My question is about the default isolation level: "read committed". As I understand, during a read committed transaction, when we update a record, the system puts a lock on that record, so other transactions would wait. Is this correct?

Other: and there's a limit in the config file for the maximum number of locks in a transaction: max_locks_per_transaction.

What happens when that limit is reached? I made a test and nothing happened. Does the system exchange the row-level locks for a full-table lock?

1 Answer 1


max_locks_per_transaction does not apply to rows, but to objects. The fact that rows do not count is made explicit in the documentation:

From https://www.postgresql.org/docs/current/static/runtime-config-locks.html

This parameter controls the average number of object locks allocated for each transaction; individual transactions can lock more objects as long as the locks of all transactions fit in the lock table. This is not the number of rows that can be locked; that value is unlimited.

The information necessary to row locking is written in the row itself.

  • Thank you. So to reach this limit, I would have to for example create 65 tables and lock them in one transaction? Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:49
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    @CrouchingKitten: if your transaction is the only one running on the instance, the limit is documented to be max_locks_per_transaction * (max_connections + max_prepared_transactions), so it's much more than max_locks_per_transaction in a default configuration. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 12:22
  • When running DDL in tx I see one lock per created table, one per pk, one per index, a few per foreign key and a few for toast. Adding columns seems to be free. So you might reach the default 6400 lock entries if you create 1000 non-trivial tables or drop/create 500. having said that, if you reach the global limit (shared with all transactions) you get a „out of shared memory“ (which is quite missleading) and a transaction rollback. There is no lock escalation in this area, and the max_locks_per_transaction is only a sizing estimate not a per transaction limit (unlike the name suggests).
    – eckes
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 18:25

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