By Mark Drake
Manager, Developer Education
Relational database management systems are a key component of many web sites and applications. They provide a structured way to store, organize, and access information.
PostgreSQL, or Postgres, is a relational database management system that provides an implementation of the SQL querying language. It’s standards-compliant and has many advanced features like reliable transactions and concurrency without read locks.
This guide demonstrates how to install Postgres on an Ubuntu 20.04 server. It also provides some instructions for general database administration.
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To follow along with this tutorial, you will need one Ubuntu 20.04 server that has been configured by following our Initial Server Setup for Ubuntu 20.04 guide. After completing this prerequisite tutorial, your server should have a non-root user with sudo permissions and a basic firewall.
Ubuntu’s default repositories contain Postgres packages, so you can install these using the
apt packaging system.
If you’ve not done so recently, refresh your server’s local package index:
- sudo apt update
Then, install the Postgres package along with a
-contrib package that adds some additional utilities and functionality:
- sudo apt install postgresql postgresql-contrib
Ensure that the server is running using the
systemctl start command:
- sudo systemctl start postgresql.service
Now that the software is installed and running, we can go over how it works and how it may be different from other relational database management systems you may have used.
By default, Postgres uses a concept called “roles” to handle authentication and authorization. These are, in some ways, similar to regular Unix-style accounts, but Postgres does not distinguish between users and groups and instead prefers the more flexible term “role”.
Upon installation, Postgres is set up to use peer authentication, meaning that it associates Postgres roles with a matching Unix/Linux system account. If a role exists within Postgres, a Unix/Linux username with the same name is able to sign in as that role.
The installation procedure created a user account called postgres that is associated with the default Postgres role. In order to use Postgres, you can log into that account.
There are a few ways to utilize this account to access Postgres.
Switch over to the postgres account on your server by typing:
- sudo -i -u postgres
You can now access the PostgreSQL prompt immediately by typing:
From there you are free to interact with the database management system as necessary.
Exit out of the PostgreSQL prompt by typing:
This will bring you back to the
postgres Linux command prompt.
You can also run the command you’d like with the postgres account directly with
For instance, in the last example, you were instructed to get to the Postgres prompt by first switching to the postgres user and then running
psql to open the Postgres prompt. You could do this in one step by running the single command
psql as the postgres user with
sudo, like this:
- sudo -u postgres psql
This will log you directly into Postgres without the intermediary
bash shell in between.
Again, you can exit the interactive Postgres session by typing:
Many use cases require more than one Postgres role. Read on to learn how to configure these.
Currently, you just have the postgres role configured within the database. You can create new roles from the command line with the
createrole command. The
--interactive flag will prompt you for the name of the new role and also ask whether it should have superuser permissions.
If you are logged in as the postgres account, you can create a new user by typing:
- createuser --interactive
If, instead, you prefer to use
sudo for each command without switching from your normal account, type:
- sudo -u postgres createuser --interactive
The script will prompt you with some choices and, based on your responses, execute the correct Postgres commands to create a user to your specifications.
OutputEnter name of role to add: sammy Shall the new role be a superuser? (y/n) y
You can get more control by passing some additional flags. Check out the options by looking at the
- man createuser
Your installation of Postgres now has a new user, but you have not yet added any databases. The next section describes this process.
Another assumption that the Postgres authentication system makes by default is that for any role used to log in, that role will have a database with the same name which it can access.
This means that if the user you created in the last section is called sammy, that role will attempt to connect to a database which is also called “sammy” by default. You can create the appropriate database with the
If you are logged in as the postgres account, you would type something like:
- createdb sammy
If, instead, you prefer to use
sudo for each command without switching from your normal account, you would type:
- sudo -u postgres createdb sammy
This flexibility provides multiple paths for creating databases as needed.
To log in with peer authentication, you’ll need a Linux user with the same name as your Postgres role and database.
If you don’t have a matching Linux user available, you can create one with the
adduser command. You will have to do this from your non-root account with
sudo privileges (meaning, not logged in as the postgres user):
- sudo adduser sammy
Once this new account is available, you can either switch over and connect to the database by typing:
- sudo -i -u sammy
Or, you can do this inline:
- sudo -u sammy psql
This command will log you in automatically, assuming that all of the components have been properly configured.
If you want your user to connect to a different database, you can do so by specifying the database like this:
- psql -d postgres
Once logged in, you can get check your current connection information by typing:
OutputYou are connected to database "sammy" as user "sammy" via socket in "/var/run/postgresql" at port "5432".
This is useful if you are connecting to non-default databases or with non-default users.
Now that you know how to connect to the PostgreSQL database system, you can learn some basic Postgres management tasks.
The basic syntax for creating tables is as follows:
CREATE TABLE table_name ( column_name1 col_type (field_length) column_constraints, column_name2 col_type (field_length), column_name3 col_type (field_length) );
As you can see, these commands give the table a name, and then define the columns as well as the column type and the max length of the field data. You can also optionally add table constraints for each column.
You can learn more about how to create and manage tables in Postgres here.
For demonstration purposes, create the following table:
- CREATE TABLE playground (
- equip_id serial PRIMARY KEY,
- type varchar (50) NOT NULL,
- color varchar (25) NOT NULL,
- location varchar(25) check (location in ('north', 'south', 'west', 'east', 'northeast', 'southeast', 'southwest', 'northwest')),
- install_date date
This command will create a table that inventories playground equipment. The first column in the table will hold equipment ID numbers of the
serial type, which is an auto-incrementing integer. This column also has the constraint of
PRIMARY KEY which means that the values within it must be unique and not null.
The next two lines create columns for the equipment
color respectively, neither of which can be empty. The line after these creates a
location column as well as a constraint that requires the value to be one of eight possible values. The last line creates a
date column that records the date on which you installed the equipment.
For two of the columns (
install_date), the command doesn’t specify a field length. The reason for this is that some data types don’t require a set length because the length or format is implied.
You can see your new table by typing:
OutputList of relations Schema | Name | Type | Owner --------+-------------------------+----------+------- public | playground | table | sammy public | playground_equip_id_seq | sequence | sammy (2 rows)
Your playground table is here, but there’s also something called
playground_equip_id_seq that is of the type
sequence. This is a representation of the
serial type which you gave your
equip_id column. This keeps track of the next number in the sequence and is created automatically for columns of this type.
If you want to see just the table without the sequence, you can type:
OutputList of relations Schema | Name | Type | Owner --------+------------+-------+------- public | playground | table | sammy (1 row)
With a table at the ready, let’s use it to practice managing data.
Now that you have a table, you can insert some data into it. As an example, add a slide and a swing by calling the table you want to add to, naming the columns and then providing data for each column, like this:
- INSERT INTO playground (type, color, location, install_date) VALUES ('slide', 'blue', 'south', '2017-04-28');
- INSERT INTO playground (type, color, location, install_date) VALUES ('swing', 'yellow', 'northwest', '2018-08-16');
You should take care when entering the data to avoid a few common hangups. For one, do not wrap the column names in quotation marks, but the column values that you enter do need quotes.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you do not enter a value for the
equip_id column. This is because this is automatically generated whenever you add a new row to the table.
Retrieve the information you’ve added by typing:
- SELECT * FROM playground;
Outputequip_id | type | color | location | install_date ----------+-------+--------+-----------+-------------- 1 | slide | blue | south | 2017-04-28 2 | swing | yellow | northwest | 2018-08-16 (2 rows)
Here, you can see that your
equip_id has been filled in successfully and that all of your other data has been organized correctly.
If the slide on the playground breaks and you have to remove it, you can also remove the row from your table by typing:
- DELETE FROM playground WHERE type = 'slide';
Query the table again:
- SELECT * FROM playground;
Outputequip_id | type | color | location | install_date ----------+-------+--------+-----------+-------------- 2 | swing | yellow | northwest | 2018-08-16 (1 row)
Notice that the
slide row is no longer a part of the table.
After creating a table, you can modify it by adding or removing columns. Add a column to show the last maintenance visit for each piece of equipment by typing:
- ALTER TABLE playground ADD last_maint date;
If you view your table information again, you will see the new column has been added but no data has been entered:
- SELECT * FROM playground;
Outputequip_id | type | color | location | install_date | last_maint ----------+-------+--------+-----------+--------------+------------ 2 | swing | yellow | northwest | 2018-08-16 | (1 row)
If you find that your work crew uses a separate tool to keep track of maintenance history, you can delete of the column by typing:
- ALTER TABLE playground DROP last_maint;
This deletes the
last_maint column and any values found within it, but leaves all the other data intact.
So far, you’ve learned how to add records to a table and how to delete them, but this tutorial hasn’t yet covered how to modify existing entries.
You can update the values of an existing entry by querying for the record you want and setting the column to the value you wish to use. You can query for the
swing record (this will match every swing in your table) and change its color to
red. This could be useful if you gave the swing set a paint job:
- UPDATE playground SET color = 'red' WHERE type = 'swing';
You can verify that the operation was successful by querying the data again:
- SELECT * FROM playground;
Outputequip_id | type | color | location | install_date ----------+-------+-------+-----------+-------------- 2 | swing | red | northwest | 2018-08-16 (1 row)
As you can see, the slide is now registered as being red.
You are now set up with PostgreSQL on your Ubuntu 20.04 server. If you’d like to learn more about Postgres and how to use it, we encourage you to check out the following guides:
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