I am attempting to install Postgres 9.3 on Ubuntu 14.04 and I am getting an irksome error on startup. Here's what I'm seeing:

$ sudo service postgresql restart
* Restarting PostgreSQL 9.3 database server
* Error: could not exec /usr/lib/postgresql/9.3/bin/pg_ctl /usr/lib/postgresql/9.3/bin/pg_ctl start -D /var/lib/postgresql/9.3/main -l /var/log/postgresql/postgresql-9.3-main.log -s -o  -c config_file="/etc/postgresql/9.3/main/postgresql.conf" : [fail]

So I checked the log file with this output:

 2015-01-05 21:50:05 EST LOG:  database system was shut down at 2015-01-05 21:50:03 EST
 2015-01-05 21:50:05 EST LOG:  database system is ready to accept connections
 2015-01-05 21:50:05 EST LOG:  autovacuum launcher started
 2015-01-05 21:50:06 EST LOG:  incomplete startup packet
 2015-01-05 21:51:22 EST ERROR:  syntax error at or near "exit" at character 1
 2015-01-05 21:51:22 EST STATEMENT:  exit;

"Incomplete startup packet" seems to be the culprit but I am having trouble finding info out there on what might be going on, so I thought I would ask. Thanks in advance.


2 Answers 2


There are 3 different items in this question:

  • Incomplete startup packet occuring at server start is inconsequential, you may ignore it. Read Incomplete startup packet help needed (in pgsql-general mailing-list) for more.

  • syntax error at or near "exit" at character 1 means that a client issued exit as if it was an SQL statement.

  • The could not exec error when issuing service postgresql restart looks like a serious installation problem but it's contradicted by the log entry database system is ready to accept connections meaning that the server started up just fine.

  • Your response "looks like a serious installation problem" prompted me to do some more research on how to entirely delete Postgres and reinstall. I found this article which was helpful in removing every trace of Postgres prior to reinstall and worked great. Jan 6, 2015 at 13:45
  • 10
    one of the possible causes of "Incomplete startup packet" is when a TCP connection is made to the postgresql port 5432, and the immediately closed. This can happen when a monitoring program is configured to check the port, but not to run a SQL command.
    – Tom
    May 1, 2016 at 1:03
  • Nicely spotted @TomH, that bit me today. Is there any other way to check that the database is accepting connections? MySQL has mysqladmin --wait=30 ping
    – Yarek T
    May 10, 2019 at 16:16
  • 1
    @YarekT: pg_isready - check the connection status of a PostgreSQL server May 10, 2019 at 18:07

Maybe your iptables are dropping packages on port 5432.
Consider adding the following rule to your iptables:

# sudo iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --dport 5432 -j ACCEPT

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