Assessing System Timing Accuracy with pg_test_timing in PostgreSQL

What is pg_test_timing?

pg_test_timing is a PostgreSQL utility designed to measure the timing overhead and accuracy on your system. It assesses the resolution and reliability of various system clock sources, which is important for PostgreSQL as it relies on accurate timing for query planning, scheduling, and other time-sensitive operations.

How pg_test_timing Works

The pg_test_timing tool repeatedly measures the time it takes for successive reads of the system clock, thus determining the overhead and accuracy of the clock reads. It can help identify if there are any significant delays that could affect the performance of a PostgreSQL server.

Using pg_test_timing to Evaluate System Timing

pg_test_timing is straightforward to use and does not require any special privileges. It can be run by any user on the system.

Example Command


Running the command without any arguments will start the timing test using the default clock source.

Specifying a Custom Test Duration

pg_test_timing -d 10

This command will run the timing test for 10 seconds. The -d option allows you to specify the duration of the test.

Use Cases for pg_test_timing

  • System Benchmarking: Before deploying PostgreSQL, run pg_test_timing to ensure the system’s timing characteristics are suitable for high-performance database operations.
  • Troubleshooting Performance Issues: If you’re experiencing unexplained performance issues with PostgreSQL, pg_test_timing can help determine if system timing inaccuracies are a contributing factor.
  • Hardware Evaluation: When testing new hardware platforms or configurations, use pg_test_timing to compare the timing performance with existing systems.

Common Mistakes and Issues

  • Overlooking System Load: For the most accurate results, run pg_test_timing under similar system load conditions that your PostgreSQL server would experience in production.
  • Ignoring Clock Source Reliability: While low overhead is good, reliability is also crucial. Ensure that the clock source is not only fast but also consistent and accurate.
  • Confusing Output: The output of pg_test_timing includes histograms and statistics that may be confusing at first glance. Take the time to understand what each metric represents.

Troubleshooting Errors

  • Inconsistent Results: If results vary significantly between runs, consider checking for other processes that may be affecting system performance or try running the test at different times or under different loads.
  • Hardware or OS Limitations: Some hardware or operating systems may not support high-resolution timing. Research your system’s capabilities if pg_test_timing indicates poor timing performance.


pg_test_timing is an essential tool for database administrators and system engineers who need to ensure that their PostgreSQL servers are running on hardware with precise and reliable timing. By accurately measuring the system’s timing overhead and stability, pg_test_timing helps in diagnosing performance issues and aids in the proper configuration of PostgreSQL servers. Whether you are setting up a new database server, troubleshooting existing systems, or evaluating potential hardware upgrades, pg_test_timing provides valuable insights into one of the fundamental aspects affecting database performance.

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