Jenkins CI Server on Mac OS X

A guide for setting up a Jenkins CI server on Mac OS X machine.

So you want to have Continuous Integration for Mobile in your company and your final choice of CI server is Jenkins. If your company is big and you are lucky enough the Dev Support or Dev Ops team will do all the heavy-lifting and install it for you. But if it’s not the case you might’ve just landed on a page that has something to help you out.


A kind of warning first, avoid installing Jenkins as Launch Daemon. For detailed reasoning checkout out this article.

Jenkins Wiki offers a list of options for Jenkins installation but doesn’t mention Mac OS X. It mentions Docker though and I’ve heard nothing but good things about Docker. In this article I will stick with Homebrew.

You will need JDK to be installed and configured on your Mac before proceeding.

To install run a simple shell command.

Jenkins will be installed to usr/local and Homebrew will actually tell you right away how to turn it into a Launch Agent.

This recommends you to symlink Jenkins launch agent plist file to ~/Library/LaunchAgents but I would advise against it. As you will see next you will need to modify that file. That means if you ever upgrade Jenkins via Homebrew all your changes in plist will be lost. My recommendation is to copy it instead of making a symbolic link.

Even more, once installed via Homebrew I then delegate Jenkins upgrades to Jenkins itself. For this reason I pin Homebrew formula to prevent Homebrew from upgrading Jenkins files.

Now you also have manual control over Jenkins installation and can start/stop it from command line.


To understand why you need to change plist try to run Jenkins server. Give it a go, create a couple of build projects that do some basics like checking out git repository and running simple build command. Very soon you should get an error message saying that Jenkins has ran out of memory. This seems to be a common issue with JVM and Mac OS X, Bamboo installations run into same problems. I’m not quite sure why default configuration doesn’t account for this, probably this is Mac specific and other operating systems are OK. Anyway, you need to modify default plist file for Launch Agent. Here’s what you need and might want to change.

JVM Virtual Memory and Garbage Collection

  • Tell JVM to use a 64-bit data model if available (-d64).
  • Set minimum and maximum heap size with -Xms and Xmx flags. 512 Mb works for me most of the time.
  • Configure garbage collector, class unloading and permanent space.

HTTP Proxy

By far the largest source of issues and frustration, company proxy. Specify it using -D option.

Port and Prefix

Run Jenkins on a custom port with custom prefix in url. This example uses default 8080 port and /jenkins prefix, so you can access your Jenkins dashboard like http://yourhostname:8080/jenkins or ever http://youthostname/jenkins. These arguments need to be passed to jenkins.war which was installed by Homebrew to /usr/local/opt/jenkins/libexec.

Run at Load

Enable Run at Load option to start server automatically if machine reboots.

Environment Variables

If any of the commands in this plist need environment variables this is how you can define them.

Standard Output and Error

It is up to you to redirect stdout and stderr. While sounds like a good idea for logging I would advise against redirecting stderr into a file. I once had to deal with 90 Gb log file created by Bamboo remote agent over a few months period.

Note that Jenkins put its files in .jenkins folder in your user’s home path. You also have to specify full paths when dealing with launch agent plists. Create log folder if it’s not there yet.


By default Jenkins enables security protocol for email. I have also faced an issue with Bitbucket Plugin and had to set preferIPv4Stack flag as a workaround. These are all flags for java command.

Full Config

Now put it all together.

Now you have a reliable Jenkins server that runs 24/7 and performs stable CI tasks.


To find out how exactly Jenkins was launched, grep active processes list.

The output will tell you everything you need to know.

Other Ways

Jenkins Runner

There are other ways to install and start Jenkins server, one of them is using runner script. It is not bundled with Homebrew installation by default, you should download it manually as mentioned on the Jenkins Wiki page.

In this case all the configuration options are in data/wrapper.conf file, you can check default file and easily figure out where to add your custom options.

The runner shell script itself can be launched as Launch Agent or Launch Daemon. Overall this is just a higher level of configuration.

Legacy Runner

Another approach I’ve seen is to use custom runner script. I am actually working with one right now but I suspect this is a legacy version of

The main difference is that all configuration is stored in Mac OS X defaults and then read by the script like this.

Defaults are stored as plist and are read as a dictionary. An example output looks like this

Using [sudo] defaults write you can change Jenkins configuration.

Obviously this is less preferred way than using wrapper.conf. Using OS X defaults leads to configuration which is non-reusable on other operating systems and can’t be easily put in SCM if needed.


A short summary - install with Homebrew, configure as Launch Agent. To configure Jenkins for Mobile CI tasks you can read other articles in this blog.

The configuration is far from being final. You will have to install plugins, configure SSH keys for git repositories and perform multitude of other administrative tasks to bring your Jenkins CI box up to speed.

Published: February 01 2015

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