ACID properties of PostgreSQL

ACID properties of PostgreSQL

As a database management system, PostgreSQL is widely known for its reliability, performance, and extensibility. One of the critical aspects that make PostgreSQL stand out among its peers is its strong adherence to the ACID properties. In this blog post, we will dive into the ACID properties of PostgreSQL and understand how they help ensure the consistency and integrity of your data.

Introduction to ACID Properties

Before we delve into PostgreSQL and its implementation of ACID properties, let's first understand what ACID stands for. ACID is an acronym for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. These properties are a set of principles that guarantee the safe and correct processing of transactions in a database system.

  1. Atomicity

Atomicity refers to the principle that ensures all actions within a transaction are either fully completed or not executed at all. In other words, a transaction is an indivisible unit of work, and either all of its operations succeed, or none do. This property is crucial in maintaining the integrity of the database, as it prevents partial updates that can lead to data inconsistencies.

In PostgreSQL, atomicity is achieved by using a transaction log, also known as a write-ahead log (WAL). All the changes made during a transaction are first written to the WAL before being applied to the actual database. If a transaction fails or is interrupted, PostgreSQL can use the WAL to roll back the changes and restore the database to its previous state. Upon successful completion of a transaction, PostgreSQL marks the transaction as committed in the WAL, ensuring the changes are permanent.

  1. Consistency

Consistency is the property that guarantees the database remains in a consistent state before and after a transaction. This means that any transaction must transform the database from one consistent state to another, respecting the defined rules and constraints. If a transaction violates these rules, it must be aborted, and the database must be returned to its original state.

PostgreSQL enforces consistency by utilizing a variety of mechanisms, such as primary keys, unique constraints, foreign keys, and check constraints. These mechanisms ensure that the data in the database adheres to the predefined rules and maintains its integrity. Additionally, PostgreSQL employs a multi-version concurrency control (MVCC) system that allows multiple transactions to run concurrently without causing conflicts, further guaranteeing consistency.

  1. Isolation

Isolation is the property that ensures the concurrent execution of transactions does not affect each other's outcome. In simpler terms, the results of one transaction should not be visible to another transaction until the first transaction is committed. This property is essential to prevent data corruption and other issues that can arise due to simultaneous transactions.

PostgreSQL provides several isolation levels to control the visibility and locking behavior of transactions. These isolation levels are defined by the SQL standard and include Read Uncommitted, Read Committed, Repeatable Read, and Serializable. By default, PostgreSQL uses the Read Committed isolation level, which offers a good balance between performance and consistency. However, developers can choose an isolation level that best suits their application's requirements.

  1. Durability

Durability is the property that guarantees that once a transaction has been committed, its changes to the database will persist even in the case of a system failure or crash. This property ensures the long-term stability and reliability of the database system.

In PostgreSQL, durability is achieved through the use of the write-ahead log (WAL). As mentioned earlier, all changes made during a transaction are first written to the WAL before being applied to the actual database. When a transaction is committed, PostgreSQL ensures that the WAL is flushed to the disk, making the changes permanent. This approach allows PostgreSQL to recover from crashes and maintain the durability of committed transactions.


Q: How does PostgreSQL ensure the ACID properties?

A: PostgreSQL ensures the ACID properties through a combination of mechanisms, such as the write-ahead log (WAL), multi-version concurrency control (MVCC), and various database constraints. These mechanisms work together to provide atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability in PostgreSQL.

Q: Can I change the isolation level in PostgreSQL?

A: Yes, you can change the isolation level in PostgreSQL by using the SET TRANSACTION command. This command allows you to set the isolation level for the current transaction to Read Uncommitted, Read Committed, Repeatable Read, or Serializable, depending on your application's requirements.

Q: What is the default isolation level in PostgreSQL?

A: The default isolation level in PostgreSQL is Read Committed. This isolation level offers a good balance between performance and consistency and is suitable for most applications. However, you can change the isolation level if needed.

Q: How does PostgreSQL recover from crashes?

A: PostgreSQL recovers from crashes by using the write-ahead log (WAL). Since all changes made during a transaction are first written to the WAL, PostgreSQL can use this log to restore the database to its previous state in case of a crash. The WAL ensures that only committed transactions are applied to the database, preserving the durability of the data.


PostgreSQL's strong adherence to the ACID properties makes it an excellent choice for applications that require high data integrity and consistency. By understanding and leveraging these properties, developers can build robust and reliable applications on top of PostgreSQL. For more information on PostgreSQL and its features, be sure to check out the official PostgreSQL documentation.

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