Install and Manage PostgreSQL in a Mac with Homebrew

In this post I’ll show you how to install PostgreSQL on a Mac machine, as easy as possible, using Homebrew. And I’ll also show you some tips, tricks and gotchas.

As I bonus, I’ll show you how to access it directly in visual studio since most of the visualization tools are commercial or pretty cumbersome to use.


Install the package

This is very straight forward, specially if you have used Hombrew before:

brew doctor
brew update
brew install postgresql
export PGDATA='/usr/local/var/postgres' #check your package dir

Install PostgreSQL with brew

One word about that last step, the export step.

That’s a warning that the PostgreSQL installer issues: To export the PGDATA variable in case the command psql doesn’t work.

In my case I didn’t have to use it, but its a good idea to keep that in mind.

To verify that all whent well. Lest list the installed services and look for postgresql

List of installed services

Disable service auto start

If you don’t want/need a background service started at boot time, you can just run:

pg_ctl -D /usr/local/var/postgres start

In that way you have to manage the start/stop of the service by your self.

On a Mac, a PostgreSQL server without connections do not consume a lot of resources so its pretty safe to have the service start automatically at boot time.

Service management.

The advantage of using Homebrew is that we can use the brew command to manage the service as opposed of the more traditional lanchctl command that Mac OS uses.

So to start the service, just type:

brew services start postgresql

PostgreSQL starting

And to stop it…

brew services stop postgresql

Common errors

This are a couple of solutions to common errors

You do not have any databases

After install you should be able to list the databases from the command line:

psql -l

List databases

But it possible that you get an error saying that you do not own any database. The solution would be to create your own database:

createdb `whoami`

Postgres role not present

Also, if you are getting an error about the postgres role not being present, then create the PostgreSQL User postgres.

Postgres role error

createuser -s postgres

Restore Success


The most complete tool for managing your databases is PgAdmin

PgAdmin interface

As you can see it run in a browser window.

To install it just issue

brew install pgadmin4

I recommend this tool in 2 use cases:

Even tough you can do queries with this tool, I recommend using Visual Studio Code plugins for that.

Restore a database

If you want to create a local development database from a production database, the best option (or at least the fastest) its to create a local db from a backup of production.

If you followed the previous section, you might have an .sql file with the backup.

So in order to restore that database, you first have to create a new one in your local machine:

Create a Database

Then you have to start the import by selecting the backup file. and click on Restore.

Start db restoration

One important thing to notice. The restoration process shows warnings as errors.

PgAdmin restoration "errors"

In this case, I have a warning about a role not beingh present. But the database did import correctly.

Import a csv file in a table

If you have a text file (csv or tsv) you can import it directly to a table using PgAdmin

Just right click on the table you want to import it to, and select import. You’ll get the following dialog:

Import file dialog

Here yo have to specify

By going to the Columns tab on that same dialog, you can select the order in which the fields are on the csv file.

Select the order of the fields to import

And finally, verify how many records got imported

PgAdmin import csv finished

Visual Studio Code Extensions

There are several extensions that you can use to connect to PostgreSQL using visual studio code. There is even one created by Microsoft…

There are 2 that I recommend:

You can install either one using the extension manager inside Visual Studio Code. Or you can install it from the terminal with the following commands:

# PostgreSQL
code --install-extension ckolkman.vscode-postgres

# SQLTools
code --install-extension mtxr.sqltools

PostgreSQL Extension

Before we get into creating a connection, let me give you the most practical tip about this extension: Use F5 to execute a query 😅

Visual Studio run a query in PostgreSQL

Setup and connect

Just create a connection

Visual Studio PostgreSQL create connection

Or if you already have a connection, just select one:

Visual Studio PostgreSQL select connection


If you have objects on your database, you can use the explorer to view them:

Show objects

SQLTools Extension

This one is a little more straight forward to use. And again… The most practical tip I can give you with this extension is that you can execute a query by selecting a query and then executing ⌘E⌘E (CMD-E twice).

Create a connection

SQLTools New Connection

SQLTools Connection details

SQLTools Connection Summary

Execute a query

SQLTools Query Result

Remove completely PostgresSQL

If your done with your development or if you are receiving error with your PostgreSQL service, then you might need to delete and re-install your PostgreSQL.

The problem lies with the fact that most of the time re-installing doesn’t solve the problem.

In that case you have to completely delete the package and the database files.

brew uninstall postgresql
rm -rf /usr/local/var/postgres
rm ~/.psql*
rm ~/.pgpass