Understanding Temporary Tables and Redo Logs in PostgreSQL: Functions and Best Practices

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Understanding Temporary Tables and Redo Logs in PostgreSQL: Functions and Best Practices

Exploring the Roles and Optimal Uses of Temporary Tables and Redo Logs in PostgreSQL


3 min read

In PostgreSQL, temporary tables and redo logs are two distinct concepts that serve different purposes within the database management system. Here's a detailed explanation of both:

Temporary Tables in PostgreSQL

Temporary tables in PostgreSQL are useful for storing and processing intermediate results without affecting the database's permanent data. These tables are created within a session and automatically dropped at the end of the session, or they can be manually dropped sooner if no longer needed.

Characteristics and Usage:

  1. Session Visibility: Temporary tables are only visible within the session that created them. They are not visible to other sessions and are automatically dropped when the session ends.

  2. Creation: You can create a temporary table using the CREATE TEMP TABLE syntax:

     CREATE TEMP TABLE temp_users (
         id SERIAL,
         name VARCHAR(100)
  3. Performance Benefits: Using temporary tables can improve performance for complex queries by simplifying operations into manageable steps and reducing I/O on the main database.

  4. Storage: By default, temporary tables are stored in a special schema, making them quicker to access and manipulate than ordinary tables. They are typically stored in the pg_temp schema.

  5. Transaction-specific Tables: If you need a temporary table that only exists for the duration of a transaction, you can create it with the ON COMMIT DROP option:

     SELECT * FROM data WHERE session_id = current_session_id();

Redo Logs in PostgreSQL

Redo logs in PostgreSQL are part of the Write-Ahead Logging (WAL) system, which is fundamental to PostgreSQL's transaction logging mechanism. They ensure data integrity and are crucial for recovering from database crashes.

Key Points on Redo Logs:

  1. Purpose: Redo logs record changes made to the database's data files before those changes are written to disk. This approach ensures that, in the event of a crash, all committed transactions can be replayed from these logs to restore the database to a consistent state.

  2. How Redo Works: When a transaction is committed, PostgreSQL writes all changes (inserts, updates, deletes) to the WAL. These logs are sequentially written and stored in log files within the PostgreSQL data directory.

  3. Crash Recovery: During startup, if PostgreSQL detects that the database was not shut down cleanly, it automatically performs crash recovery. This process involves reading the WAL files and redoing all transactions that were committed but not fully written to disk.

  4. Configuration: The configuration settings for WAL, including redo logs, are crucial for tuning the performance and reliability of your database. Parameters such as wal_level, max_wal_size, and checkpoint_timeout can be adjusted in postgresql.conf to optimize logging and recovery processes.

  5. Archiving: For long-term data safety and to prevent the uncontrolled growth of WAL files, PostgreSQL supports WAL archiving. You can configure automatic archiving of old WAL files to another storage location. This setup is essential for point-in-time recovery and replication setups:

     archive_mode = on
     archive_command = 'cp %p /path_to_archive/%f'


While temporary tables and redo logs serve very different purposes, they are both integral to managing data and operations within PostgreSQL. Temporary tables offer a flexible, efficient way to manage session-specific data without permanent impact on the database, whereas redo logs are crucial for ensuring data integrity and robustness against system failures. Understanding and utilizing these features appropriately can significantly enhance the performance, reliability, and maintainability of PostgreSQL databases.

This article explores two key features of PostgreSQL: temporary tables and redo logs. Temporary tables provide a means to handle intermediate data within a session without impacting the permanent database, enhancing performance and manageability. Redo logs, part of PostgreSQL's Write-Ahead Logging system, ensure data integrity by recording changes before they are committed to disk, crucial for data recovery in case of crashes. Both features are essential for efficient database management and robust data handling in PostgreSQL.