What's the fastest way to do a bulk insert into Postgres?

0 votes
asked Apr 17, 2009 by ash

I need to programmatically insert 10's of millions of records into a postgres database. Presently I am executing 1000's of insert statements in a single "query".

Is there a better way to do this, some bulk insert statement I dont know about?

8 Answers

0 votes
answered Apr 17, 2009 by daniel-lew

PostgreSQL has a guide on how to best populate a database initially, and they suggest using the COPY command for bulk loading rows. The guide has some other good tips on how to speed up the process, like removing indexes and foreign keys before loading the data (and adding them back afterwards).

0 votes
answered Apr 17, 2009 by dana-the-sane

One way to speed things up is to explicitly perform multiple inserts or copy's within a transaction (say 1000). Postgres's default behavior is to commit after each statement, so by batching the commits, you can avoid some overhead. As the guide in Daniel's answer says, you may have to disable autocommit for this to work. Also note the comment at the bottom that suggests increasing the size of the wal_buffers to 16 MB may also help.

0 votes
answered Apr 3, 2011 by wildplasser

It mostly depends on the (other) activity in the database. Operations like this effectively freeze the entire database for other sessions. Another consideration is the datamodel and the presence of constraints,triggers, etc.

My first approach is always: create a (temp) table with a structure similar to the target table (create table tmp AS select * from target where 1=0), and start by reading the file into the temp table. Then I check what can be checked: duplicates, keys that already exist in the target, etc.

Then I just do a "do insert into target select * from tmp" or similar.

If this fails, or takes too long, I abort it and consider other methods (temporarily dropping indexes/constraints, etc)

0 votes
answered Apr 17, 2011 by mike-t

You can use COPY table TO ... WITH BINARY which is "somewhat faster than the text and CSV formats." Only do this if you have millions of rows to insert, and if you are comfortable with binary data.

Here is an example recipe in Python, using psycopg2 with binary input.

0 votes
answered Jan 29, 2014 by elyor

I implemented very fast Postgresq data loader with native libpq methods. Try my package https://www.nuget.org/packages/NpgsqlBulkCopy/

0 votes
answered Jan 13, 2015 by sarah-frostenson

I just encountered this issue and would recommend csvsql for bulk imports to Postgres. To perform a bulk insert you'd simply createdb and then use csvsql, which connects to your database and creates individual tables for an entire folder of CSVs.

$ createdb test 
$ csvsql --db postgresql:///test --insert examples/*.csv
0 votes
answered Jan 26, 2015 by ndpu

UNNEST function with arrays can be used along with multirow VALUES syntax. I'm think that this method is slower than using COPY but it is useful to me in work with psycopg and python (python list passed to cursor.execute becomes pg ARRAY):

INSERT INTO tablename (fieldname1, fieldname2, fieldname3)
VALUES (
    UNNEST(ARRAY[1, 2, 3]), 
    UNNEST(ARRAY[100, 200, 300]), 
    UNNEST(ARRAY['a', 'b', 'c'])
);

without VALUES using subselect with additional existance check:

INSERT INTO tablename (fieldname1, fieldname2, fieldname3)
SELECT * FROM (
    SELECT UNNEST(ARRAY[1, 2, 3]), 
           UNNEST(ARRAY[100, 200, 300]), 
           UNNEST(ARRAY['a', 'b', 'c'])
) AS temptable
WHERE NOT EXISTS (
    SELECT 1 FROM tablename tt
    WHERE tt.fieldname1=temptable.fieldname1
);

the same syntax to bulk updates:

UPDATE tablename
SET fieldname1=temptable.data
FROM (
    SELECT UNNEST(ARRAY[1,2]) AS id,
           UNNEST(ARRAY['a', 'b']) AS data
) AS temptable
WHERE tablename.id=temptable.id;
0 votes
answered Apr 27, 2015 by ben-harper

There is an alternative to using COPY, which is the multirow values syntax that Postgres supports. From the documentation:

INSERT INTO films (code, title, did, date_prod, kind) VALUES
    ('B6717', 'Tampopo', 110, '1985-02-10', 'Comedy'),
    ('HG120', 'The Dinner Game', 140, DEFAULT, 'Comedy');

The above code inserts two rows, but you can extend it arbitrarily, until you hit the maximum number of prepared statement tokens (it might be $999, but I'm not 100% sure about that). Sometimes one cannot use COPY, and this is a worthy replacement for those situations.

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