SQL Dump

Create a SQL Dump


pg_dump dbname > dumpfile

pg_dump is a PostgreSQL utility used for backing up databases. It generates an SQL file that can be used to recreate the database in its original state. The output can be redirected to a file or used in other formats for more control. pg_dump can be executed from a remote host with database access, but it requires read permissions for the tables being backed up. It offers advantages such as compatibility with different PostgreSQL versions and support for transferring databases across different machine architectures. Dumps created by pg_dump are internally consistent, representing a snapshot of the database at the time of the dump.

Restore from a dump file


psql dbname < dumpfile

When using pg_dump to generate a database dump, the output is saved in a file called "dumpfile." It's important to create the database specified by "dbname" separately before using the psql utility for restoration. Ensure that all relevant users exist before restoring the SQL dump to maintain ownership and permissions. By default, psql continues executing even after encountering SQL errors, but you can change this behavior by setting the ON_ERROR_STOP variable. Alternatively, you can restore the entire dump as a single transaction using the --single-transaction option. The use of pipes enables direct database transfer between servers using pg_dump and psql commands.

You might wish to run psql with the ON_ERROR_STOP variable set to alter that behavior and have psql exit with an exit status of 3 if an SQL error occurs:

psql --set ON_ERROR_STOP=on dbname < dumpfile

The ability of pg_dump and psql to write to or read from pipes makes it possible to dump a database directly from one server to another, for example:

pg_dump -h host1 dbname | psql -h host2 dbname

Important Note

When dealing with large pg_dump output files, certain operating systems may impose file size limits. Thankfully, pg_dump provides options to overcome this issue. Here are several methods to consider:

  1. Compressed Dumps: Utilize compression tools like gzip to compress the pg_dump output file. For example:

    • Create a compressed dump: pg_dump dbname | gzip > filename.gz

    • Restore the dump: gunzip -c filename.gz | psql dbname or cat filename.gz | gunzip | psql dbname

  2. Splitting Output: Use the split command to divide the output into smaller files that fit within the file system limits. For example:

    • Split into 2 GB chunks: pg_dump dbname | split -b 2G - filename

    • Restore the dump: cat filename* | psql dbname

  3. Custom Dump Format: If PostgreSQL was built with the zlib compression library, you can utilize the custom dump format, which compresses data as it writes to the output file. This format allows selective table restoration. For example:

    • Create a custom-format dump: pg_dump -Fc dbname > filename

    • Restore the dump: pg_restore -d dbname filename

Note: Custom-format dumps must be restored using pg_restore, not psql.

For very large databases, combining the split method with other approaches may be necessary.

  1. Parallel Dump: To expedite the dump process for large databases, you can use pg_dump's parallel mode, which dumps multiple tables simultaneously. Control the degree of parallelism using the -j parameter. Parallel dumps are supported for the "directory" archive format. For example:

    • Dump in parallel: pg_dump -j num -F d -f out.dir dbname

    • Restore in parallel: Use pg_restore -j to restore a parallel dump, regardless of the archive mode used.

Refer to the pg_dump and pg_restore reference pages for further details on these methods.

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