Mastering PostgreSQL Configuration with pg_config

What is pg_config?

pg_config is a command-line utility included with PostgreSQL that provides information about the installed version of PostgreSQL. It can display various configuration parameters, such as the location of installed headers, libraries, and version information, which can be particularly useful for compiling and installing other PostgreSQL extensions or client applications.

How pg_config Works

The pg_config utility queries the PostgreSQL installation to retrieve information about the current setup. It can provide details about the PostgreSQL installation paths, compiler flags used to build PostgreSQL, specific version details, and more.

Using pg_config for Configuration Insights

pg_config does not require any special privileges to run and can be executed by any user on the system that has access to the PostgreSQL binary files.

Example Command


This command will display a comprehensive list of configuration parameters for the installed PostgreSQL instance.

Retrieving Specific Information

pg_config --includedir

This command will display the directory that contains the header files of the PostgreSQL installation.

Checking Library Installation Directories

pg_config --libdir

This command will show the directory where the PostgreSQL libraries are installed.

Use Cases for pg_config

  • Development: Developers compiling PostgreSQL extensions or applications that interface with PostgreSQL can use pg_config to find necessary compiler and linker flags.
  • Troubleshooting: Administrators can use pg_config to verify the current version of PostgreSQL and the paths to various installation directories, which can be helpful when diagnosing issues.
  • Migration and Upgrades: During migrations or upgrades, pg_config can be used to ensure that the new environment matches the configuration of the old one, reducing the risk of incompatibilities.

Common Mistakes and Issues

  • Incorrect PostgreSQL Version: Users may inadvertently run pg_config from a different PostgreSQL version than the one they intend to query, leading to confusion or compatibility issues.
  • Environment Path Issues: If pg_config is not in the user’s PATH, the command may not be found. Ensure that the PATH environment variable includes the directory where PostgreSQL binaries are installed.
  • Misinterpreting Output: The output of pg_config can be extensive, and users may misinterpret or overlook important details. Always review the output carefully to find the specific information you need.

Troubleshooting Errors

  • Command Not Found: If you receive a “command not found” error when running pg_config, check that the PostgreSQL bin directory is in your PATH, or provide the full path to pg_config.
  • Conflicting Versions: If you have multiple versions of PostgreSQL installed, you might get conflicting information. Use the full path to pg_config for the specific version you want to query.


pg_config is an essential tool for anyone working with PostgreSQL, from developers writing applications that interact with the database to administrators managing and configuring the PostgreSQL environment. By providing quick access to configuration details, pg_config helps streamline development workflows, assist in deployment processes, and support system troubleshooting. Understanding how to effectively use pg_config can greatly enhance the management of PostgreSQL installations and the development of related applications.

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