Get started with Docker for Mac

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes

Welcome to Docker for Mac! Docker is a full development platform for creating containerized apps, and Docker for Mac is the best way to get started with Docker on a Mac.

See Install Docker for Mac for information on system requirements and stable & edge channels.

Check versions

Ensure your versions of docker, docker-compose, and docker-machine are up-to-date and compatible with Your output may differ if you are running different versions.

$ docker --version
Docker version 17.12, build c97c6d6

$ docker-compose --version
docker-compose version 1.20.0, build 8dd22a9

$ docker-machine --version
docker-machine version 0.14.0, build 9ba6da9

Explore the application

  1. Open a command-line terminal and test that your installation works by running the simple Docker image, hello-world:

    $ docker run hello-world
    Unable to find image 'hello-world:latest' locally
    latest: Pulling from library/hello-world
    ca4f61b1923c: Pull complete
    Digest: sha256:ca0eeb6fb05351dfc8759c20733c91def84cb8007aa89a5bf606bc8b315b9fc7
    Status: Downloaded newer image for hello-world:latest
    Hello from Docker!
    This message shows that your installation appears to be working correctly.
  2. Start a Dockerized web server. Like the hello-world image above, if the image is not found locally, Docker pulls it from Docker Hub.

    $ docker run -d -p 80:80 --name webserver nginx
  3. In a web browser, go to http://localhost/ to view the nginx homepage. Because we specified the default HTTP port, it isn’t necessary to append :80 at the end of the URL.

    nginx home page

    Early beta releases used docker as the hostname to build the URL. Now, ports are exposed on the private IP addresses of the VM and forwarded to localhost with no other host name set.

  4. View the details on the container while your web server is running (with docker container ls or docker ps):

    $ docker container ls
    CONTAINER ID   IMAGE   COMMAND                  CREATED              STATUS              PORTS                         NAMES
    56f433965490   nginx   "nginx -g 'daemon off"   About a minute ago   Up About a minute>80/tcp, 443/tcp   webserver
  5. Stop and remove containers and images with the following commands. Use the “all” flag (--all or -a) to view stopped containers.

    $ docker container ls
    $ docker container stop webserver
    $ docker container ls -a
    $ docker container rm webserver
    $ docker image ls
    $ docker image rm nginx

Preferences menu

Choose whale menu -> Preferences from the menu bar and configure the runtime options described below.

Docker context menu

General tab


Gneral settings are:

  • Start Docker when you log in: Uncheck this option if you don’t want Docker to start when you open your session.

  • Automatically check for updates notifies you when an update is available. Click OK to accept and install updates (or cancel to keep the current version). If you disable this option, you can still find out about updates manually by choosing whale menu -> Check for Updates.

  • Include VM in Time Machine backups backs up the Docker for Mac virtual machine. (Disabled by default.)

  • Securely store Docker logins in MacOS keychain stores your Docker login credentials. (Enabled by default.)

  • Send usage statistics — Send diagnostics, crash reports, and usage data to Docker. This information helps Docker improve the application and get more context for troubleshooting problems. (Enabled by default.)

File sharing tab

Choose which local directories to share with your containers. File sharing is required for volume mounting if the project lives outside of the /Users directory. In that case, share the drive where the Dockerfile and volume are located. Otherwise, you get file not found or cannot start service errors at runtime.

File Sharing

File share settings are:

  • Add a Directory: Click + and navigate to the directory you want to add.

  • Apply & Restart makes the directory available to containers using Docker’s bind mount (-v) feature.

    There are some limitations on the directories that can be shared:

    • They cannot be a subdirectory of an already shared directory.
    • They cannot already exist inside of Docker.

For more information, see:

Advanced tab

On the Advanced tab, you can limit resources available to Docker.

Advanced Preference settings-advanced

Advanced settings are:

CPUs: By default, Docker for Mac is set to use half the number of processors available on the host machine. To increase processing power, set this to a higher number; to decrease, lower the number.

Memory: By default, Docker for Mac is set to use 2 GB runtime memory, allocated from the total available memory on your Mac. To increase RAM, set this to a higher number; to decrease it, lower the number.

Swap: Configure swap file size as needed. The default is 1 GB.

Disk tab

Specify the Disk image location of the Linux volume, where containers and images are stored.

You can also move the disk image location. If you attempt to move the disk image to a location that already has one, you get a prompt asking if you want to use the existing image or replace it.

Proxies settings

Proxies tab

Docker for Mac detects HTTP/HTTPS Proxy Settings and automatically propagate these to Docker and to your containers. For example, if you set your proxy settings to, Docker uses this proxy when pulling containers.

Proxies settings

Daemon tab

You can configure options on the Docker daemon that determine how your containers run.

Select Basic to configure the daemon with interactive settings, or select Advanced to edit the JSON directly.


Experimental features

Both Docker for Mac Stable and Edge releases have experimental features enabled on Docker Engine, as described Docker Experimental Features README. If you uncheck experimental mode, Docker for Mac uses the current generally available release of Docker Engine.

Don’t enable experimental features in production

Experimental features are not appropriate for production environments or workloads. They are meant to be sandbox experiments for new ideas. Some experimental features may become incorporated into upcoming stable releases, but others may be modified or pulled from subsequent Edge releases, and never released on Stable.

You can see whether you are running experimental mode at the command line. If Experimental is true, then Docker is running in experimental mode, as shown here. (If false, Experimental mode is off.)

$ docker version -f {{.Server.Experimental}}

Insecure registries

You can set up a custom and insecure registry to store your public or private images (instead of using Docker Hub or Docker Trusted Registry). Add URLs for your insecure registries and registry mirrors on which to host your images.

See also:

Daemon configuration file

Click the Advanced tab to configure the daemon from the JSON file. For a full list of options, see the Docker Engine dockerd commandline reference.

Click Apply & Restart to save your settings and reboot Docker. Or, to cancel changes, click another preference tab, then choose to discard or not apply changes when asked.

Docker Daemon

Kubernetes tab

Kubernetes is only available in Docker for Mac 17.12 CE and higher, on the Edge channel. Kubernetes support is not included in Docker for Mac Stable releases. To find out more about Stable and Edge channels and how to switch between them, see General configuration.

Docker for Mac 17.12 CE (and higher) Edge includes a standalone Kubernetes server that runs on your Mac, so that you can test deploying your Docker workloads on Kubernetes.

The Kubernetes client command, kubectl, is included and configured to connect to the local Kubernetes server. If you have kubectl already installed and pointing to some other environment, such as minikube or a GKE cluster, be sure to change context so that kubectl is pointing to docker-for-desktop:

$ kubectl config get-contexts
$ kubectl config use-context docker-for-desktop

If you installed kubectl with Homebrew, or by some other method, and experience conflicts, remove /usr/local/bin/kubectl.

  • To enable Kubernetes support and install a standalone instance of Kubernetes running as a Docker container, select Enable Kubernetes and click the Apply button.

    Enable Kubernetes

    An Internet connection is required. Images required to run the Kubernetes server are downloaded and instantiated as containers, and the /usr/local/bin/kubectl command is installed on your Mac.

    When Kubernetes is enabled and running, an additional status bar item displays at the bottom right of the Docker for Mac Preferences dialog.

    Installation complete

    The status of Kubernetes shows in the Docker menu and the context points to docker-for-desktop.

    Docker Menu with Kubernetes

  • By default, Kubernetes containers are hidden from commands like docker service ls, because managing them manually is not supported. To make them visible, select Show system containers (advanced) and click Apply and restart. Most users do not need this option.

  • To disable Kubernetes support at any time, deselect Enable Kubernetes. The Kubernetes containers are stopped and removed, and the /usr/local/bin/kubectl command is removed.

    For more about using the Kubernetes integration with Docker for Mac, see Deploy to Kubernetes.

Reset tab

Select whale menu -> Preferences from the menu bar, then click Reset to reset factory defaults, restart the Docker daemon, or uninstall.

Uninstall or reset Docker

Reset settings are:

  • Restart - Select to restart the Docker daemon.

  • Remove all data - This option removes/resets all Docker data without a reset to factory defaults (which would cause you to lose settings).

  • Reset to factory defaults - Choose this option to reset all options on Docker for Mac to its initial state, the same as when it was first installed.

    • Uninstall - Choose this option to remove Docker for Mac from your system.

Uninstall Docker for Mac from the commandline

To uninstall Docker from Mac from a terminal, run: <DockerforMacPath> --uninstall. If your instance is installed in the default location, this command provides a clean uninstall:

$ /Applications/ --uninstall
Docker is running, exiting...
Docker uninstalled successfully. You can move the Docker application to the trash.

You might want to use the command-line uninstall if, for example, you find that the app is non-functional, and you cannot uninstall it from the menu.

Add TLS certificates

You can add trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs) (used to verify registry server certificates) and client certificates (used to authenticate to registries) to your Docker daemon.

Add custom CA certificates (server side)

All trusted CAs (root or intermediate) are supported. Docker for Mac creates a certificate bundle of all user-trusted CAs based on the Mac Keychain, and appends it to Moby trusted certificates. So if an enterprise SSL certificate is trusted by the user on the host, it is trusted by Docker for Mac.

To manually add a custom, self-signed certificate, start by adding the certificate to the macOS keychain, which is picked up by Docker for Mac. Here is an example.

$ sudo security add-trusted-cert -d -r trustRoot -k /Library/Keychains/System.keychain ca.crt

Or, if you prefer to add the certificate to your own local keychain only (rather than for all users), run this command instead:

$ security add-trusted-cert -d -r trustRoot -k ~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain ca.crt

See also, Directory structures for certificates.

Note: You need to restart Docker for Mac after making any changes to the keychain or to the ~/.docker/certs.d directory in order for the changes to take effect.

For a complete explanation of how to do this, see the blog post Adding Self-signed Registry Certs to Docker & Docker for Mac.

Add client certificates

You can put your client certificates in ~/.docker/certs.d/<MyRegistry>:<Port>/client.cert and ~/.docker/certs.d/<MyRegistry>:<Port>/client.key.

When the Docker for Mac application starts up, it copies the ~/.docker/certs.d folder on your Mac to the /etc/docker/certs.d directory on Moby (the Docker for Mac xhyve virtual machine).

  • You need to restart Docker for Mac after making any changes to the keychain or to the ~/.docker/certs.d directory in order for the changes to take effect.

  • The registry cannot be listed as an insecure registry (see Docker Daemon). Docker for Mac ignores certificates listed under insecure registries, and does not send client certificates. Commands like docker run that attempt to pull from the registry produce error messages on the command line, as well as on the registry.

Directory structures for certificates

If you have this directory structure, you do not need to manually add the CA certificate to your Mac OS system login:

└── <MyRegistry>:<Port>
   ├── ca.crt
   ├── client.cert
   └── client.key

The following further illustrates and explains a configuration with custom certificates:

/etc/docker/certs.d/        <-- Certificate directory
└── localhost:5000          <-- Hostname:port
   ├── client.cert          <-- Client certificate
   ├── client.key           <-- Client key
   └── ca.crt               <-- Certificate authority that signed
                                the registry certificate

You can also have this directory structure, as long as the CA certificate is also in your keychain.

└── <MyRegistry>:<Port>
    ├── client.cert
    └── client.key

To learn more about how to install a CA root certificate for the registry and how to set the client TLS certificate for verification, see Verify repository client with certificates in the Docker Engine topics.

Install shell completion

Docker for Mac comes with scripts to enable completion for the docker, docker-machine, and docker-compose commands. The completion scripts may be found inside, in the Contents/Resources/etc/ directory and can be installed both in Bash and Zsh.


Bash has built-in support for completion To activate completion for Docker commands, these files need to be copied or symlinked to your bash_completion.d/ directory. For example, if you installed bash via Homebrew:

ln -s $etc/docker.bash-completion $(brew --prefix)/etc/bash_completion.d/docker
ln -s $etc/docker-machine.bash-completion $(brew --prefix)/etc/bash_completion.d/docker-machine
ln -s $etc/docker-compose.bash-completion $(brew --prefix)/etc/bash_completion.d/docker-compose


In Zsh, the completion system takes care of things. To activate completion for Docker commands, these files need to be copied or symlinked to your Zsh site-functions/ directory. For example, if you installed Zsh via Homebrew:

ln -s $etc/docker.zsh-completion /usr/local/share/zsh/site-functions/_docker
ln -s $etc/docker-machine.zsh-completion /usr/local/share/zsh/site-functions/_docker-machine
ln -s $etc/docker-compose.zsh-completion /usr/local/share/zsh/site-functions/_docker-compose

Give feedback and get help

To get help from the community, review current user topics, join or start a discussion, log on to our Docker for Mac forum.

To report bugs or problems, log on to Docker for Mac issues on GitHub, where you can review community reported issues, and file new ones. See Diagnose problems, send feedback, and create GitHub issues. As a part of reporting issues on GitHub, we can help you troubleshoot the log data.

To give us feedback on the documentation or update it yourself, use the Feedback options at the bottom of each docs page.

Docker Store

Choose Docker Store from the Docker for Mac menu to get to the Docker app downloads site. Docker store is a component of the next-generation Docker Hub, and the best place to find compliant, trusted commercial and free software distributed as Docker Images.

Docker Store

Docker Cloud

You can access your Docker Cloud account from within Docker for Mac.

Docker Cloud

From the Docker for Mac menu, sign in to Docker Cloud with your Docker ID, or create one.

Docker Cloud sign-in

Then use the Docker for Mac menu to create, view, or navigate directly to your Cloud resources, including organizations, repositories, and swarms.

Check out these Docker Cloud topics to learn more:

Need a direct link to Cloud? Take me to Docker Cloud.

Where to go next

mac, edge, tutorial