I am using PostgreSQL 12 on Debian 10.6. I have been reading up about replication and I have set up an asynchronous replication between one primary and standby. I wanted to test failover so I stopped the primary server and promoted the standby which was successful. I'm having difficulty finding a tutorial online about how to make the old primary a standby server now that the old standby is the new primary. What follows are the steps that I have taken, it looks like it's working but is there anything I may have missed or not thought of?

On the new primary

Update the pg_hba

echo "host    replication     replicator      <new standby ip>/24        md5" >> /etc/postgresql/12/main/pg_hba.conf

On the new standby

Make a back up of the lib

sudo mv /var/lib/postgresql/12/main /var/lib/postgresql/12/main.bk

Make a backup of the old tablespaces directory, and make a new empty directory

sudo mv /tablespaces /tablespaces.bk
sudo mkdir /tablespaces/

Make a base backup of the new primary

pg_basebackup -D /var/lib/postgresql/12/main -F p -R -c fast -l mffb -P -v -h <primary_ip> -p 5432 -U replicator

If WAL Archiving is set, I'm taking these extra steps:

On new primary:

echo "archive_mode = ON" >> /var/lib/postgresql/12/main/postgresql.auto.conf
echo "archive_command = 'test ! -f  /wal_archive/%f && cp %p /wal_archive/%f'" >> /var/lib/postgresql/12/main/postgresql.auto.conf
echo "restore_command = ''" >> /var/lib/postgresql/12/main/postgresql.auto.conf

On new standby

echo "restore_command = 'cp /wal_archive/%f %p'" >> /var/lib/postgresql/12/main/postgresql.auto.conf

1 Answer 1


Sounds about right, but I would keep the configuration identical on both servers, so that you don't have to change anything:

  • recovery settings like restore_command are ignored on the primary

  • you can set archive_mode and archive_command on the standby, since it doesn't archive WAL anyway (unless you set archive_mode = always)

Before you remove the data directory and re-initialize the standby with pg_basebackup, you could try to run pg_rewind, which does the same, but faster.

  • May I ask why basebackup was even considered? Also pg_rewind seems not needed if the old primary was turned off cleanly? If I don't use archive_command wouldn't it be enough to just establish connection using primary_conninfo and create standby.signal file?
    – sh4rkyy
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 11:37
  • @sh4rkyy That only works reliably with a clean shutdown. But a failover is not a clean shutdown. Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 11:21

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