Template Databases

PostgreSQL relies on the concept of template as a way to create a new database. The idea is similar to the one of the /etc/skel for Unix operating systems: whenever you create a new user, its own home directory is cloned from the /etc/skel. In PostgreSQL the idea is similar: whenever you create a new database, that is cloned from a template one.

PostgreSQL ships with two template database, namely template1 and template0.
template1 is the default database, meaning that when you execute a CREATE DATABASE the system will clone such database as the new one. In other words:


is the same as


One advantage of this technique is that whatever object you put into the tempalte1, you will find into the new database(s). This could be handy when having to face multiple database with similar or identical objects, but can be a nightmare if you screw up your template database.
Then there is template0, that is used as a backup for template1 (in the case you screw up) or as a special templating database for handling particular situations like different encoding.

Working with different templates

You can create your own template database, that you can then use as a base to create other database:

emplate1=# CREATE DATABASE my_template WITH
           IS_TEMPLATE = true;

template1=# CREATE DATABASE a_new_database
            WITH TEMPLATE my_template;

Having templates is handy, however is not mandatory to exploit a template to build a new database. Change the previous template so that it is no more a template database and then build another database:

template1=# ALTER DATABASE my_template
            WITH IS_TEMPLATE = false;

template1=# CREATE DATABASE a_new_database_from_no_template
            WITH TEMPLATE my_template;

As you can see, you can use a normal (i.e., not template) database to build a new database too!
This is possible only if done by a superuser!

template1=> CREATE DATABASE db_from_user;

template1=> CREATE DATABASE db_from_user_and_template
            WITH TEMPLATE my_template;
ERROR:  permission denied to copy database "my_template"

As you can see, being a normal user you can create a new database using a template database, but not using a non-templating database.
Templates are exploitable by both normal and super users, but only super users can create a new database exploiting a database that is not marked as a template.

Connections while creating a database

When the CREATE DATABASE is performing, there must be no ther connections to the target database, it does not mean if it is a template or a normal database. The reason is that, in order to clone the database, there must be no activity on such database.

template1=> CREATE DATABASE db_from_user_while_template1_in_use;
ERROR:  source database "template1" is being accessed by other users
DETAIL:  There is 1 other session using the database.

Here it is: the message states clearly that there is some kind of activity on template1 and therefore it is not safe to clone such database.
The same happens with a non-template database:

template1=# CREATE DATABASE db_from_user_while_my_template_in_use
            WITH TEMPLATE my_template;
ERROR:  source database "my_template" is being accessed by other users
DETAIL:  There is 1 other session using the database.

It is interesting to note that it does not matter what kind of activity is ongoing in the database used as a template: it does suffice there is a single connection (event idle) to prevent CREATE DATABASE to continue.
On the other hand, the system prevents any incoming connection to be established against the tempalte database until the CREATE DATABASE has finished and hence releases the database.


Template database are used as a skeleton to be cloned when a new database is going to be created.
The cluster can survive even without template database, but not having the default one(s) will make less comfortable the usage of CREATE DATABASE. You can build your own templates, and this is recommended to avoid tainting the default one(s), but you will need to specify your template name within every CREATE DATABASE.
Last, the system will not allow you to use a database as a template if there are active connections (except your own), because cloning will become unsafe.

The article Template Databases has been posted by Luca Ferrari on June 8, 2021