The musings of a nerd

Postgres.app with unix socket

— Jun 17, 2013

One of the best ways to get PostgreSQL running quickly on your computer is Postgres.app. Unfortunately Postgres.app doesn’t enable connections via unix socket by default. I like to use sockets because they’re faster more secure.

The server is configured, by default, to allow connections by your username from localhost on postgres’ default port 5432. If you don’t to specify the host psql will attempt to connect via unix socket and fail with an error like:

$ psql
psql: could not connect to server: No such file or directory
        Is the server running locally and accepting
        connections on Unix domain socket "/var/pgsql_socket/.s.PGSQL.5432"?

Note: The default socket location for the psql command is “/tmp”. The psql command I used during the writing of this article was configured to use “/var/pgsql_socket”.

Configure Postgres.app to use unix sockets

The following steps will configure Postgres.app to allow connections via unix socket for a more flexible experience. Note: These instructions are tested against Mac OS X 10.8.

Postgres.app v9.2

  1. Download and run Postgres.app so that the default configuration is initialized in ~/Library/Application Support/Postgres.
  2. Quit Postgres.app (from the Mac OS X menu bar).
  3. Open the file ~/Library/Application Support/Postgres/var/postgresql.conf in your favorite text editor.
  4. Uncomment the line #unix_socket_directory = '' and change it to unix_socket_directory = '/var/pgsql_socket'.
  5. Create the directory /var/pgsql_socket if it doesn’t exist. (may require sudo)
  6. Run chmod 770 /var/pgsql_socket. (may require sudo)
  7. Run chown root:staff /var/pgsql_socket. (may require sudo)

Now you can connect to the server by unix socket!

$ psql
psql (9.1.5, server 9.2.2)
WARNING: psql version 9.1, server version 9.2.
         Some psql features might not work.
Type "help" for help.



Postgres.app 9.3 introduces app sandboxing which changes the location for the configuration data to ~/Library/Containers/com.heroku.postgres/Data/Library/Application Support/Postgres/var. This is a little confusing, especially considering the lack of documentation on the Postgres.app site and in the docs. See this Github issue for more information.

It’s also worth noting that from PostgreSQL 9.2 to 9.3 the unix socket configuration changed from unix_socket_directory to unix_socket_directories, so make sure your postgresql.conf file uses the correct variable name!


Aaaaaaand they’ve taken sandboxing out in 9.3.1. To add to the fun, they’ve also renamed the app to Postgres93.app and adjusted the Application Support directory accordingly. Now you can find the config file at:

~/Library/Application Support/Postgres93/var/postgresql.conf

Remember that you’ll probably want to update your PATH.

Configuring psql socket path

If your psql command is configured to use the “/tmp” directory, you may override this default with the PGHOST environment variable. I include this line in my shell rc file:

export PGHOST=/var/pgsql_socket

© Jay Hayes