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Perry Janssen
Perry Janssen

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Fix slow Docker databases for Apple Silicon M1 chips

Reading and writing to databases in Docker on Apple Silicon laptops is currently quite slow. Dealing with large databases can be hard or even impossible to work with. While Docker and Apple are working to fix this issue, we need a temporary solution for our local environments. Luckily, running databases outside of Docker containers isn't slow at all!

In this little tutorial we'll be creating a database on our localhost and connecting a Drupal installation inside a Docker container to it.

Homebrew, MariaDB and another terminal

In this example we'll be setting up a MariaDB database. MariaDB can be installed using Homebrew, but MariaDB isn't compatible with the new M1 chip yet, so we will install it using a Rosetta version of Homebrew.

Rosetta Terminal

First, we'll need to create a new terminal application to run our commands using "x86_64 instructions", which emulates the Intel processors of previous Macs. The emulator is called Rosetta 2. You can run programs in this mode, but also create applications that always start up using Rosetta.

  • In Finder, navigate to your Applications folder.
  • Inside the Utilities folder, duplicate the Terminal application and call it something like "Rosetta Terminal".
  • Click on "Get Info" on the newly created Application.
  • In the General tab, check the box that says "Open using Rosetta".

You can change the application icon by copying an image, clicking on the small icon at the top of the "Get Info" window, and pasting. This way you can tell the two terminal applications apart. Check sites like for free icons.

You can also change the background color of the terminal in the application's Preferences > Profiles, so you always know which terminal you've got in front of you.

Now all commands executed in this terminal are executed using the Intel architecture. Now let's install Homebrew.

Rosetta Brew

Install Homebrew using this command:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"
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This will install the brew command in /usr/local, which is a different location than the M1 Homebrew installation. This means we've got two Homebrews, so we need to differentiate between the two by creating an alias command for the new installation.

You can do this by running: alias ibrew='arch -x86_64 /usr/local/bin/brew'

The arch -x86_64 part makes sure the command is run using Rosetta, even if you use it outside of the Rosetta Terminal, but I advise to just always use the Rosetta Terminal when working with x86_64 packages.

If you run ibrew, it will run the Rosetta brew command ๐ŸŽ‰

As you will probably bump into more incompatible brew packages in you developing life, you will get a lot of use out of our ibrew command.

If you don't want to run the alias command every time you want to use the ibrew command, put the line in your terminal profile. For the ZSH shell this is ~/.zshrc.


Install MariaDB in your Rosetta Terminal.

  • Run brew install mariadb and let the installation complete.
  • Run brew services start mariadb to start the MySQL database.
  • Run sudo mysql to log into MySQL as the root user.
  • Run CREATE DATABASE db_name; to create a database.

Now we have a database service and created a database which we can connect to. But before we can connect to it outside of our terminal, we have to create a user.

When still in the MySQL command line:

  • Run CREATE USER 'username'@'%' IDENTIFIED BY 'password'; to create a user with username "username" and password "password" for all hosts. Replace username and password with you desired credentials.
  • Run GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO 'username'@'%' IDENTIFIED BY 'password'; to grant all permissions to the user, so it can read and write to the database.

The percent sign '%' after the username makes sure the user can log in from any host. Setting this to 'localhost' will only make the databases accessible from the localhost domain, for that user. You want to specify this host in production environments for security reasons, but locally I advise using the % wildcard, especially because we want to connect to it from out Docker container.

Now we have set up everything to connect to our database, so let's do that now!

Connecting to an "external" database

When inside a Docker container, you cannot reach the localhost of you machine by just using localhost or as the host. Luckily Docker has made a couple of hosts we can use that proxy to our localhost ๐Ÿ˜„

There are multiple hosts for some reason. One or all might work for you, just try them:

  • host.docker.internal
  • gateway.docker.internal

In Drupal 8/9 the database config looks something like this:

$databases['default']['default'] = [
  'driver' => 'mysql',
  'database' => 'db_name',
  'username' => 'username',
  'password' => 'password',
  'host' => 'host.docker.internal',
  'port' => 3306,
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You should be able to connect to your external database now!

Download Sequel Pro to make creating and maintaining databases a little more visual.

While this isn't a perfect solution, it actually works better than I expected, at least for the project I'm working on now! For small databases you can still use database services inside Docker, but if you're talking huge, content-filled Drupal or Wordpress databases, you will have a hard time not using an external database like this. Let's hope Docker and/or Apple will fix this very soon!

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