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PostgreSQL pg_ctl

pg_ctl --> initialize, start, stop, or control a PostgreSQL server

pg_ctl is a utility for initializing a PostgreSQL database cluster, starting, stopping, or restarting the PostgreSQL database server , or displaying the status of a running server. Although the server can be started manually, pg_ctl encapsulates tasks such as redirecting log output and properly detaching from the terminal and process group. It also provides convenient options for controlled shutdown.
The init or initdb mode creates a new PostgreSQL database cluster. A database cluster is a collection of databases that are managed by a single server instance. This mode invokes the initdb command. 
In start mode, a new server is launched. The server is started in the background, and its standard input is attached to /dev/null (or nul on Windows). On Unix-like systems, by default, the server's standard output and standard error are sent to pg_ctl's standard output (not standard error). The standard output of pg_ctl should then be redirected to a file or piped to another process such as a log rotating program like rotatelogs; otherwise postgres will write its output to the controlling terminal (from the background) and will not leave the shell's process group. On Windows, by default the server's standard output and standard error are sent to the terminal. These default behaviors can be changed by using -l to append the server's output to a log file. Use of either -l or output redirection is recommended.
In stop mode, the server that is running in the specified data directory is shut down. Three different shutdown methods can be selected with the -m option. "Smart" mode (the default) waits for all active clients to disconnect and any online backup to finish. If the server is in hot standby, recovery and streaming replication will be terminated once all clients have disconnected. "Fast" mode does not wait for clients to disconnect and will terminate an online backup in progress. All active transactions are rolled back and clients are forcibly disconnected, then the server is shut down. "Immediate" mode will abort all server processes immediately, without a clean shutdown. This will lead to a crash-recovery run on the next restart.
restart mode effectively executes a stop followed by a start. This allows changing the postgres command-line options. restart might fail if relative paths specified were specified on the command-line during server start.
reload mode simply sends the postgres process a SIGHUP signal, causing it to reread its configuration files (postgresql.confpg_hba.conf, etc.). This allows changing of configuration-file options that do not require a complete restart to take effect.
status mode checks whether a server is running in the specified data directory. If it is, the PID and the command line options that were used to invoke it are displayed. If the server is not running, the process returns an exit status of 3.
In promote mode, the standby server that is running in the specified data directory is commanded to exit recovery and begin read-write operations.
kill mode allows you to send a signal to a specified process. This is particularly valuable for Microsoft Windows which does not have a kill command. Use --help to see a list of supported signal names.
register mode allows you to register a system service on Microsoft Windows. The -S option allows selection of service start type, either "auto" (start service automatically on system startup) or "demand" (start service on demand).
unregister mode allows you to unregister a system service on Microsoft Windows. This undoes the effects of the register command.


pg_ctl init[db] [-s] [-D datadir] [-o initdb-options]
pg_ctl start [-w] [-t seconds] [-s] [-D datadir] [-l filename] [-o options] [-p path] [-c]
pg_ctl stop [-W] [-t seconds] [-s] [-D datadir] [-m s[mart] | f[ast] | i[mmediate] ]
pg_ctl restart [-w] [-t seconds] [-s] [-D datadir] [-c] [-m s[mart] | f[ast] | i[mmediate] ] [-o options]
pg_ctl reload [-s] [-D datadir]
pg_ctl status [-D datadir]
pg_ctl promote [-s] [-D datadir]
pg_ctl kill signal_name process_id
pg_ctl register [-N servicename] [-U username] [-P password] [-D datadir] [-S a[uto] | d[emand] ] [-w] [-t seconds] [-s] [-o options]
pg_ctl unregister [-N servicename]


Attempt to allow server crashes to produce core files, on platforms where this is possible, by lifting any soft resource limit placed on core files. This is useful in debugging or diagnosing problems by allowing a stack trace to be obtained from a failed server process.
-D datadir
--pgdata datadir
Specifies the file system location of the database configuration files. If this is omitted, the environment variable PGDATA is used.
-l filename
--log filename
Append the server log output to filename. If the file does not exist, it is created. The umask is set to 077, so access to the log file is disallowed to other users by default.
-m mode
--mode mode
Specifies the shutdown mode. mode can be smartfast, or immediate, or the first letter of one of these three. If this is omitted, smart is used.
-o options
Specifies options to be passed directly to the postgres command.
The options should usually be surrounded by single or double quotes to ensure that they are passed through as a group.
-o initdb-options
Specifies options to be passed directly to the initdb command.
The options should usually be surrounded by single or double quotes to ensure that they are passed through as a group.
-p path
Specifies the location of the postgres executable. By default the postgres executable is taken from the same directory as pg_ctl, or failing that, the hard-wired installation directory. It is not necessary to use this option unless you are doing something unusual and get errors that the postgres executable was not found.
In init mode, this option analogously specifies the location of the initdb executable.
Print only errors, no informational messages.
The maximum number of seconds to wait when waiting for startup or shutdown to complete. Defaults to the value of the PGCTLTIMEOUT environment variable or, if not set, to 60 seconds.
Print the pg_ctl version and exit.
Wait for the startup or shutdown to complete. Waiting is the default option for shutdowns, but not startups. When waiting for startup, pg_ctl repeatedly attempts to connect to the server. When waiting for shutdown, pg_ctl waits for the server to remove its PID file. This option allows the entry of an SSL passphrase on startup. pg_ctl returns an exit code based on the success of the startup or shutdown.
Do not wait for startup or shutdown to complete. This is the default for start and restart modes.
Show help about pg_ctl command line arguments, and exit.

Options for Windows

-N servicename
Name of the system service to register. The name will be used as both the service name and the display name.
-P password
Password for the user to start the service.
-S start-type
Start type of the system service to register. start-type can be auto, or demand, or the first letter of one of these two. If this is omitted, auto is used.
-U username
User name for the user to start the service. For domain users, use the format DOMAIN\username.


Default limit on the number of seconds to wait when waiting for startup or shutdown to complete. If not set, the default is 60 seconds.
Default data directory location.
pg_ctl, like most other PostgreSQL utilities, also uses the environment variables supported by libpq 


The existence of this file in the data directory is used to help pg_ctl determine if the server is currently running.
If this file exists in the data directory, pg_ctl (in restart mode) will pass the contents of the file as options to postgres, unless overridden by the -o option. The contents of this file are also displayed in status mode.

Starting the Server

To start the server:
$ pg_ctl start
To start the server, waiting until the server is accepting connections:
$ pg_ctl -w start
To start the server using port 5433, and running without fsync, use:
$ pg_ctl -o "-F -p 5433" start

Stopping the Server

To stop the server, use:
$ pg_ctl stop
The -m option allows control over how the server shuts down:
$ pg_ctl stop -m fast

Restarting the Server

Restarting the server is almost equivalent to stopping the server and starting it again, except that pg_ctl saves and reuses the command line options that were passed to the previously running instance. To restart the server in the simplest form, use:
$ pg_ctl restart
To restart the server, waiting for it to shut down and restart:
$ pg_ctl -w restart
To restart using port 5433, disabling fsync upon restart:
$ pg_ctl -o "-F -p 5433" restart

Showing the Server Status

Here is sample status output from pg_ctl:
$ pg_ctl status
pg_ctl: server is running (PID: 13718)
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/postgres "-D" "/usr/local/pgsql/data" "-p" "5433" "-B" "128"
This is the command line that would be invoked in restart mode.


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