I’ve recently moved from Arch Linux to an OS X desktop, and one of my projects, powered by MySQL, broke when doing an atomic rename of a table (RENAME TABLE snapshot TO snapshot_old, snapshot_new TO snapshot) with a cryptic error of “Table already exists”. No it doesn’t.

Apparently the HFS filesystem on OS X is case-sensitive internally, but exposes a case-insensitive interface to userland programs, by default. And the MySQL support story of almost-case-sensitive file systems is sad.

It is possible to create a case-sensitive volume in which to store the MySQL datafiles and avoid random “Table already exists” errors.

Note: I’ve been on OS X for a couple of weeks now, there’s probably a better way to do it, please let me know.


I’m actually using MariaDB installed from Homebrew, it is 100% compatible with MySQL and unless you need support from Oracle, I encourage you to switch to it. These instructions should (not tested) work with upstream MySQL.


Like on Linux, on OS X it is possible to create a filesystem (or volume), format and mount it. First, dump all your databases. We’ll be recreating the data directory from scratch.

mysqldump -u root --all-databases > backup.sql
mysql.server stop

Now, let’s create an empty case-sensitive volume and mount it in place of the default data directory at /usr/local/var/mysql. We’ll create a sparse 20GB volume, which will grow incrementally as data is written to it.

cd /usr/local/var
mv mysql mysql_backup
hdiutil create -size 20g -type SPARSEBUNDLE -fs JHFS+X -volname mysql mysql
hdiutil attach -nobrowse -mountpoint mysql mysql.sparsebundle/

Start MySQL, make sure everything is OK, and load the dump.

mysql.server start
mysql -u root < backup.sql

That’s it. But we want the volume to be mounted automatically at boot. Let’s create a launch daemon, at /Library/LaunchDaemons/cc.combo.mysql-sparsebundle.plist, with the following contents:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">

Let’s fix the permissions and load it into launchd.

sudo chown root:wheel /Library/LaunchDaemons/cc.combo.mysql-sparsebundle.plist
launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/cc.combo.mysql-sparsebundle.plist

Your MySQL installation should now behave exactly as if it were installed on a Linux server.