How to fix a mysql2 gem install problem

This is one of those posts that’s written as my extended memory. I ran into an issue trying to install the mysql2 gem on a client project today running MySQL 5.6 (yeah yeah, I know). The root issue wasn’t immediately obvious, but I managed to find a workaround.

What I experienced

The gist of the issue is this behaviour (I’ve included the full error output down below):

$ gem install mysql2 -v 0.5.3
/opt/local/bin/mysql_config: unknown option '--include'
*** extconf.rb failed ***

It seems the relevant error message here is:

/opt/local/bin/mysql_config: unknown option '--include'

which matches what happens when I try it manually:

$ /opt/local/bin/mysql_config --version
/opt/local/bin/mysql_config Ver 1.0 Distrib 5.6.45, for osx10.14 on x86_64

$ /opt/local/bin/mysql_config --include
/opt/local/bin/mysql_config: unknown option '--include'

Installing the gem with MySQL 5.7 activated works just fine, because:

$ /opt/local/bin/mysql_config --include

Now, this is weird because mysql_config most definitely should have an --include option according to the man page:

o   --include

    Compiler options to find MySQL include files.


Root cause

It seems the mysql_config binary gets linked incorrectly when doing port select mysql. The symlink is now pointing to something unexpected:

ls -l /opt/local/bin/mysql_config
lrwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  46 Aug  6 11:50 /opt/local/bin/mysql_config -> /opt/local/lib/mysql56/bin/mysql_config_editor

That link probably shouldn’t go to mysql_config_editor, but to /opt/local/lib/mysql56/bin/mysql_config. Luckily the workaround isn’t problematic now we know the root cause:


To work around the issue describe above, we can instruct mysql2 where to find our mysql_config binary:

$ gem install mysql2 -v "0.5.3" -- --with-mysql-config=/opt/local/lib/mysql56/bin/mysql_config
Fetching mysql2-0.5.3.gem
Building native extensions with: '--with-mysql-config=/opt/local/lib/mysql56/bin/mysql_config'
This could take a while...
Successfully installed mysql2-0.5.3
1 gem installed


Let this be a reminder to always verify your assumptions. I assumed, quite logically I might add, that the mysql_config binary in my PATH was the binary I was looking for. It wasn’t.

System details

Full error log

$ gem install mysql2 -v "0.5.3"
Building native extensions. This could take a while...
ERROR:  Error installing mysql2:
	ERROR: Failed to build gem native extension.

    current directory: ~/.rvm/gems/ruby-2.5.7@bornibyen/gems/mysql2-0.5.3/ext/mysql2
~/.rvm/rubies/ruby-2.5.7/bin/ruby -I ~/.rvm/rubies/ruby-2.5.7/lib/ruby/site_ruby/2.5.0 -r ./siteconf20200806-40171-1ce1iq5.rb extconf.rb
checking for rb_absint_size()... yes
checking for rb_absint_singlebit_p()... yes
checking for rb_wait_for_single_fd()... yes
Using mysql_config at /opt/local/bin/mysql_config
/opt/local/bin/mysql_config: unknown option '--include'
*** extconf.rb failed ***
Could not create Makefile due to some reason, probably lack of necessary
libraries and/or headers.  Check the mkmf.log file for more details.  You may
need configuration options.

Provided configuration options:

To see why this extension failed to compile, please check the mkmf.log which can be found here:


extconf failed, exit code 1

Gem files will remain installed in ~/.rvm/gems/ruby-2.5.7/gems/mysql2-0.5.3 for inspection.
Results logged to ~/.rvm/gems/ruby-2.5.7/extensions/x86_64-darwin-18/2.5.0/mysql2-0.5.3/gem_make.out