pg_upgrade and OpenBSD

I never noted that, on OpenBSD, the pg_upgrade command is not shipped with the default PostgreSQL server isntallation. I usually install PostgreSQL from sources, so I never digged into Open BSD packages. The choice of OpenBSD is to keep pg_upgrade separate from the rest of the binaries and executables of PostgreSQL.
Allow me to explain and let’s start from the installed binaries on a OpenBSD 7.0 machine:

% ls -1 /usr/local/bin/pg*

The server is a PostgreSQL 13.4, installed via pkg_add. The PostgreSQL contrib module is installed, but as you can see, there is no pg_upgrade binary in the above listing.
Let’s inspect the packages:

% pkg_info -Q postgresql

postgresql-client-13.4p0 (installed)
postgresql-contrib-13.4p0 (installed)
postgresql-docs-13.4p0 (installed)
postgresql-server-13.4p0 (installed)

Please note the postgresql-pg_upgrade-13.4p0 that is what contains the pg_upgrade command:

% pkg_info  postgresql-pg_upgrade-13.4p0 
Information for

Support for upgrading PostgreSQL data from previous version

Contains pg_upgrade, used for upgrading PostgreSQL database
directories to newer major versions without requiring a dump and

Maintainer: Pierre-Emmanuel Andre <>


This choice of packaging is somehow strange.
Let’s install pg_upgrade:

% doas pkg_add postgresql-pg_upgrade
quirks-4.53 signed on 2021-10-30T11:32:24Z
postgresql-pg_upgrade-13.4p0:postgresql-previous-12.8: ok
postgresql-pg_upgrade-13.4p0: ok

% ls -lh $(which pg_upgrade)
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  bin   185K Sep 26 21:25 /usr/local/bin/pg_upgrade

So, the binary itself is very tiny, and sizes at 185 kB, therefore placing it on its own package does not make sense with regard to the disk space occupation. However, please note that installing pg_upgrade also triggered the installation of postgresql-previous-12.8, that means the system has installed also PostgreSQL 12.8.
This is clearly shown from a query on such package:

% pkg_info postgresql-previous-12.8   
Information for inst:postgresql-previous-12.8

PostgreSQL RDBMS (previous version, for pg_upgrade)

Required by:

PostgreSQL RDBMS server, the previous version

This is the previous version of PostgreSQL, necessary to allow for
pg_upgrade to work in the currently supported PostgreSQL version.

And in fact, the package installs all the previous version of the cluster, included libraries and executables:

% pkg_info -L postgresql-previous-12.8 | grep bin

Therefore, installing pg_upgrade will also install the *whole previous major version of PostgreSQL.**

It was a separated packages since a while…

Inspecting the CVS of the ports tree, it is possible to note that the pg_upgrade command has been separated into a subpackage since 2016:

This moves pg_upgrade to a subpackage, and has that
subpackage depend on postgresql-previous.

In fact, this is the commit that made the pg_upgrade a distinct package into the build system.
The rationale about this can be found in the b2k16 hackaton article, where Jeremy Evans explain that in order to get pg_upgrade to work, there was the need to have the previous binaries for PostgreSQL. Therefore, the application has been moved to a different package, so that it can install also the previous binaries on the system.


The choice of keeping pg_upgrade as a separated package is a choice. I don’t think it is right or wrong, it is just a choice that ensures that if you decide to install a newer PostgreSQL, you must have a previous version to upgrade from.
Quite frankly, I don’t see the reason because I could have a different database version into the system, that I want to upgrade from, even if I did not have installed from ports.
Moreover, pg_upgrade can upgrade PostgreSQL even from non-sequential PostgreSQL versions, even if I personally don’t recommend this, especially if the “hole” in versioning is big. However, this means that installing the previous version of PostgreSQL could not be the right choice in every scenario. Again, this is not either a good or bad choice, it is just a choice and it must be noted that, unlike other operating systems, OpenBSD does not offer old versions of PostgreSQL as packages (if we exclude the -previous package), that means it is a choice coherent with the philosophy of the operating system.

The article pg_upgrade and OpenBSD has been posted by Luca Ferrari on November 5, 2021