Solving PostgreSQL Access Issues: Permission Denied in /root Directory

Effective Solutions for PostgreSQL Permission Denied Error in /root Directory


3 min read

The error message "could not change directory to /root: permission denied" typically occurs when you are running a PostgreSQL command, such as psql, from a system user account that does not have permissions to access the /root directory. This issue commonly arises when you inadvertently start the PostgreSQL command line utility as the root user or another user that does not have the appropriate directory permissions.

Here's how to address and resolve this issue:

Understanding the Issue

  • Root Directory Access: The /root directory is the home directory for the root user on Unix-like systems and is generally not accessible to other users for security reasons.

  • User Context: When you see this error, it usually means that the PostgreSQL utility was invoked from within the /root directory by a user who does not have permission to access this directory.

How to Resolve It

1. Change the Working Directory

Before running the PostgreSQL command, change your working directory to one that the user has access to. For example, you can switch to the home directory of the current user:

cd ~

Or switch to a common directory like /tmp which is accessible by all users:

cd /tmp

Then, try running your PostgreSQL command again.

2. Use the Right User Account

Ensure that you are using an appropriate user account to run PostgreSQL commands. It is common practice to run psql or other PostgreSQL utilities as the postgres user, which is the default administrative user of the PostgreSQL instance.

  • Switch to the postgres user:
sudo -i -u postgres
  • Now run your PostgreSQL command, for example:

3. Avoid Running as Root

Avoid running PostgreSQL commands as the root user unless necessary. Running database commands as root can lead to security risks and potential configuration errors like the one you're experiencing.

4. Correct Startup Scripts

If this error occurs during startup or through scripts, check the scripts to ensure they are running under the correct user account and that they do not assume /root as the working directory.

5. Check for System Service Errors

If you're encountering this error when starting PostgreSQL through a system service manager like systemd, ensure that the service configuration is correct. Specifically, check for the User= and Group= directives in the service file (postgresql.service), typically located in /etc/systemd/system/ or /lib/systemd/system/.

  • View or edit the PostgreSQL service file:
sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/postgresql.service
  • Make sure the service runs as the postgres user:
  • Reload the systemd manager configuration after making changes:
sudo systemctl daemon-reload
  • Restart the PostgreSQL service:
sudo systemctl restart postgresql


By following these steps, you should be able to resolve the permission error related to the /root directory when using PostgreSQL utilities. Always ensure that you operate PostgreSQL under user accounts with the appropriate permissions to avoid security risks and operational issues.