Last modified: Mar 8, 2024

Install Docker without Docker Desktop on macOS


Uninstall Docker Desktop

If you have already installed Docker Desktop, you must uninstall it.

You can do this either from the UI or using the command line: https://docs.docker.com/desktop/uninstall/

⚠️ DO NOT remove files manually, as it might not uninstall Docker Desktop properly.

Install Homebrew

Homebrew is a package manager for macOS. It will be used in this guide to install different tools.

You can install Homebrew by visiting https://brew.sh/.


Install Docker

brew install docker
⚠️ DO NOT use this command with the --cask argument as it will install Docker-Desktop

Install Docker Compose

brew install docker-compose

Then configure docker-compose as a Docker plugin so you can use docker compose as a command.

mkdir -p ~/.docker/cli-plugins
ln -sfn $HOMEBREW_PREFIX/opt/docker-compose/bin/docker-compose ~/.docker/cli-plugins/docker-compose

Install Docker-credential-helper

The credential helper allows you to use the macOS Keychain as the credential store for remote container repos instead of Docker Desktop.

brew install docker-credential-helper

Install Colima

Docker does not run natively on macOS as it is based on Linux containers. You need Colima to run Docker in a Linux virtual machine.

brew install colima

Configure Docker

Edit the Docker configuration file as follows:

nano ~/.docker/config.json
        "auths": {},
        "credsStore": "osxkeychain",
        "currentContext": "colima"

Start Colima

colima start --cpu 2 --memory 4 --disk 60

To check that the virtual machine is running

colima ls

To check that the current Docker context is set to Colima

docker context ls

If you want Colima to start automatically when you start your mac

brew services restart colima

UI (optional)

Install Podman Desktop

Podman Desktop is a free alternative to Docker Desktop UI for managing Docker through a user interface:


Linking the Colima socket to the default socket path

Some applications, like Podman Desktop, try to attach directly to the Docker socket at /var/run/docker.sock instead of respecting the active configuration for the current context. As a result, we’ll need to set up a hard symlink pointing to Colima socket to the expected Docker socket location.

sudo ln -sf $HOME/.colima/default/docker.sock /var/run/docker.sock
⚠️ If you stop the Colima VM, you will lose this symlink, so you need to run this command whenever you restart your computer to continue using Podman Desktop.


export DOCKER_HOST="unix://${HOME}/.colima/default/docker.sock"



Cannot connect to the Docker daemon at unix:///var/run/docker.sock. Is the docker daemon running?

Ensure that you created the symlink described in Linking the Colima socket to the default socket path.

Build fails

If build fails with this error The command '/bin/sh -c yarn build' returned a non-zero code: 1, try increasing the memory of the VM:

colima start --cpu 2 --memory 4 --disk 60

Unresolved Issues

I still experience some issues for which I have not yet found a solution.

The symlink keeps getting deleted when restarting my mac and needs to be manually recreated by running this command:

sudo ln ~/.colima/default/docker.sock /var/run

Corrupted database (database system was not properly shut down; automatic recovery in progress)

The PostgresSQL database keeps getting corrupted when shutting down my Mac. I tried increasing the waiting time, without success:

docker-compose up -d -t 20

Colima stopped working (“user-v2_qemu.sock: connect: connection refused”)

Colima VM stops working from time to time. Try restarting your machine. If it still does not work, the only solution I found is to reinstall Colima.

Uninstall colima

⚠️ This will delete all your Docker volumes.
brew uninstall colima

Delete .colima folder

rm -rf $HOME/.colima

Restart your machine

Reinstall colima

brew install colima