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initdb — Create a new Postgres database installation
initdb [ --pgdata|-D dbdir ]
    [ --sysid|-i sysid ]
    [ --pwprompt|-W ]
    [ --encoding|-E encoding ]
    [ --pglib|-L libdir ]
    [ --noclean | -n ] [ --debug | -d ] [ --template | -t ]


--pgdata=dbdir, -D dbdir, PGDATA

This option specifies where in the file system the database should be stored. This is the only information required by initdb, but you can avoid it by setting the PGDATA environment variable, which can be convenient since the database server (postmaster) can find the database directory later by the same variable.

--sysid=sysid, -i sysid

Selects the system id of the database superuser. This defaults to the effective user id of the user running initdb. It is really not important what the superuser's sysid is, but one might choose to start the numbering at some number like 0 or 1.

--pwprompt, -W

Makes initdb prompt for a password of the database superuser. If you don't plan on using password authentication, this is not important. Otherwise you won't be able to use password authentication until you have a password set up.

--encoding=encoding, -E encoding

Selects the multibyte encoding of the template database. This will also be the default encoding of any database you create later, unless you override it there. To use the multibyte encoding feature, you must specify so at build time, at which time you also select the default for this option.

Other, less commonly used, parameters are also available:

--pglib=libdir, -l libdir

initdb needs a few input files to initialize the database. This option tells where to find them. You normally don't have to worry about this since initdb knows about the most common installation layouts and will find the files itself. You will be told if you need to specify their location explicitly. If that happens, one of the files is called global1.bki.source and is traditionally installed along with the others in the library directory (e.g., /usr/local/pgsql/lib).

--template, -t

Replace the template1 database in an existing database system, and don't touch anything else. This is useful when you need to upgrade your template1 database using initdb from a newer release of Postgres, or when your template1 database has become corrupted by some system problem. Normally the contents of template1 remain constant throughout the life of the database system. You can't destroy anything by running initdb with the --template option.

--noclean, -n

By default, when initdb determines that error prevent it from completely creating the database system, it removes any files it may have created before determining that it can't finish the job. This option inhibits any tidying-up and is thus useful for debugging.

--debug, -d

Print debugging output from the bootstrap backend and a few other messages of lesser interest for the general public. The bootstrap backend is the program initdb uses to create the catalog tables. This option generates a tremendous amount of output.


initdb will create files in the specified data area which are the system tables and framework for a complete installation.


initdb creates a new Postgres database system. A database system is a collection of databases that are all administered by the same Unix user and managed by a single postmaster.

Creating a database system consists of creating the directories in which the database data will live, generating the shared catalog tables (tables that don't belong to any particular database), and creating the template1 database. When you create a new database, everything in the template1 database is copied. It contains catalog tables filled in for things like the builtin types.

You must not execute initdb as root. This is because you cannot run the database server as root either, but the server needs to have access to the files initdb creates. Furthermore, during the initialization phase, when there are no users and no access controls installed, postgres will only connect with the name of the current Unix user, so you must log in under the account that will own the server process.

Although initdb will attempt to create the respective data directory, chances are that it won't have the permission to do so. Thus it is a good idea to create the data directory before running initdb and to hand over the ownership of it to the database superuser.