Objective: Backup standby database (synchronous streaming replication) using LVM snapshot.

When running pg_start_backup:

postgres=# SELECT pg_start_backup('label');
ERROR:  recovery is in progress
HINT:  WAL control functions cannot be executed during recovery.

Is it possible to copy backup_label and tablespace_map from the primary database's cluster directory into the standby database's cluster directory in order to perform the LVN snapshot backup of the standby cluster directory?

3 Answers 3


To do that on the standby server you need to configure it like a master server to enable the cascading replication[1].

To enable it, you need to change the follow parameters:

  • wal_level to archive or hot_standby
  • If plan to use streamming replication:
    • max_wal_senders to 2
  • If you plan to use wal archiving:
    • archive_mode to on
    • archive_command to some place

Then restart your standby database.

When you configure that, you can run the pg_start_backup function without a problem.

To do what you need (backup with LVM) you must:

PLEASE test this steps on a test machine to avoid any issues on your production database server.

  1. run pg_start_backup:

    psql -U postgres -c "SELECT pg_start_backup('my lvm backup');"
  2. make the lvm snapshot[2] (and export it to a file[3]), eg:

    ## Repeat that action for each tablespace
    ## TODO: Review max grow size for your snapshot
    lvcreate --size 10G --snapshot --name pgdata_backup_snapshot /path/to/pgdata/dir
    ## export the LVM to a image (with the `dd` command): 
    ### TODO: Replace the `vg_name` by correct one
    dd if=/dev/vg_name/pgdata_backup_snapshot of=/path/to/pgdata_backup.dd
    ## now remove the snapshot
    lvremove /dev/vg_name/pgdata_backup_snapshot
  3. run pg_stop_backup function:

    psql -U postgres -c "SELECT pg_stop_backup();"

Hope it helps.


  1. https://www.postgresql.org/docs/current/static/warm-standby.html#CASCADING-REPLICATION
  2. http://www.tecmint.com/take-snapshot-of-logical-volume-and-restore-in-lvm/
  3. https://www.howtoforge.com/linux_lvm_snapshots_p2
  4. http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/LVM-HOWTO/snapshots_backup.html


On Primary Database

  1. Make sure primary db has archive_mode = on in base/postgresql.conf
  2. select pg_start_backup(‘backup_label’);

On Standby Database

  1. backup the database using:
    rsync –avr /var/lib/pgsql95/* /tmp/pgsql95/
  2. Transfer files generate by pg_start_backup():
    rsync -avr postgres@xxxxx:/var/lib/pgsql95/base/tablespace_map /tmp/pgsql95/base

    rsync -avr postgres@xxxxx:/var/lib/pgsql95/base/backup_label /tmp/pgsql95/base

On Primary Database

  1. select pg_stop_backup();
  2. Transfer archive WAL files

    rsync –avr /var/lib/pgsql95/archivedir/* \ postgres@xxxxx:/tmp/pgsql95/archivedir


  1. Edit recovery.conf in database cluster which is to be restored

recovery_target_timeline = 'latest'

restore_command = 'cp -f /tmp/archivedir/%f %p </dev/null'

  1. Edit postgresql.conf
  2. pg_ctl –D /tmp/pgsql95/base start
  • 1
    I might be missing something, but where is the LVM snapshot in this list of steps? Also, in step 9, what has to be changed? Aug 1, 2016 at 15:40
  • Yes it is missing. I just tested the "theory", as the snapshots are taken by a different team. Replace the backing up of the database cluster and the archive WAL files (which in the above example use rsync) with the actual LVM snapshot commands. I will ask the infrastructure team to provide the commands and post the update.
    – Stelios
    Aug 1, 2016 at 16:46
  • Changes in postgresql.conf are not necessary and depend on whether the database environment has any changes to it. In my demo I had to change the database cluster base directory (from /var/lib/pgsql95 to /tmp/pgsql95) as I restore the database in a different directory; and the port (from 5432 to 5433).
    – Stelios
    Aug 1, 2016 at 16:46

I decided to "roll my own", eventually I spent quite much more work on it than expected, so I decided to publish my script:


One of the biggest complications for me was that the backup should be taken from the slave server, then it's required to do the pg_start_backup in a "non-exclusive backup mode", which again means we cannot simply run a simple "pg_start_backup()" using pgsql ... we need to hold that session until the backup is done, which adds a bit of complexity when sticking to bash. I ended up using the bash concept "coproc" for this purpose.

I see the other suggested solutions here is to run "pg_start_backup()" on the master server rather than slave server, I'm not 100% confident that this will have the intended effect.

Usage of pg_start_backup and pg_stop_backup may arguably be moot when doing an lvm snapshot, but I'd like to be on the safe side.

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