killall Finder /System/Library/CoreServices/'

Note: You will need to open a new Terminal window for the path to update. Close out the window/tab you’re working in and open a new tab with cmd t.

Connect PHP and MySQL

We need to ensure PHP and MySQL can communicate with one another. There are several options to do so but we will create a socket for programs to connect with as well as a symbolic link to it:

cd /var
mkdir mysql
cd mysql
ln -s /tmp/mysql.sock mysql.sock

MySQL Security

The default MySQL username is root with a blank password. You can change this to be more secure if you’d like. To view the current MySQL users and check whether their passwords are empty, use the following:

$> mysql
mysql> SELECT User, Host, Password FROM mysql.user;
mysql> exit;

Note: the $> indicates a command into Terminal from your shell account and mysql>indicates executing a command while mysql is running. Now, to set the root password, run the following commands to set it for all root accounts:

$> mysql -u root
mysql> UPDATE mysql.user SET Password = PASSWORD('newpwd') WHERE User = 'root';
mysql> exit;

We’ll be running through this guide assuming that the password is still blank, however.

4. Create VirtualHosts for Friendly URLs

Congratulations! PHP, MySQL, and Apache are all playing nicely together. This is great but all of your sites now have URLs like http://localhost/application/pointing to /Library/WebServer/Documents/application. I don’t like this for my development environment and neither should you! 😜

Create the VirtualHosts File

To run sites individually on a friendly domain you need to enable VirtualHosts in Apache. To do so, edit the Apache configuration again after you’ve authenticated as root for this session:

vi /etc/apache2/httpd.conf

Uncomment the following line:

Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

Now Apache will load httpd-vhosts.conf. Edit this file to add new virtual hosts:

vi /etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

Here is an example VirtualHosts file that utilizes a /Projects folder in the system root. Create this folder (or something like it) to house all of your applications, then create a subfolder called /_live in which to create the symbolic links pointing to their application’s root folder. These are my recommendations and you’re free to use any naming/directory convention you like.

Note: the below configuration has been revised for Apache 2.4, which altered the way directory permissions are handled. For more information on the update, read (Apache’s upgrade document)[].

<VirtualHost *:80>
DocumentRoot "/Projects/_live"
ServerName lorien.local
ErrorLog "/private/var/log/apache2/lorien.local-error_log"
CustomLog "/private/var/log/apache2/lorien.local-access_log" common
    <Directory "/Projects">
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
AllowOverride All
Require all granted
<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerName localhost
DocumentRoot /Library/WebServer/Documents

The first VirtualHost points to /Library/WebServer/Documents. This first one is important as it behaves like the default Apache configuration and is used when no others match. This is where you go when you point to http://localhost as well, which we will use for database connections, among other things.

The second VirtualHost points to your development workspace and you can access it directly from http://{computername}.local. For ease of development, we also configured some custom logs. My machine name is lorien in this case, which is what you see in the example above.

Important: Back up this file now to preserve your configurations in the event of any OS update. This file will get overwritten when you update macOS and it will notautomatically back it up. Copy it to a backup version now to make sure nothing gets lost (I add the current OS version to the end), and do this every time you make changes to this file:

cd /etc/apache2/extra
sudo cp httpd-vhosts.conf httpd-vhosts.conf.sierra

Note: Change lorien.local to your computer name using the .local tld. Macs use this tld via the Bonjour service and the domain is accessible on your network via any other Mac/Apple device. This is nice for cross-platform testing which would be impossible on an iPad whose hosts file you cannot edit. This also avoids conflicts with any real tlds and reminds you that you are working locally.

Enable Your New Domain

First let’s restart Apache:

apachectl restart

In order to access http://{computername}.local, you need to edit your hosts file.

vi /etc/hosts

Add the following line to the bottom:       {computername}.local

Run the following to clear the local DNS cache:

dscacheutil -flushcache

Now you can access http://{computername}.local from anywhere on your network (We’re going to reference this as lorien.local from here on out). Remember, you set up this domain in the VirtualHosts file to point to symbolic links in your /Projects/_live folder. These symlinks will point to your application roots in /Projects. For instance, this is what a sample directory structure will look like:


The /Projects/Athena folder is that application’s parent folder, within which will be local files, documentation, and the root project/source controlled directory. The /Projects/_live/athena symlink will point to Athena’s root application folder, which might be /Projects/Athena/athena/public. This creates a friendly URL to the Athena project accessible on any networked device: http://lorien.local/athena.

Another advantage is that your projects can live in different places on your machine while all of the symbolic links are in one place for Apache.

If you need to access the Apache root www folder, use localhost which still points to it.

Set the Permissions on the Projects Folder

You’ll probably get a 403 Forbidden when attempting to access lorien.local. To fix this, set the permissions on the Projects folder to 755:

chmod 755 /Projects

5. Install PHPMyAdmin

While you can administer MySQL from the command line, PHPMyAdmin is a much easier everyday method to create and administer your databases. Install utility applications like this in the default web directory so that they can be accessed via localhost.

Download the latest version of PHPMyAdmin from their website. Then run the following commands to unpack it and install it:

cd /Library/WebServer/Documents/
tar -xvf ~/Downloads/phpMyAdmin-*-english.tar.gz
mv phpMyAdmin-*-english/ phpmyadmin
cd phpmyadmin

This is now accessible via http://localhost/phpmyadmin. Edit the file to use the following authentication settings so that you don’t have to login everytime.

/* Authentication type */
$cfg['Servers'][$i]['auth_type'] = 'config';
/* Server parameters */
$cfg['Servers'][$i]['host'] = 'localhost';
$cfg['Servers'][$i]['user'] = 'root';
$cfg['Servers'][$i]['password'] = '';

6. Install MongoDB

Before you install Mongo you need to create two necessary folders: the data folder where the database is stored and a folder to hold the binaries. This later folder will be used to store all other optional software not in /usr/local/bin so we’ll make it generally accessible and memorable.

Make two folders in the root directory called /Data and /Software. Inside /Datamake a folder called /db for Mongo (this is the default database location for Mongo):

mkdir /Data
mkdir /Data/db
mkdir /Software

Set the permissions on the database folders to 755.

chmod 755 /Data/db

Now download the binaries from Mongo’s website. Extract the files and copy them to where Mongo will run:

tar -zxvf ~/Downloads/mongodb-osx-x86_64-*.tgz
cp -R -n mongodb-osx-x86_64-*/ /Software/mongodb

Now update your path variable again in .bash_profile to include the location of these new mongodb binaries. Add this line the path section:

export PATH=/Software/mongodb/bin:$PATH

To run mongo, just execute mongod from the Terminal. If you created a folder different than the default /Data/db folder for mongo, you can run mongo with a flag for it: mongod — dbpath /path/to/db.

7. Install CouchDB

CouchDb couldn’t be any easier! Just grab the prepacked .app file from Couch’s websiteand it runs like any other Mac application by double clicking it. You’ll see a new menubar item for Couch from which you can stop and start the service.

8. Install Redis

Download Redis from their website. The following commands will first extract the tarball, then move into the folder, test the build, and then make it:

tar xvzf redis-stable.tar.gz
cd redis-stable
make test

After the compilation, the src directory inside the Redis distribution is populated with the different executables that are part of Redis. The only two we care about are redis-server and redis-cli. You need to move these to your local binaries folder:

sudo cp redis-server /usr/local/bin/
sudo cp redis-cli /usr/local/bin/

Now you can run Redis via Terminal with redis-server and it will start. You can terminate it by pressing ctrl c (like all other running processes).

9. Install PHP Extensions

In order to wire these previous database applications with PHP we need to download and connect their PHP extensions.


The only dependency you will need before installing these extensions is autoconf. Download it from their downloads page (the direct link to the latest build is: Unpack the tarball and make it:

tar -xzvf autoconf-*.tar.gz
cd autoconf-*
sudo make install

This final command will place autoconf into the /usr/local/bin directory so there is no need to update the path. Autoconf is required by phpize and the XCode Command Line Tools, which will be used below.

Mongo PHP Extension

Old version of Mongo (

Download the old Mongo PHP Extension from their Github source. Then unpack the zip file, move into the new folder, and “phpize”/install it with the following commands:

cd mongo-php-driver-master
make all
sudo make install

The phpize command prepares the PHP extension for compiling and make all and make install do the compiling and copy the extension to the right place, respectively. You’ll get a notice in the Terminal that the extension was installed to your extensions directory. It will look something like this:

Installing shared extensions:     /usr/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20100525/

If this is not the correct extensions directory reported with php -i or by phpinfo();change the extension_dir in php.ini or move After the extension is installed to your extensions directory you need to add a reference to it in the php.inifile (remember this is located in /etc and we copied it from the default file earlier). Edit the file and add this line to the extensions section:

This extension is built from the old, supported version of mongo’s PHP extension (“mongo”). They have since moved to a new project called “mongodb.” The extension that builds from this is called “”.

Note: You can find the extensions section in the php.ini file if editing this file in vi by using the /{query} command. If you search /extensions= you will get to the section. Then enter into insert mode and add the above line.

New version of mongo (

The new, supported version of mongo’s PHP extension builds a file called To build this we must use PECL/Pear. This process is extremely simple. First, download Pear:

curl -O
sudo php -d detect_unicode=0 go-pear.phar

Then configure it using the numbered instructions in the terminal that now appear. Follow these steps:

Type 1 and press return.
Enter: /usr/local/pear
Type 4 and press return.
Enter: /usr/local/bin
Press return

Pear is now installed, which you can verify by running pear version. To install mongodb, just run:

sudo pecl install mongodb

This will install the latest version of mongodb’s driver into your PHP extensions directory. Now edit php.ini to reference this new driver:

Restart Apache again

In all cases, restart Apache to load the extension.

sudo apachectl restart

Note: If you run phpinfo(); from lorien.local you will now see a new section called “Mongo.” If this is not there, it means the extension isn’t loaded correctly.

Redis PHP Extension

The steps to install the Redis PHP extension are similar to Mongo’s. Download the source files from Redis’ Github source. Then unpack the zip file, move into the new folder, and “phpize”/install it with the following commands:

cd phpredis-master
make all
sudo make install

As with Mongo, make install copies the .so extension to the appropriate extensions folder so make sure it went to the right place.

Edit the php.ini file and add this line to the extensions section:

Restart Apache to load the extension.

sudo apachectl restart

Once you’ve done so, go ahead and pull up phpinfo(); again and you should see a new section labeled “Redis.”

10. Install Related Software

There are a number of other PHP and database tools that you will run, including Composer and Bower. Let’s install these.


To install Composer, we need to download the package, move it to our local binaries folder, and then set up an alias so we only need to call “composer” to run it. Download Composer via the Terminal:

curl -sS | php

Now move the resulting file composer.phar to /usr/local/bin:

sudo mv composer.phar /usr/local/bin/

Open up .bash_profile to add an alias for composer so that we don’t need to call php to run this tool everytime via the command line:

alias composer="php /usr/local/bin/composer.phar"

Now, relaunch your terminal and you’ll be able to access Composer simply by calling composer. Bam!


To install Bower, a Node package, run the following command as the root user just like for all Node packages installed on your system:

sudo npm install -g bower

The -g flag installs the package globally.


Phalcon! You were not meant to be installed from source on macOS! You may try but you will fail. The only way to reliably install Phalcon for PHP is to use either Homebrew or MacPorts. We’re using MacPorts, and you can install it by downloading the package installer from MacPort’s downloads page.

Make sure when installing Phalcon that you use the correct PHP version installed on your system along with it; we installed PHP 5.6 so we’re using the php56 prefix:

sudo macports install php54-phalcon

This will install Phalcon and all of its dependencies (including another PHP installation…) into /opt/local/lib. The extension is what you’re looking for, and it’s installed into the new PHP extensions folder that was just installed. Copy it out of their and into your real PHP extension’s folder, then edit your php.inifile to call this extension:

Restart Apache to see the changes:

sudo apachectl restart

11. Configurations after a macOS update

Upgrading to the next point release of macOS will unfortunately overwrite some of the settings and configurations you made. You’ll need to:

  1. Re-install the XCode Developer Tools and most likely run through the MacPorts [system migration]( steps.
  2. Add back your configurations to Apache's `httpd.conf` file; Apache will have backed up your version to `httpd.conf.pre-update` and overwritten your `httpd.conf` file to the new default one.
  3. Re-install your PHP extensions or move them from the location that the OS update quarantined them to. To do this you'll need to disable System Integrity Protection ("SIP," introduced in El Capitan), make the changes, then re-enable SIP.

Re-install XCode Developer Tools

You’ll need to install these again after an update. This is as easy as running xcode-select — install in Terminal. A popup will ask you to confirm install, just click OK. Once this installs you also need to open XCode as it will finish some things there.

Update MacPorts (if necessary)

If you’re using MacPorts (we used it for the Phalcon extension above) then you’ll most likely need to run through their system migration steps. This requires installing the latest MacPorts .pkg installer and then exporting the list of your ports, uninstalling them, then reinstalling that list.

Adding back your Apache configurations

Navigate to Apache’s configuration folder at /etc/apache2/ and locate the new (and now default) httpd.conf file and your backed up one, usually named httpd.conf.pre-update. Copy httpd.conf and re-name it httpd.conf.sierra (or whatever your current version of OS X/maxOS is) to back it up:

cd /etc/apache2/
cp httpd.conf httpd.conf.sierra

Open the base configuration file (sudo vi httpd.conf) and uncomment the following lines that we uncommented back during initial configuration:

Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf
LoadModule rewrite_module libexec/apache2/
LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/

Now we need to copy our previous virtual hosts configuration into the newly overwritten httpd-vhosts.conf file as well. Unfortunately OS X/maxOS did not automatically back this file up. If you created a backup version previously as recommended, copy those configurations to the main file now; otherwise add in your virtual host configuration or use the stock one above:

cd /etc/appache2/extra
sudo vi httpd-vhosts.conf.bak (or whatever it's called)
[copy configuration]
sudo vi httpd-vhosts.conf
[paste configuration, save out]

Restart Apache with sudo apachectl restart. Your custom URLs should now be working and pointing to your www directory, and PHP should now be working save for any extensions you’ve installed. Let’s do that now.

Adding PHP extensions back

When macOS updates it quarantines your installed PHP extensions (here, Mongo, Phalcon, and Redis). You can find these quarantined extensions within your system’s “SystemMigration” directory:

cd /Library/SystemMigration/History/Migration-{UUID}/QuarantineRoot/usr/lib/php/extensions/

The extensions directory here will have subdirectory named for your previous PHP extensions one; for instance: no-debug-non-zts-20121212.

We need to either move these extension files from this quarantine to your current active PHP extensions directory or build new ones using the instructions above. Before we do either of these options, though, we have to restart the system and disable System Integrity Protection:

  1. Reboot into recovery mode by holding down cmd+R while rebooting
  2. Access the Terminal from the “Utilities” menu at the top
  3. Run the command: csrutil disable
  4. Reboot normally

Now that SIP is disabled, we can either move the extensions or install new ones. It is highly recommended that you install new ones use the instructions above for each extension. It’s the cleanest way and there is an exceedingly high chance that your old extensions will not work, especially if PHP was updated. If you still want to move them you can use the instructions below.

[Risky] Moving quarantined PHP extensions to your current directory:

First run php -i to view your PHP install’s settings. Look for the extension_dirkey under “Core”, which will contain the path for your current extensions directory. It will look something like

extension_dir => /usr/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20131226

Copy that path. Now navigate to the quarantined location that we previously found and copy each .so file over (after authenticating as root):

cd /Library/SystemMigration/History/Migration-{UUID}/QuarantineRoot/usr/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20121212
ls -la
cp /usr/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20131226/
cp /usr/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20131226/
cp /usr/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20131226/

Finishing the extension update:

After you rebuilt your extensions (or moved them) just restart Apache by running sudo apachectl restart. Everything should be working fine again, the last step is to boot back into recovery mode and re-enable SIP:

  1. Reboot into recovery mode by holding down cmd+R while rebooting
  2. Access the Terminal from the dropdown menu at the top
  3. Run the command csrutil enable
  4. Reboot normally

You’re all set with PHP and Apache. Huzzah!


Congratulations! You’re Mac OSX development environment is configured and running correctly. Here are some references to starting/stopping the services you’ll need and how to access your projects.


  • Start Apache/PHP: sudo apachectl start
  • Restart Apache/PHP: sudo apachectl restart
  • Stop Apache/PHP: sudo apachectl stop
  • Error log: cat /private/var/log/apache2/lorien.local-error_log
  • Common log: cat /private/var/log/apache2/lorien.local-access_log


  • Start MySQL: sudo /usr/local/mysql/support-files/mysql.server start
  • Stop MySQL: sudo /usr/local/mysql/support-files/mysql.server stop

Note: You should have MySQL start with your system startup, which can be enabled via the MySQL Preference Pane in Settings.


  • Start Mongo: mongod
  • Stop Mongo: ctrl c in the same Terminal tab


  • Start Redis: redis-server
  • Stop Redis: ctrl c in the same Terminal tab


  • Start Couch: Double-click the Apache file
  • Stop Couch: Right click the menubar item to exit or stop it
  • Futon location:

Application Paths