I can see the current search_path with:

show search_path ;

And I can set the search_path for the current session with:

set search_path = "$user", public, postgis;

As well, I can permanently set the search_path for a given database with:

alter database mydb set search_path = "$user", public, postgis ;

And I can permanently set the search_path for a given role (user) with:

alter role johnny set search_path = "$user", public, postgis ;

But I would like to know how to determine what the database and role settings are (with respect to search_path) prior to altering them?


You can find configuration settings for roles and databases in the catalog table pg_db_role_setting.

This query retrieves any settings for a given role or database:

SELECT r.rolname, d.datname, rs.setconfig
FROM   pg_db_role_setting rs
LEFT   JOIN pg_roles      r ON r.oid = rs.setrole
LEFT   JOIN pg_database   d ON d.oid = rs.setdatabase
WHERE  r.rolname = 'myrole' OR d.datname = 'mydb';

If nothing is set, the next lower instance determines the default state of the search_path, which is postgresql.conf in this case or command-line options at server start. Related:

To unset any settings of a role or database - the search_path in this particular example:

ALTER ROLE myrole RESET search_path;


ALTER DATABASE mydb RESET search_path;


ALTER ROLE myrole in DATABASE mydb RESET search_path;

Never manipulate data in the system catalog (pg_catalog.*) manually. Use DDL commands as instructed in the manual for ALTER ROLE and ALTER DATABASE.
Essentially, the RESET command deletes a row from pg_db_role_setting allowing the base setting to take effect again. I wouldn't call that convoluted.

| improve this answer | |
  • Wow. I did not imagine it would be this convoluted. How would you unset a given database and role setting? After executing alter role myrole set search_path = "$user", public, postgis ; I noticed that pg_roles.rolconfig (corresponding to my role) got the value {"search_path=\"$user\", public, postgis"}. Also, select * from pg_db_role_setting ; now shows an additional row. And after executing alter database mydb set search_path = "$user", public, postgis ; I see a corresponding row in select * from pg_db_role_setting ; -- in the end, I am unsure of how to "undo" these changes. – user664833 Jan 3 '14 at 17:26
  • @user664833: I added instructions to unset. – Erwin Brandstetter Jan 3 '14 at 17:35

The permanent settings for both databases and roles are stored in the pg_db_role_settings system cluster-wide table.

Only settings passed to ALTER USER and ALTER DATABASE are present in this table. To get at the values that are configured aside from these commands:

  • The value of the setting prior to any change, including at the cluster level (through the global configuration postgresql.conf) can be queried from the database with:

     SELECT boot_val FROM pg_settings WHERE name='search_path';
  • The value of the setting prior to any change within the session (through the SET command) can be queried from the database with:

     SELECT reset_val FROM pg_settings WHERE name='search_path';
  • When it's set a non-default value in postgresql.conf, it's not straightforward to obtain that value in SQL independently of the current session. pg_settings.boot_val won't do because it ignores changes in the configuration file, and pg_settings.reset_val won't either, because it's influenced by the database/user settings potentially set through ALTER USER/ALTER DATABASE. The simplest way for a DBA to get the value is to just look it up in postgresql.conf. Otherwise, see Reset search_path to the global, cluster default which covers this topic in detail.

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  • Isn't boot_val actually the compiled-in factory default, not the setting in postgresql.conf? – Erwin Brandstetter Jul 30 '16 at 0:23
  • @Erwin: yes. One might want to look at reset_val instead of boot_val. – Daniel Vérité Aug 1 '16 at 11:15
  • Hmm, database or role settings overwrite the value in reset_val. I stumbled across this old question researching this recent one: dba.stackexchange.com/questions/145280/… – Erwin Brandstetter Aug 1 '16 at 12:35
  • @Erwin: ISTM that getting the value from postgresql.conf is likely to be an XY problem in most cases. Anyway, I edited the answer to link to the newer question and expand a bit. – Daniel Vérité Aug 1 '16 at 13:47
select * from pg_user;

True for postgres and Redshift. This seems too simple compared to the previous answers that depend on pg_db_role_setting, but the useconfig column will have a list of user configs including search_path, formatted as a list.

pg_user Postgres documentation is here

To be more selective:

rs.db.batarang.com cooldb:cooldude =#> select usename
                                              , useconfig 
                                       from   pg_user
                                       where  usename = 'cooldude';
│  usename   │                      useconfig                      │
│ cooldude   │ {"search_path=dirt, test, \"$user\", public, prod"} │

I think this user table contains all users in the cluster, not just specific db -- but I didn't verify that.

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  • Role isn't exactly the same as user. ;) – Vic Aug 12 '18 at 19:56
  • Vic could you elaborate? The Postgres doc are succinct and seem to say that user and role are no longer distinct concepts, but I’m not a DBA and would love more input. postgresql.org/docs/current/static/user-manag.html – Merlin Aug 14 '18 at 17:18
  • 2
    Any 'role' can act as a user, a group, or both. But a user' is implied to have one other distinction. Reviewing the catalog we see that the views pg_role and pg_user both reference table pg_authid, but with the predicate rolcanlogin for users. 'Users' can login to your database and generally 'roles' define sets of authorization that users inherit. – Vic Aug 14 '18 at 17:36
  • Hi Vic, I know this post is old but was hoping to get some help here. I am suing search path to set default schema for a particular role(group). I understand I can set at the user level, but since we have group of users, we created role and would like all of them to default to using certain schema. Role rds_inv is what is created and svc_inv is granted this role. So if I set the below, the permissions are not inherited to user svc_inv. I was wondering if you could help me? Works only when set to user and not to role. alter ROLE rds_inv SET search_path to "flow"; > Does not work – DBAuser Nov 24 at 22:44

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