Setting up MongoDB as service on OSX

Recently I’ve been getting my teeth into NoSQL-based map-reduce problems, where I want to throw a lot of data into a database and then produce some interesting queries. For this I decided to start playing about with MongoDB, which seems to be one of the most popular solutions out there. For this, I wanted to get it running as a system service, in the same way as having Apache and MySQL setup on my macbook. Here’s what I did to get this setup using launchd and a _mongodb system user.

Installing MongoDB

This is the easy bit 🙂 You can install through homebrew, but I decided to just install manually as it’s just as easy. As this might be out of date, I’d recommend following the instructions here, but just incase, here’s how I did it.

First you need to download the latest tar, which at the time of writing is 3.0.2. In Terminal, issue the following command:

curl -O

Next you want to extract the files, the simplest way is with the following command:

tar -zxvf mongodb-osx-x86_64-3.0.2.tgz

With the files extracted, you want to copy them somewhere that’s in your path, or directly add the mongodb/bin folder. To parody what MySQL and git does, I decided to copy them into a folder in /usr/local, and then create symlinks inside /usr/local/bin. This allows it to be available to all

sudo mkdir /usr/local/mongodb
sudo cp -R -n mongodb-osx-x86_64-3.0.2/ /usr/local/mongodb
sudo ln -s /usr/local/mongodb/bin/mongo /usr/local/bin/mongo
sudo ln -s /usr/local/mongodb/bin/mongod /usr/local/bin/mongod

You should now have “mongo” (the client app) and “mongod” (the daemon) in your path. you can test this by running “which mongo” in Terminal and checking it returns the newly created “/usr/local/bin/mongo” symlink. If it doesn’t you’ll want to check your PATH environment var.

With mongo installed, the next task is to setup the data directory. By default, mongodb using “/data/db” as the folder, but you can put it wherever you want. I’m kinda ok with it being here, so let’s create this folder so that we can run the daemon.

sudo mkdir -p /data/db

We should now have everything setup that we need to run the mongo daemon as the current user. So in Terminal, type:


If you decided to change the data directory, you’ll need to specify the directoy when running mongod using the –dbpath option:

mongod --dbpath <data directory>

Setting up a Daemon Account

With MongoDB installed and working, the next task was to setup a new user account to run the service. The reason for doing this was to better control what access they have to the system, and to emulate how MySQL is setup on an OSX machine.

There’s several ways to create a new user on an OSX machine, but the “correct” way to do this for a non-interactive system account is to use a tool called “dscl”. Let’s go through the commands you’ll need to do to create the account correctly:

sudo dscl
cd /Local/Default

This will put us into the correct part of the directory service, ready to create the new user. First, we need to create a Group to assign the user to. To do this, we need to find a free GroupID (gid). You can list the current groups with the following command. For a daemon group, you want to ideally look for an ID below 500:

ls Groups gid

On my machine, 300 was available, so let’s go ahead and create a new “mongodb” group. By convention service groups have an underscore prefix, so I’ll follow this as well.

create Groups/_mongodb
create Groups/_mongodb PrimaryGroupID 300

Now we should have the group setup, let’s go about creating the User. Again we want to find a free UserUD (uid), and again for a daemon user, you want to look for an ID below 500.

ls Users uid

Again I found that 300 was available, so let’s go ahead and create a new “mongodb” user. Again the convention for service users is to have an underscore prefix. This time, there’s a few more things we want to setup (the shell, for instance) but it should be all pretty self-explanatory:

create Users/_mongodb UniqueID 300
create Users/_mongodb PrimaryGroupID 300
create Users/_mongodb UserShell /usr/bin/false
create Users/_mongodb NFSHomeDirectory /var/empty

This should setup a new User which doesn’t have a HOME directory and no shell. Next we need to do is actually tell the Group that it has “_mongodb” as a user:

append Groups/_mongodb GroupMembership _mongodb

You can now exit dscl by calling exit, which will take you back to the prompt.

With the user and group accounts setup, you’ll probably want to prevent the user from showing up in the login screen. Executing the following will do this for you:

sudo dscl . delete /Users/_mongodb AuthenticationAuthority
sudo dscl . create /Users/_mongodb Password "*"

Finally we’ll want to change the ownership of the dbpath we setup earlier to be owned by this user. Doing the following should do this for you:

sudo chown -R _mongodb:_mongodb /data/db

Creating the System Service

With the account and mongodb setup, the next step is to create the System Service. In Yosemite, the easiest way to do this is to use launchd, Apple’s built in daemon manager. Because we want to run the service using the newly created system account, we’ll need to add it as a System daemon rather than a global/user daemon. To do this, we will first create a new plist file that defines the arguments and options for the service.

sudo touch /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.mongodb.mongod.plist
sudo open -a TextEdit /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.mongodb.mongod.plist

This will open the file in TextEdit, though you can use whatever editor you like. Next, add the following:

<plist version="1.0">

This will setup a new “ord.mongodb.mongod” service, running as _mongodb, and using a config file to determine the settings for the instance of mongodb. You can obviously change whatever you need, but if you followed the previous steps, this is all you should need.

Creating the MongoDB Configuration File

Finally, we need to create the config file to run the above service. The reason I’ve done it this way rather than via arguments to the plist is I find it easier to edit configuration files rather than services, but it’s really up to you. Here’s the config file for my setup, which I put into “/etc/mongodb.conf”:

dbPath: "/data/db"
directoryPerDB: true
enabled: true
destination: file
path: "/data/db/mongodb.log"
logAppend: true
timeStampFormat: iso8601-utc
enabled: true
RESTInterfaceEnabled: true

The first setting is defining the dbpath that we want to use, if we should split db’s by folder and if we want to enable journalling (we do). Next is setting for where to output the MongoDB log, which I put in the same base folder as my dbpath, as I find it convenient. If you want to put it elsewhere, just make sure _mongodb has the right permissions to write to that folder.

The final setting is a dev specific setting, to enable the HTTP and REST interfaces built into MongoDB. This isn’t recommended for production servers (is a massive security risk) but it’s useful for development.

With all that setup, we should now be able to load the new service into launchd using the following command:

sudo launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.mongodb.mongod.plist

And that’s it! If you now browse to http://localhost:28017/, you should see a debug page for the local mongoDB!

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