How to install PostgreSQL on a Mac with Homebrew


This is a quick guide for installing PostgreSQL (Postgres for short) on a Mac with Homebrew, and starting and stopping it with Homebrew Services. If you’re working on a Ruby on Rails project that requires Postgres, this tutorial will get you up and running in no time.

The easiest way to install Homebrew, Postgres, and all the other tools necessary for Ruby on Rails development, is to run the Ruby on Mac script that will set everything up for you.

If you prefer to do things manually, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Install Homebrew

Follow the instructions on their site.

Step 2: Update Homebrew

Before you install anything with Homebrew, you should always make sure it’s up to date and that it’s healthy:

$ brew update
$ brew doctor

If you already had Homebrew installed, and brew doctor is reporting errors that you can’t fix on your own, Ruby on Mac comes with a “reset” mode that can safely back up and clean up your dev setup in 1 minute, and then you can run it in “normal” mode to reinstall everything from scratch in 15 minutes.

Step 3: Install Postgres

$ brew install postgresql@14

When you install Postgres, Homebrew will provide useful information in your Terminal that you should read. Homebrew also helpfully creates a default database cluster. You can confirm that if you see something like this:

This formula has created a default database cluster with:
  initdb --locale=C -E UTF-8 /opt/homebrew/var/postgresql@14

On an Intel Mac, you’ll see /usr/local instead of /opt/homebrew.

Step 5: Start the Postgres service

$ brew services start postgresql@14

Wait a few seconds, then confirm that it’s running:

$ brew services list

It’s very important to confirm that it’s running because Homebrew might say Successfully started postgresql@14 when in fact it hasn’t. If it says started in green, then you should be all set to run the Rails commands to create and use the database in your app. If it says error in red, then read the Troubleshooting section below.

To stop Postgres:

$ brew services stop postgresql@14


If Postgres is failing to start, or if you see error when running brew services list, it’s usually due to one of these two issues:

If you don’t have the Postgres Mac app, then read my guide about upgrading Postgres with Homebrew.

If you have the Postgres Mac app, and the server is already running, you won’t be able to use brew services to start Postgres because they both use port 5432 by default. Most people don’t need to run two Postgres servers at the same time. I recommend choosing either the Homebrew Postgres or the Postgres app. I personally prefer to manage everything with Homebrew to avoid conflicts.

To manage Postgres with Homebrew, make sure the server from the Postgres app is not running. You can check by launching the Postgres app. If the server is not running, the “Stop” button will be disabled and it should say “Not running”. If it is running, click the “Stop” button. Then, I recommend completely uninstalling the Postgres app using the instructions at the bottom of that linked page, then restart your computer. If you have any important data stored in a database listed in the Postgres app, back it up first.

If you prefer to use the Postgres app, then I recommend uninstalling Postgres from Homebrew:

brew services stop postgresql@14
brew uninstall --force postgresql@14

If you have a version of Postgres other than “14”, replace “14” in the commands above with the one shown when you run brew services list.

You might also need to remove any Postgres data saved with Homebrew (back it up first if there’s anything you don’t want to lose):

rm -rf $(brew --prefix)/var/postgresql@14

After removing Postgres from Homebrew, check that you can still access Postgres via the Postgres app:


If it says “command not found” or “Unknown command”, you’ll need to add the Postgres app to your PATH in your shell file:

echo 'export PATH="/Applications/$PATH"' >> ~/.zshrc

A misconfigured PATH is a common source of confusion and errors. There are plenty of instructions on the internet for setting the PATH, but very few explain what PATH does and why it needs to be updated. Read my guide about PATH to learn more.

Then quit and restart your Terminal (or open a new tab, or run source ~/.zshrc to refresh the file). Replace .zshrc with .bash_profile if you’re using the Bash shell. If you’re not sure, read my guide to find out which shell you’re using.