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pgenv - PostgreSQL binary manager


pgenv help

# Check dependencies
pgenv check

# Show versions available to build
pgenv available

# Build PostgreSQL server
pgenv build 10.4

# Use PostgreSQL version
pgenv use 10.4

# Stop current version
pgenv stop

# Start current version
pgenv start

# Restart current version
pgenv restart

# Show current version
pgenv version

# List built versions
pgenv versions

# Clear current version
pgenv clear

# Remove PostgreSQL version
pgenv remove 8.0.25


pgenv is a simple utility to build and run different releases of PostgreSQL. This makes it easy to switch between versions when testing applications for compatibility.


  1. Check out pgenv into ~/.pgenv.

    $ git clone ~/.pgenv
  2. Add ~/.pgenv/bin and ~/.pgenv/pgsql/bin to your $PATH for access to the pgenv command-line utility and all the programs provided by PostgreSQL:

    $ echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.pgenv/bin:$HOME/.pgenv/pgsql/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_profile

    Ubuntu note: Modify your ~/.profile instead of ~/.bash_profile.

    Zsh note: Modify your ~/.zshrc file instead of ~/.bash_profile.

  3. Restart your shell as a login shell so the path changes take effect. You can now begin using pgenv.

    $ exec $SHELL -l
  4. Build a version of PostgreSQL:

    $ pgenv build 10.4


By default, all versions of PostgreSQL will be built in the root of the project directory (generally in ~/.pgenv.). If you'd like them to live elsewhere, set the $PGENV_ROOT environment variable to the appropriate directory.

It is possible to configure which programs, flags and languages to build using a configuration file before the program launches the build. For a more detailed configuration, see the pgenv config command below.


You can upgrade your installation to the cutting-edge version at any time with a simple git pull.

$ cd ~/.pgenv
$ git pull


  • env - Sets environment for execution
  • bash - Command shell interpreter
  • curl - Used to download files
  • sed, grep, cat, tar, sort, tr, uname - General Unix command line utilities
  • patch - For patching versions that need patching
  • make - Builds PostgreSQL

Optional dependencies:

  • Perl 5 - To build PL/Perl
  • Python - To build PL/Python

Command Reference

Like git, the pgenv command delegates to subcommands based on its first argument. The subcommands are:

pgenv use

Sets the version of PostgreSQL to be used in all shells by symlinking its directory to ~/$PGENV_ROOT/pgsql and starting it. Initializes the data directory if none exists. If another version is currently active, it will be stopped before switching. If the specified version is already in use, the use command won't stop it, but will initialize its data directory and starts it if it's not already running.

$ pgenv use 10.4
waiting for server to shut down.... done
server stopped
waiting for server to start.... done
server started
PostgreSQL 10.4 started

pgenv versions

Lists all PostgreSQL versions known to pgenv, and shows an asterisk next to the currently active version (if any). The first column reports versions available for use by pgenv and the second lists the subdirectory of $PGENV_ROOT in which the each version is installed:

$ pgenv versions
      10.4      pgsql-10.4
      11beta3   pgsql-11beta3
      9.5.13    pgsql-9.5.13
  *   9.6.9     pgsql-9.6.9

In this example, versions 9.5.13, 9.6.9, 10.4, and 11beta3 are available for use, and the * indicates that 9.6.10 is the currently active version. Each version is installed in a pgsql- subdirectory of $PGENV_ROOT.

pgenv current

Displays the currently active PostgreSQL version.

$ pgenv current

Please note that version is a command synonym for version:

$ pgenv version

pgenv clear

Clears the currently active version of PostgreSQL. If the current version is running, clear will stop it before clearing it.

$ pgenv clear
waiting for server to shut down.... done
server stopped
PostgreSQL stopped
PostgreSQL cleared

pgenv build

Downloads and builds the specified version of PostgreSQL and its contrib modules, as far back as 8.0. It is possible to instrument the build process to patch the source tree, see the section on patching later on. If the version is already built, it will not be rebuilt; use clear to remove an existing version before building it again.

$ pgenv build 10.3
# [Curl, configure, and make output elided]
PostgreSQL 10.3 built

The build phase can be customized via a configuration file, in the case the system does not find a configuration file when the build is executed, a warning is shown to the user to remind she can edit a configuration file and start over the build process:

$ pgenv build 10.3
WARNING: no configuration file found for version 10.3
HINT: if you wish to customize the build process please
stop the execution within 5 seconds (CTRL-c) and run
    pgenv config write 10.3 && pgenv config edit 10.3
adjust 'configure' and 'make' options and flags and run again
    pgenv build 10.3

Within the configuration file it is possible to instrument the build phase from the configuration to the actual build. For instance, in order to build with PL/Perl, it is possible to configure the variable PGENV_CONFIGURE_OPTS adding --with-perl. Please note that it is possible to pass argument variables within the command line to instrument the build phase. As an example, the following is a possible work-flow to configure and build a customized 10.5 instance:

$ pgenv config write 10.5
$ pgenv config edit 10.5
$ pgenv build 10.5

In the case you need to specify a particular variable, such as the Perl interpreter, pass it on the command line at the time of build:

$ PERL=/usr/local/my-fancy-perl pgenv build 10.5


pgenv can patch the source tree before the build process starts. In particular, the patch/ folder can contain a set of index files and patch to apply. The process searches for an index file corresponding to the PostgreSQL version to build, and if found applies all the patches contained into the index.

Index files are named after the PostgreSQL version and the Operating System; in particular the name of an index file is composed as patch.<version>.<os> where version is the PostgreSQL version number (or a part of it) and os is the Operating System. As an example, patch.8.1.4.Linux represents the index used when building PostgreSQL 8.1.4 on a Linux machine. To provide more flexibility, the system searches for an index that is named after the exact PostgreSQL version and Operating System or a mix of possible combinations of those. As an example, in the case of the PostgreSQL version 8.1.4 the index files is searched among one of the following:


This allows you to specify an index for pretty much any combination or grouping desired. The first index file that matches wins and it is the only one used for the build process. If no index file is found at all, no patching is applied on the source tree.

The index file must contain a list of patches to apply, that is file names (either absolute or relative to the patch/ subfolder). Each individual file is applied thru patch(1).

It is possible to specify a particular index file, that means avoid the automatic index selection, by either setting the PGENV_PATCH_INDEX variable on the command line or in the configuration file. As an example

$ PGENV_PATCH_INDEX=/src/my-patch-list.txt pgenv build 10.5

pgenv remove

Removes the specified version of PostgreSQL unless it is the currently-active version. Use the clear command to clear the active version before removing it.

$ pgenv remove 10.3
PostgreSQL 10.3 removed

The command removes the version, data directory, source code and configuration.

pgenv start

Starts the currently active version of PostgreSQL if it's not already running. Initializes the data directory if none exists.

$ pgenv start
PostgreSQL started

It is possible to specify flags to pass to pg_ctl(1) when performing the START action, setting the PGENV_START_OPTS in the configuration. Such options must not include the data directory, nor the log file.

pgenv stop

Stops the currently active version of PostgreSQL.

$ pgenv stop
PostgreSQL 10.5 stopped

It is possible to specify flags to pass to pg_ctl(1) when performing the stop action, setting the PGENV_STOP_OPTS in the configuration.

pgenv restart

Restarts the currently active version of PostgreSQL, or starts it if it's not already running.

$ pgenv restart
PostgreSQL 10.1 restarted
Logging to pgsql/data/server.log

It is possible to specify flags to pass to pg_ctl(1) when performing the restart action, setting the PGENV_RESTART_OPTS in the configuration.

pgenv available

Shows all the versions of PostgreSQL available to download and build. Handy to help you finding a version to pass to the build command. Note that the available command produces copious output.

$ pgenv available
            Available PostgreSQL Versions

                    PostgreSQL 9.6
    9.6.0   9.6.1   9.6.2   9.6.3   9.6.4   9.6.5
    9.6.6   9.6.7   9.6.8   9.6.9   9.6.10

                    PostgreSQL 10
    10.0    10.1    10.2    10.3    10.4    10.5

                    PostgreSQL 11
    11beta1  11beta2  11beta3

The versions are organized and sorted by major release number. Any listed version may be passed to the build command.

To limit the list to versions for specific major releases, pass them to available. For example, to list only the 9.6 and 10 available versions:

$ pgenv available 10 9.6
            Available PostgreSQL Versions

                    PostgreSQL 9.6
    9.6.0   9.6.1   9.6.2   9.6.3   9.6.4   9.6.5
    9.6.6   9.6.7   9.6.8   9.6.9   9.6.10

                    PostgreSQL 10
    10.0    10.1    10.2    10.3    10.4    10.5

pgenv check

Checks the list of commands required to download and build PostgreSQL. Prints a result for each, with either the path to the command or an error reporting that the command was not found.

pgenv help

Outputs a brief usage statement and summary of available commands, like the following:

$ pgenv help
Usage: pgenv <command> [<args>]
The pgenv commands are:
    use        Set and start the current PostgreSQL version
    clear      Stop and unset the current PostgreSQL version
    start      Start the current PostgreSQL server
    stop       Stop the current PostgreSQL server
    restart    Restart the current PostgreSQL server
    build      Build a specific version of PostgreSQL
    remove     Remove a specific version of PostgreSQL
    version    Show the current PostgreSQL version
    current    Same as 'version'
    versions   List all PostgreSQL versions available to pgenv
    help       Show this usage statement and command summary
    available  Show which versions can be downloaded
    check      Check all program dependencies
    config     View, edit, delete the program configuration

For full documentation, see:

pgenv config

View, set, and delete configuration variables, both globally or for specific versions of PostgreSQL. Stores the configuration in Bash files, one for each version, as well as a default configuration. If pgenv cannot find a configuration variable in a version-specific configuration file, it will look in the default configuration. If it doesn't find it there, it tires to guess the appropriate values, or falls back on its own defaults.

The config command accepts the following subcommands:

  • show prints the current or specified version configuration
  • write store the current or specified version configuration
  • edit opens the current or specified version configuration in an editor (Using $EDITOR, e.g: export EDITOR=/usr/bin/vim)
  • delete removes the specified configuration

Each sub-command accepts a PostgreSQL version number (e.g., 10.5) or a special keyword:

  • current or version tells pgenv to use the currently active version of PostgreSQL
  • default tells pgenv to use the default configuration.

If no version is explicitly passed to any of the config subcommands, the program will work against the currently active version of PostgreSQL.

In order to start with a default configuration, use the write subcommand:

$ pgenv config write default
pgenv configuration file ~/.pgenv/.pgenv.conf written

A subsequent show displays the defaults:

$ pgenv config show default
# Default configuration
# pgenv configuration for PostgreSQL
# File: /home/luca/git/misc/PostgreSQL/pgenv/.pgenv.conf
# ---------------------------------------------------
# pgenv configuration created on mer 12 set 2018, 08.35.52, CEST

# Enables debug output

###### Build settings #####
# Make command to use for build

# Make flags

# Configure flags

# ...

##### Runtime options #####
# Path to the cluster log file

# Cluster administrator user

# Initdb flags
PGENV_INITDB_OPTS='-U postgres --locale en_US.UTF-8 --encoding UNICODE'

# ...

You can edit the file and adjust parameters to your needs.

In order to create a configuration file for a specific version, pass the version to the write subcommand:

$ pgenv config write 10.5 pgenv configuration file [~/.pgenv/.pgenv.10.5.conf] written

Each time pgenv writes a configuration file, it first creates a backup with the suffix .backup.

Use the edit subcommand to edit a configuration file in your favourite editor:

$ pgenv config edit 10.5

The edit command will start your favourite editor, that is whatever it is set within the EDITOR variable. If such variable is not set you will be warned. Use the delete subcommand to delete a configuration:

$ pgenv config delete 10.5 Configuration file ~/.pgenv/.pgenv.10.5.conf (and backup) deleted

Note that you cannot delete the default configuration unless all other versions have been removed (e.g., by pgenv remove). This prevents accidental loss of configuration:

$ pgenv config delete Cannot delete default configuration while version configurations exist To remove it anyway, delete ~/.pgenv/.pgenv.conf.

The delete subcommand deletes both the configuration file and its backup copy. The pgenv remove command also deletes any configuration for the removed version.

Bug Reporting

Please use GitHub issues.

See Also

  • plenv is a binary manager for Perl, and was the inspiration for pgenv.
  • plenv, in turn, was inspired by and based on rbenv, a binary manager for Ruby.
  • Pgenv works similarly, but requires PostgreSQL manually compiled from its Git repo.


Distributed under The MIT License; see for terms.

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