Backing up and restoring database info is very useful during database development.

If you haven’t installed Postgres on your mac, use the command brew install postgresql in your terminal.

Backing up the database

The command pg_dump can be used to backup the schema and data in a Postgres database (See the docs). Here is an example of creating a backup file which on MacOS is saved in your Home directory.

pg_dump -U postgres --encoding utf8 -h localhost -p 5432 myappdb > myappdbdump.sql

This file can be used to import the backup into an empty database.

Importing over existing data

If you look at the newly created .sql file above, you can see it uses ‘CREATE TABLE’ commands. This means if you you can only restore this backup file into a database with an empty table.

If you want to overwrite existing data where these tables already exist with ‘ALTER TABLE IF EXISTS ONLY’ instead, you can add the flags --clean --if-exists to the dump command. Our backup command now looks like this:

pg_dump -U postgres --encoding utf8 -h localhost -p 5432 --clean --if-exists myappdb > myappdbdump.sql

NOTE: This is the same format the popular app hosting platform downloads it’s postgres backups in.

Restoring the database

To restore a database use this command, defining the database name and backup dump filename:

psql -U postgres -h localhost -p 5432 myappdb < myappdbdump.sql

Backup and restore with compressed files

To create a compressed backup dump file you need to use the pg_dump and pg_restore commands:

pg_dump -U postgres -h localhost -p 5432 -Fc -Z 9 --clean --if-exists myappdb > myappdbdump.sql

To restore the file, use pg_restore:

pg_restore -h localhost -p 5432 -U postgres --clean --if-exists -d myappdb myappdbdump.sql

Backing up a test database without compression created a 8.3mb file, using -Z 9 the file shrunk to 647kb!


Tools like Beekeeper Studio and pgAdmin provide a handy UI for interacting with your database.

Further reading



Note: Comments are moderated, URLs not permitted.