Have such a problem - table with over 20mln rows.

When i add new column with default - postgresql lock table for over 40 minutes so my application stop working for this time.

So instead of

ALTER TABLE "test" ADD COLUMN "field" boolean DEFAULT True NOT NULL;

I do

ALTER TABLE "test" ADD COLUMN "field" boolean NULL;

after which every new row will be with true by default, so now i need to update 20mln current rows. I update them in batches:

WITH cte AS (
SELECT id as pk
FROM "test"
WHERE  "field" is null
LIMIT  10000
UPDATE "test" table_
SET "field" = true
FROM   cte
WHERE  table_.id = cte.pk

after which i do


And everything is allwright but step when i update rows is so much slow. Can you give my some advice about improving speed of update?

Currently it update 10000 in about 2 minutes. I try decreasing size to 1000 - it was better (3.5 minutes for 10000) but it still to slow. I also try create index before update, but it doesnt give better results (as i understand it will give better result but when huge path of table will be updated).

  • What index do you build? What does the EXPLAIN (ANALYZE, BUFFERS) for the update look like after the index is built? What about if you set enable_seqscan=off after the index build and before the update? – jjanes Jul 4 '18 at 13:32
  • @jjanes i build index create index sometest_nll1 on table (test_fields) where test_fields is null; this explain without it explain.depesz.com/s/HOQ1 with index explain.depesz.com/s/au80 with index and set enable_seqscan=off explain.depesz.com/s/Vdlj – Vova Jul 5 '18 at 9:21
  • Do you have a lot of other indexes on the table? I thought it would be spending a lot of time locating the 10000 tuples, but it is the actual update once found that is slow. And reads 38 buffers per tuple updated. – jjanes Jul 5 '18 at 11:29
  • @jjanes i currently have 12 indexes. – Vova Jul 5 '18 at 11:59
  • If you need to keep all of those indexes, you might be better off just biting the bullet and scheduling the maintenance window in order to do the table-rewriting ALTER command. – jjanes Jul 5 '18 at 14:03

This problem is solved in PostgreSQL 11, which unfortunately isn't released yet at this moment. The release is planned for the third quarter of 2018.

There is a more detailed explanation in this blog post, but the short version is that in Version 11 the table won't have to be rewritten to add a default value to a column. So adding a column with a default should be pretty much instant.

  • 1
    thats great news, but i need fast (or not just slow) solution now – Vova Jul 3 '18 at 10:24

All you can do now is,

  1. Create a column that is NULLABLE
  2. ALTER the column to give it the DEFAULT
  3. UPDATE in batches to rewrite the rows (row-level locking)
  4. When the rows are updated, add the NOT NULL constraint (which should be pretty quick just a seq scan.

For more information, see this answer

  • 1
    thats exactly that i do for now (see question body), question was on how to speed it up. – Vova Aug 29 '18 at 10:44
  • 1
    You simply can't there is nothing else you can do. You can magically will features from future releases into older versions. Just mark Mad's answer as correct. – I Support The Boycott Aug 29 '18 at 10:57

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