psql backup table to file with code examples

PostgreSQL is one of the world's most robust and popular open-source relational database systems. Database backups are a common aspect of database administration, particularly when data loss prevention and recovery is of paramount importance.

Backing up a PostgreSQL database has several forms, one of which is storing a table’s data within a file. Generally speaking, database table backup can be achieved by creating a text file containing commands that rebuild your table with identical data.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to backing up PostgreSQL tables while also providing code examples for this process.

Backing up PostgreSQL Table to File

The PG_DUMP command-line program can be used to backup individual databases or all databases located in a PostgreSQL cluster. PG_DUMP is a fast PostgreSQL database backup tool that can store the data in several different formats, including a SQL script file, a compressed tar archive, or an archive custom format. SQL script backup files are standard SQL files generated by PG_DUMP, and are portable between PostgreSQL versions.

Backing up a PostgreSQL database table on the command line is usually a two-step operation. The first step involves generating a backup for the table data and the second step involves exporting the table data to an SQL script file.
Now, let’s take a look at some code examples and learn how to backup PostgreSQL table data in a file using PG_DUMP in a few different ways.

Example 1:

In this example, PG_DUMP is used to store a table named 'myTable' in a SQL script file with name 'myTable.sql' in plain text format. The data is encoded as ASCII text, with four-space indents denoting each statement’s structure. Here’s the command to execute:

pg_dump -U postgres -t myTable -f myTable.sql -F plain

The -U option specifies the username of the PostgreSQL instance you want to back up. The -t option specifies the name of the table you want to backup. The -f option specifies the name of the output file to store the backup data. The -F option specifies the file format to use when storing the backup data.

Remember that the backup file may grow quite large if the table you intend to export contains a large amount of data.

Example 2:

PG_DUMP can be used to create compressed tar backups (.tar) in addition to SQL script files (.sql). One benefit of using compressed tar is that it takes less storage space than the SQL script file. Also, compressing a file reduces the time it takes to transfer the file over the network.

Here’s an example of how to create a compressed tar backup of a PostgreSQL table named 'myTable' and store it in a file named 'myTable.tar.gz':

pg_dump -U postgres -t myTable -f - | gzip > myTable.tar.gz

This code will produce the file all at once with a backup of the database. When you run this command, it generates a binary file and then compression takes place.

Example 3:

Another method to backup a PostgreSQL table to a file is to upload a PostgreSQL COPY statement to an SQL script file. This dump format can contain all specific data attributes such as trigger data, index data, etc. Here’s an example of how you can create an SQL script file with the COPY statement:

psql -U postgres -c "COPY myTable TO 'myTable.csv' WITH CSV HEADER;"

This code does not allow you to create an SQL file; instead, it exports data to either a CSV or a functional file with explicitly defined headers.


PG_DUMP can be used to generate backups of database tables in PostgreSQL, allowing you to quickly create manual backups or schedule automatic backups.
One of the great things about PG_DUMP is that it provides several backup formats, allowing you to tailor your backups to your needs.
You can create a SQL script file or compressed data, both of which can be used to restore database tables in the event of data loss. Likewise, there are many other PostgreSQL backup tools available on the internet, granting the option to both backup and automate the entire process.

I can provide some additional information on backing up PostgreSQL tables and related topics.

Automating Backup Processes

Automating backup processes is an essential part of a database administrator's role. Setting up regular backups ensures data recovery in the event of server crashes, data corruption, or hardware failures. Automating backups eliminates human error as well, so it's a highly recommended practice.

One way to automate backups of PostgreSQL tables is to use the Cron scheduling daemon. You can set up a Cron job to run the PG_DUMP command at a selected time every day, week, or month, depending on your backup policy.

Here's an example of a Cron job that runs a PG_DUMP backup script every day at midnight:

0 0 * * * /usr/bin/pg_dump -U postgres -d mydb -t mytable -F c -b -f /backups/mytable_%Y%m%d.dump.gz

The above command instructs the system to run at midnight (0 0) each day of the week, every month (), at every minute of the hour (), and at every hour of the day (*). The pg_dump command is then specified along with backups directory 'mytable_%Y%m%d.dump.gz' for storing the backup. The %Y%m%d parameter specifies that the backup filename should include the date in the format YYYY-MM-DD.

Backing Up the Entire PostgreSQL Database

PG_DUMP is a versatile tool that allows you to generate backups for PostgreSQL data at the database level, too. Backing up an entire database results in a single SQL script file that contains all the data tables, indexes, and other objects contained in the database.

Here's an example of backing up an entire PostgreSQL database using PG_DUMP:


The options -F, -b, and -v respectively specify the output format (custom format), enables backup mode, and displays the backup process in verbose mode. The -f option specifies the path and filename of the backup file to create.

Restoring a Table from a Backup

If you ever need to restore a single PostgreSQL table from a backup file, it's possible using the PG_RESTORE command. Restoring tables follows a similar process to backing them up.

Here's an example of how to restore a table from a backup file using PG_RESTORE:

pg_restore -U postgres -d mydb -t mytable /backups/mytable.sql

The above command reads in and restores the 'mytable' table from the mytable.sql backup file to the 'mydb' database. The -t option specifies the name of the table you want to restore.


Backing up PostgreSQL databases and tables is a process that every PostgreSQL database administrator should know how to do. Automating the backup process removes the possibility for human error, ensuring a smooth recovery process in case of data loss. Additionally, you can back up entire databases or your precious PostgreSQL tables, whichever suits your requirements.

Popular questions

  1. What is the benefit of using psql to backup PostgreSQL tables?
    A) psql provides a fast and easy way to backup PostgreSQL tables with several backup formats available, including SQL script files, compressed tar archives, and archive custom formats.

  2. Can we automate the backup process for PostgreSQL tables using psql?
    A) Yes, we can use the Cron scheduling daemon to automate backup processes for PostgreSQL tables using psql.

  3. How can we generate backups for PostgreSQL data at the database level using psql?
    A) We can back up the entire PostgreSQL database at a single file containing all data tables, indexes, and other objects using the PG_DUMP command.

  4. Can we restore a single table from a backup file using psql?
    A) Yes, we can restore a single table from a backup file using the PG_RESTORE command.

  5. What are the benefits of automating backup processes?
    A) Automating backup processes ensures data recovery in the event of a server crash, data corruption, or hardware failures, and eliminates the possibility of human error. It also saves time and effort in managing backups manually.



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