Recently, I wrote a Step-by-Step guide for installing a basic development server on Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) using the built-in packages. It turns out that the version of PHP that is packaged with Leopard is missing many commonly used components such as the GD Library, MCrypt, and many others. Since recompiling PHP on Leopard is no small feat even for experienced developers, you may be looking for an alternative method to get your web server working.
UPDATE: Based on preliminary testing, these instructions remain up to date for Snow Leopard (10.6).
This is where MAMP comes in handy. This tutorial will walk you through the steps necessary to get MAMP set up on your site, migrate your existing data, and set up multiple virtual hosts.
Revision Notes 02/03/08: Several readers have kindly pointed out some errors in the guide that follows. I’ve updated this article to correct some (all?) of these mistakes/omissions.
MAMP (Macintosh, Apache, MySQL, PHP) is a tool released by a German company called living-e. MAMP comes in two flavors: free and Pro. The pro version is not free (appx. $70 at the time of this writing), but offers a bunch of convenient power tools to help you configure virtual hosts, your Apache server, and your startup items.
However, with a few simple tweaks to the httpd.conf, php.ini, and hosts file, the free version of MAMP should be more than adequate for most developers.
This tutorial can be used whether you are installing a web server for the first time or are migrating from Tiger (10.4), or have set up a default installation on Leopard. Steps aimed at migrating your data and settings are labeled with an "optional" tag.
Step 1: Enable your root password
- Open the Directory Utility: In the Finder, navigate to the Utilities folder (tip: click on the desktop, hit Cmd+Shift+U).
- Click on the padlock to allow edits.
- Go Edit > Enable Root Password
- Enter and re-enter your password.
Now, you are set to access protected areas of the system via the terminal.
Step 2: Export your existing data (optional)
If you were running a web server previously, you’ll want to transfer your data and settings. The best way to get your MySQL data is to use the MySQL Administrator tool to backup all of your databases.
- Download and install the MySQL GUI Tools. You’ll only need the Administrator tool, but the others are good to have as well.
- After installing the package, open MySQL Administrator.
- Connect to your existing database(s).
- Click the "Backup" tab and run a backup routine to save your database as sql dump file on your local drive.
Alternatively, you can use phpMyAdmin to export your data if your database is under 2mb (typically). I found this method to be unusable for large databases, however.
You can also use the mysql dump command line tool. This effectively creates the same dump file as the Administrator Tool, but is not nearly as easy and foolproof to use.
Regardless of the method you choose, you should have one or more sql files ready to be imported.
Why not just copy the data files? After many, many attempts to do this, I was unable to end up with a running database, even after trying to preserve permissions.
Step 3: Save your existing settings (optional)
If you have previously set up your own server, you are likely to have settings you want to preserve. You’ll need backup copies (or access to) the following files:
httpd-vhosts.conf (Apache 2)
httpd-userdir.conf (Apache 2)
hosts (Leopard, Windows, or *nix; Tiger & previous OS Xes used Net Info and don’t use a hosts file)
Step 4: Shut down built-in servers
If you have installed and configured Web Sharing and a MySQL database on your machine, we’ll need to ensure these are shut down before proceeding. If you have not, then skip to the next step.
- In your System Preferences > Sharing control panel, uncheck Web Sharing
- If you have MySQL installed, in a terminal window, type the following to shut down the existing MySQL server:
sudo /usr/local/mysql/support-files/mysql.server stop
- In a terminal window, type the following to remove any previous MySQL start-up items:
sudo rm -R /Library/StartupItems/MySQLCOM
Step 5: Download and install MAMP
- Go to the MAMP web site and download the MAMP package.
- Extract and mount the dmg package. Drag MAMP (not MAMP Pro) to your Applications folder.
- Go to
/Applications/MAMP and launch the MAMP Control Panel.
- Start the servers by clicking the "Start Servers" button.
- Do not change any of the settings at this time. Just run defaults for the moment.
Step 6: Test your installation
Click on the "Open Start Page" button. This should launch the MAMP start page.
Congratulations. You have a perfectly fine web server running on your machine. This may be fine for some people‚ in which case, you’re done‚ but web developers are going to need to tweak a few settings.
You’ll notice from your URLs that you are running on an unusual port number (8888). This is fine for the time being, but you’ll probably want to switch to the default ports to avoid having to tack on ":8888" to every local domain.
To make changes, let’s shut down the server by clicking the "Stop Servers" button.
Step 7: Switch to HTML & MySQL default ports (optional)
- With the MAMP Control Panel still open, click the "Preferences…" button.
- Click the "Ports" tab
- Click the "Set to default Apache and MySQL ports" button to change the Apache port to "80" and the MySQL port to "3306".
- Click Ok.
Step 8: Transfer your existing settings (optional)
MAMP keeps its config files in the
There are a million ways to get your settings over from your old server, including simply tweaking the settings by hand. I find the safest way to do this is to use a file comparison tool like the FileMerge tool included with XCode (included on your Leopard disc) to transfer settings surgically from your old server to your new one.
Regardless, this is the time to move your settings over if you want to customize your installation. Be careful here. This is the most common way to screw things up.
Step 9: Import your existing data (optional)
If you exported your data in Step 2, you’ll want to import them to your new MySQL server. The best way to get your MySQL data is, again, to use the MySQL Administrator tool to backup all of your databases.
- Connect to your existing database(s).
- Click the "Restore" tab. Select the file(s) saved in Step 2 to reconstruct your database(s).
Alternatively, you can use phpMyAdmin’s import tool.
Step 10: Install PEAR (optional)
PEAR is a companion to PHP that is typically installed by default along with PHP. PEAR is a set of applications, modules and pre-packaged classes that provide a wealth of functionality to your apps with minimal effort. One example covered on this blog is how to implement an elegant caching mechanism with just a few lines of code. Using PEAR is highly recommended.
If you do not already have PEAR installed, type the following in a terminal window:
curl http://pear.php.net/go-pear > go-pear.php
sudo php -q go-pear.php
This will auto-install and pre-configure PEAR for you. Accepting the defaults during the installation should be fine for most users.
Now, we need to tell MAMP’s version of PHP to look for the PEAR files. To do this, we’ll need to modify the
php.ini config file installed by MAMP. First, back up the config file by typing the following in a terminal window:
sudo cd /Applications/MAMP/conf/php5/
sudo cp -p php.ini php.ini.bak
Now, edit the
php.ini file, open "
/Applications/MAMP/conf/php5/php.ini" in your favorite text editor.
Scroll down to the
include_path directive and change the following [↵ shows line wraps -Ed.]:
include_path = ".:/Applications/MAMP/bin/php5/lib/php"
include_path = ↵
Step 11: Set up your first virtual host (optional)
Virtual hosts are Apache’s way of letting you serve up multiple sites on a single server. Name-based virtual hosting is a convenient way to do this. Not everyone needs to set up a virtual host. For instance, if you are just tinkering on a single site, then you can skip this step. However, if you are developing and testing multiple sites locally, you will need to do this step.
For this example, we’re going to set up a test site called "site1". With a name-based virtual host, all we’d type in is "
In order to make this work, we’ll need to edit the hosts file on your machine. (Note: In Tiger and previous versions of OS X, you accomplished this through the NetInfo dialog. Since the NetInfo dialog was killed in Leopard, we do this the same way you do this for *nix and Windows by editing the hosts file directly).
To edit your hosts file, type in the terminal:
sudo nano /etc/hosts
Below the default entries, you’ll add the following:
# My sites
The following is a screenshot of my hosts file. Yours will be similar but different:
Save your changes.
Now, we’ll need to add a corresponding virtual host. But first, Apache wants us to add our existing default directory as the very first virtual host. This is critical, so do not skip this step.
To edit your virtual hosts file, open "
/Applications/MAMP/conf/apache/httpd.conf in a text editor.
Uncomment the virtual host directive:
Replace the two example virtual hosts with the following:
Next, add your first virtual host similar to the following:
This is a screenshot of the vhosts section of my http.conf file. Yours will be similar but different:
Who do we have to add our default directory first? According to the Apache Docs on Virtual Hosts, they recommend the following:
If you are adding virtual hosts to an existing web server, you must also create a <VirtualHost> block for the existing host. The ServerName and DocumentRoot included in this virtual host should be the same as the global ServerName and DocumentRoot. List this virtual host first in the configuration file so that it will act as the default host.
Note: Failing to add my default directory as the very first virtual host tripped me up for days. If your virtual hosts are defaulting to an unexpected directory, this is likely to be the culprit.
Step 12: Restart the servers
Back in the MAMP Control Panel, click the "Start Servers" button to restart Apache and MySQL with your new settings. Fingers crossed, everything went well, and you can now access your local test sites.
If something went wrong, retrace your steps. The most likely cause is a mis-configuration in your Apache config file. To check the syntax of your conf file, type the following into a terminal window:
sudo ./apachectl -t
Repair your config file as necessary.
Step 13: …
There is no step 13. I just didn’t want to end on a bad number.
Step 14: Create a startup item
Now that you have everything running, you’ll probably want to launch the web server on start up. One of the nice things about MAMP Pro is its built in ability to start itself up on login. The free version of MAMP does not have this luxury, but this is easily solved by creating a launch daemon.
Follow this tutorial to get MAMP to launch silently on startup.
By this point, you should have a fully functional development server that you can extend and expand as you take on new projects.
Please feel free to add comments below if you find errors or problems with the guide above.