Run the SQL Server 2017 container image with Docker

In this quick start tutorial, you use Docker to pull and run the SQL Server 2017 RC2 container image, mssql-server-linux. Then connect with sqlcmd to create your first database and run queries.

This image consists of SQL Server running on Linux based on Ubuntu 16.04. It can be used with the Docker Engine 1.8+ on Linux or on Docker for Mac/Windows.


This quick start specifically focuses on using the mssql-server-linux image. The Windows image is not covered, but you can learn more about it on the mssql-server-windows Docker Hub page.



The default on Docker for Mac and Docker for Windows is 2 GB for the Moby VM, so you must change it to 4 GB. If you are running on Mac or Windows, use the following procedures to increase the memory.

Increase Docker memory to 4 GB (Mac)

The following steps increase the memory for Docker for Mac to 4 GB.

  1. Click the Docker logo on the top status bar.
  2. Select Preferences.
  3. Move the memory indicator to 4 GB or more.
  4. Click the restart button at the button of the screen.

Increase Docker memory to 4 GB (Windows)

The following steps increase the memory for Docker for Windows to 4 GB.

  1. Right-click on the Docker icon from the task bar.
  2. Click Settings under that menu.
  3. Click the Advanced Tab.
  4. Move the memory indicator to 4 GB or more.
  5. Click the Apply button.

Pull and run the container image

  1. Pull the container image from Docker Hub.

    docker pull microsoft/mssql-server-linux

    For Linux, depending on your system and user configuration, you might need to preface each docker command with sudo.

  2. To run the container image with Docker, you can use the following command from a bash shell (Linux/macOS):

    docker run -e 'ACCEPT_EULA=Y' -e 'MSSQL_SA_PASSWORD=<YourStrong!Passw0rd>' -e 'MSSQL_PID=Developer' --cap-add SYS_PTRACE -p 1401:1433 -d microsoft/mssql-server-linux

    If you are using Docker for Windows, use the following command from an elevated PowerShell command-prompt:

    docker run -e "ACCEPT_EULA=Y" -e "MSSQL_SA_PASSWORD=<YourStrong!Passw0rd>" -e "MSSQL_PID=Developer" --cap-add SYS_PTRACE -p 1401:1433 -d microsoft/mssql-server-linux

    The only difference between the bash (Linux/macOS) example and the PowerShell (Windows) example is single quotes versus double-quotes around the environment variables. The docker run command fails if you use the wrong one. Throughout the remainder of this topic, bash and PowerShell code blocks are provided for convenience. If there is only one example, it works on all platforms, including Windows.

    The following table provides a description of the parameters in the previous docker run example:

    Parameter Description
    -e 'ACCEPT_EULA=Y' Set the ACCEPT_EULA variable to any value to confirm your acceptance of the End-User Licensing Agreement. Required setting for the SQL Server image.
    -e 'MSSQL_SA_PASSWORD=<YourStrong!Passw0rd>' Specify your own strong password that is at least 8 characters and meets SQL Server's password requirements. Required setting for the SQL Server image.
    -e 'MSSQL_PID=Developer' Specifies the edition or product key. In this example, the freely licensed Developer Edition is used for non-production testing. For other values, see Configure SQL Server settings with environment variables on Linux.
    --cap-add SYS_PTRACE Adds the Linux capability to trace a process. This enables SQL Server to generate dumps on an exception.
    -p 1401:1433 Map a TCP port on the host environment (first value) with a TCP port in the container (second value). In this example, SQL Server is listening on TCP 1433 in the container and this is exposed to the port, 1401, on the host.
    microsoft/mssql-server-linux The SQL Server Linux container image. Unless otherwise specified, this defaults to the latest image.
  3. To view your Docker containers, use the docker ps command.

    docker ps -a

    You should see output similar to the following screenshot:

    Docker ps command output

  4. If the STATUS column shows a status of Up, then SQL Server is running in the container and listening on the port specified in the PORTS column. If the STATUS column for your SQL Server container shows Exited, see the Troubleshooting section of the configuration guide.

There are two useful docker run options not used in the previous example for simplicity. The -h (host name) parameter changes the internal name of the container to a custom value. This is the name you'll see returned in the following Transact-SQL query:


You also might find the --name parameter useful to name your container rather than having a generated container name. Setting -h and --name to the same value is a good way to easily identify the target container.

Change the SA password

The SA account is a system administrator on the SQL Server instance that gets created during setup. After creating your SQL Server container, the MSSQL_SA_PASSWORD environment variable you specified is discoverable by running echo $MSSQL_SA_PASSWORD in the container. For security purposes, change your SA password.

  1. Choose a strong password to use for the SA user.

  2. Use docker exec to run sqlcmd to change the password using Transact-SQL. Replace <Old Password> and <New Password> with your password values.

docker exec -it <Container ID> /opt/mssql-tools/bin/sqlcmd -S localhost -U SA -P '<Old Password>' -Q 'ALTER LOGIN SA WITH PASSWORD="<New Password>";'

Connect to SQL Server

The following steps use the SQL Server command-line tool, sqlcmd, inside the container to connect to SQL Server.

  1. Use the docker exec -it command to start an interactive bash shell inside your running container. In the following example e69e056c702d is the container ID.

    docker exec -it e69e056c702d "bash"

    You don't always have to specify the entire container id. You only have to specify enough characters to uniquely identify it. So in this example, it might be enough to use e6 or e69 rather than the full id.

  2. Once inside the container, connect locally with sqlcmd. Sqlcmd is not in the path by default, so you have to specify the full path.

    /opt/mssql-tools/bin/sqlcmd -S localhost -U SA -P '<YourPassword>'

    You can omit the password on the command-line to be prompted to enter it.

  3. If successful, you should get to a sqlcmd command prompt: 1>.

Create and query data

The following sections walk you through using sqlcmd and Transact-SQL to create a new database, add data, and run a simple query.

Create a new database

The following steps create a new database named TestDB.

  1. From the sqlcmd command prompt, paste the following Transact-SQL command to create a test database:

  2. On the next line, write a query to return the name of all of the databases on your server:

    SELECT Name from sys.Databases
  3. The previous two commands were not executed immediately. You must type GO on a new line to execute the previous commands:


Insert data

Next create a new table, Inventory, and insert two new rows.

  1. From the sqlcmd command prompt, switch context to the new TestDB database:

    USE TestDB
  2. Create new table named Inventory:

    CREATE TABLE Inventory (id INT, name NVARCHAR(50), quantity INT)
  3. Insert data into the new table:

    INSERT INTO Inventory VALUES (1, 'banana', 150); INSERT INTO Inventory VALUES (2, 'orange', 154);
  4. Type GO to execute the previous commands:


Select data

Now, run a query to return data from the Inventory table.

  1. From the sqlcmd command prompt, enter a query that returns rows from the Inventory table where the quantity is greater than 152:

    SELECT * FROM Inventory WHERE quantity > 152;
  2. Execute the command:


Exit the sqlcmd command prompt

  1. To end your sqlcmd session, type QUIT:

  2. To exit the interactive command-prompt in your container, type exit. Your container continues to run after you exit the interactive bash shell.

Connect from outside the container

You can also connect to the SQL Server instance on your Docker machine from any external Linux, Windows, or macOS tool that supports SQL connections.

The following steps use sqlcmd outside of your container to connect to SQL Server running in the container. These steps assume that you already have the SQL Server command-line tools installed outside of your container. The same principals apply when using other tools, but the process of connecting is unique to each tool.

  1. Find the IP address for the machine that hosts your container. On Linux, use ifconfig or ip addr. On Windows, use ipconfig.

  2. Run sqlcmd specifying the IP address and the port mapped to port 1433 in your container. In this example, that is port 1401 on the host machine.

    sqlcmd -S,1401 -U SA -P '<YourPassword>'
    sqlcmd -S,1401 -U SA -P "<YourPassword>"
  3. Run Transact-SQL commands. When finished, type QUIT.

Other common tools to connect to SQL Server include:

Next steps

To explore other scenarios, such as running multiple containers, data persistence, and troublehshooting, see Configure SQL Server 2017 container images on Docker.

Also, check out the mssql-docker GitHub repository for resources, feedback, and known issues.