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Installing Firebird

Where can I get Firebird ?
Which version should I get ?
System Requirements
Installing Firebird

Where can I get Firebird ?

The Firebird website can be reached at www. At the time this document was written, the download site for Firebird was at the Firebird Project's production download page on For simplest access, it is advisable to go to the Firebird website and click on the “Download” link.

Which version should I get ?

For MacOSX, the download site only has a pre-built binary for the Firebird Classic Server, version 1.5.1. There is no binary available for the Firebird Superserver, however, a method for building and installing the Superserver version is included in section 4 of this document.

As I was completing this document [ December 2004 ], a point release 1.5.2 was released. There are no pre-built binaries for OSX yet, but the procedure for building 1.5.2 from source is in a later section of this document.

The difference between the Classic Server and the Superserver lies in the design approach. The Superserver uses threads to service multiple clients connecting to it at the same time, while the Classic Server was the original approach used in Interbase, which spawns a separate server process for every connection.

Under MacOSX, xinetd is used to spawn a new process for each client connection to a database. A White Paper comparing the two approaches can be found here.

On MacOSX, the question of which server version to use does not arise as there is only one version available (unless you compile firebird yourself from source). For “embedded databases” with few concurrent users, it should not make much of a difference which one you choose. Theoretically, for applications with a wider audience, the Superserver should perform better by reducing process startup times and better sharing of resources.

I have done some limited testing with our application and there is a noticeble increase in performance when the Superserver version of Firebird is used. This most likely due to the overhead of xinetd having to start new processes when using the Classic version.

System Requirements

The default 1.5.1 package, when installed, occupies just over 10 MB of disk space, and should run well on any system capable of running OSX.

The only requirements are:

  • OSX 10.2 or above

These instructions were tested on OSX 10.3.4, 10.3.5 and 10.3.6 (panther). It should work on any OSX version 10.2 or above, though, as always, your mileage may vary.

Installing Firebird

In this example, I will assume you have created a directory called temp located in your home directory and all work will be performed in there.

After you have successfully downloaded the zip file from the website, save it into your temp directory.

Open a Terminal window, change into the temp directory and execute the following command:

$ cd temp
~/temp $ unzip

This will extract the Firebird insaller package into a directory named Firebird-CS-1.5.pkg inside your temp directory.

To launch the MacOSX Installer program and process this package, you can use the open command in your Terminal window as follows:

~/temp $ open Firebird-CS-1.5.pkg

Alternatively, you can use the Finder to navigate to your temp directory.

  • Double-click on the Firebird-CS-1.5.pkg directory to launch the MacOSX Installer.

  • Follow the installer dialogs to complete installation of the Firebird software. This will install Firebird into the directory /Library/Frameworks/Firebird.framework.

In order to use the command-line Firebird Administration programs such as gsec and isql, you must run them from the Terminal. We need to make these binary files available to our Terminal sessions by adding them to our PATH. I did this by editing the .bash_profile file in my home directory, appending the following lines:

export FIREBIRD_HOME=/Library/Frameworks/Firebird.framework/Resources


Unix people will feel comfortable using an editor such as vim or pico to make these changes. Alternatively, if you would prefer to use TextEdit, you can just type

 open ~/.bash_profile

at the command prompt and the file will appear in a TextEdit window.

Add the above export statements to the end of the file, then save your changes.

To verify that your changes have worked, open a new Terminal window, type isql then press enter. You should see the following:

      ~/temp $ isql

Use CONNECT or CREATE DATABASE to specify a database

SQL> quit;

Type quit; (dont forget the semi-colon!) to exit the isql program and return to your command prompt.

Congratulations. If you have gotten this far, you now have a working Firebird installation running on OSX.

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Firebird Documentation IndexFirebird MacOSX Whitepaper → Installing Firebird