Optimizing I/O Performance with pg_test_fsync in PostgreSQL

What is pg_test_fsync?

pg_test_fsync is a diagnostic tool included with PostgreSQL that helps measure the efficiency of various methods for flushing data to disk, also known as fsync methods. It is used to test and determine the fastest fsync method available on your system. This information can be valuable for configuring PostgreSQL for optimal I/O performance, which is critical for ensuring data durability and high transaction throughput.

How pg_test_fsync Works

When executed, pg_test_fsync writes a test file to disk using different fsync methods and measures the number of flushes (fsync calls) it can perform per second with each method. It then outputs the results, allowing you to compare the performance of each method.

Using pg_test_fsync to Assess Disk Flush Methods

pg_test_fsync does not require superuser privileges and can be run by any user who has write access to the target file system.

Example Command


This command will perform the fsync test using the default settings and write the test file to the current directory.

Specifying a Custom Test File Location

pg_test_fsync -f /path/to/test/directory/pg_test_fsync_testfile

This command will run the fsync test and write the test file to the specified directory. This is useful when you want to test the fsync performance on the same file system as your PostgreSQL data directory.

Use Cases for pg_test_fsync

  • Performance Tuning: Before deploying a new PostgreSQL server, use pg_test_fsync to determine the most efficient fsync method for your hardware configuration.
  • Benchmarking: Regularly benchmark your disk subsystem with pg_test_fsync to monitor for changes in performance that could affect database operations.
  • Hardware Evaluation: When evaluating new storage hardware or configurations (e.g., RAID levels, disk types), pg_test_fsync can help assess their impact on PostgreSQL performance.

Common Mistakes and Issues

  • Testing on the Wrong File System: Ensure that the test file is written to the same file system where the PostgreSQL pg_wal directory resides. Performance can vary between file systems, so testing on the correct one is crucial.
  • Ignoring System Load: For accurate results, run pg_test_fsync when the system is under a typical load. Running the tool on an idle or heavily loaded system may skew the results.
  • Misinterpreting Results: Higher numbers of fsyncs per second indicate better performance, but consider the overall system performance and reliability, not just the fsync rate.

Troubleshooting Errors

  • Permission Denied: If you encounter a permission error, check that you have write permissions in the test directory.
  • File System Differences: If the performance results are unexpectedly low, confirm that you are not testing on a file system with different characteristics than your PostgreSQL data directory.


pg_test_fsync is a valuable tool for PostgreSQL database administrators and system administrators looking to optimize the disk I/O performance of their PostgreSQL installations. By providing clear metrics on the efficiency of different fsync methods, pg_test_fsync enables informed decisions that can lead to significant improvements in database transaction processing and durability. Proper use of this tool, combined with a thorough understanding of your system’s storage capabilities, can lead to a finely tuned PostgreSQL environment that meets the demands of your applications and users.

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