How to insert data in table with PostgreSQL?

How to insert data in table with PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL is a robust and versatile open-source relational database management system that has gained considerable traction in the tech industry. It has become the preferred choice for developers looking to handle complex queries and big datasets. Whether you’re developing web applications, business intelligence tools, or data analytics platforms, the ability to insert data efficiently into a PostgreSQL table is a vital skill.

1. Introduction

PostgreSQL, colloquially known as Postgres, has carved a significant niche for itself amongst a myriad of database management systems available today. The increasing preference for Postgres can be attributed to its advanced features, extensibility, and standards-compliance. In the realm of database management, data insertion stands as a foundational operation. It’s through this operation that your application feeds data into the database, making it retrievable and actionable in the future.

2. Setting Up the Environment

Before we dive deep into data insertion, let’s first get acquainted with setting up our PostgreSQL environment.

Installation of PostgreSQL and pgAdmin

  1. Visit the official PostgreSQL website: Navigate to the official PostgreSQL download page and choose your operating system.
  2. Follow installation steps: Download the installer and proceed with the installation steps.
  3. Install pgAdmin: The PostgreSQL package should also come with pgAdmin, a powerful GUI tool for Postgres management. Ensure that this option is checked during installation.

Starting the PostgreSQL server

  1. For Linux/Unix users:
    • Run service postgresql start or systemctl start postgresql to start the server.
  2. For Windows users:
    • Navigate to the Start menu, search for pgAdmin, and launch it. The PostgreSQL server should start automatically alongside.

If you face any issues, consulting the official documentation is recommended.

Creating and Accessing a New Database

  1. Open pgAdmin and connect to your server instance.
  2. Right-click on “Databases”, select “Create”, and then “Database”.
  3. Provide a name for your new database and save.
  4. You can now access and operate on this database via SQL commands or through the GUI.

3. Basics of Tables in PostgreSQL

Tables serve as the backbone of a relational database. They house the data and enable structured querying.

What is a Table?

A table in a database is akin to a table in a spreadsheet. It consists of rows and columns, with each column having a distinct name and datatype. The data in the table is organized as records, with each record spanning multiple columns.

SQL Syntax for Creating a New Table

CREATE TABLE table_name (
column1 datatype1,
column2 datatype2,

For instance, creating a simple table for storing user details can be:


4. SQL INSERT Statement: Basics

The INSERT INTO statement is the key to adding records to a table in PostgreSQL.

Syntax and Usage

The basic syntax is:

INSERT INTO table_name (column1, column2, column3, ...)
VALUES (value1, value2, value3, ...);

Simple Insertion Example

Inserting a user into our previously created users table:

INSERT INTO users (name, email)
VALUES ('John Doe', '[email protected]');

5. Inserting Multiple Rows

Batch insertions are efficient for adding multiple records at once.

Syntax for Multiple Rows

INSERT INTO table_name (column1, column2, ...)
(value1a, value2a, ...),
(value1b, value2b, ...),

Practical Demonstration

Inserting multiple users:

INSERT INTO users (name, email)
('Jane Smith', '[email protected]'),
('Robert Brown', '[email protected]');

6. Inserting Data from Another Table

This capability is handy when duplicating or selecting specific data from one table to insert into another.


Instead of the VALUES clause, you can use a SELECT statement to fetch records from another table and insert them.

Data Copy Example

Assuming we have a temp_users table and we want to copy all its records to the users table:

INSERT INTO users (name, email)
SELECT name, email FROM temp_users;

7. Using Default Values

When designing a table in PostgreSQL, there will often be situations where you’d want some columns to have a default value if none is specified during insertion. This can help ensure data consistency and reduce manual work during insertion.

Column Default Values

Default values for columns are set during table creation or modification. These values automatically come into play when you insert a row without specifying a value for such columns. They’re useful in scenarios like:

  • Setting a timestamp for when a row was created.
  • Providing default settings or flags.
  • Auto-generating unique identifiers.

Insertion with DEFAULT

If you have a column with a default value and want to explicitly use that default value during insertion, you can use the DEFAULT keyword.

For example, consider a table users with a column created_at that has a default value of the current timestamp. To insert a new user and use the default timestamp, you’d do:

INSERT INTO users(name, email, created_at) VALUES ('John Doe', '[email protected]', DEFAULT);

8. Returning Data After Insertion

One of the advanced features PostgreSQL offers is the ability to return the inserted data immediately after the insertion operation.


The RETURNING clause allows you to immediately get back the row you just inserted (or its specific columns). This can be extremely useful when:

  • The table has columns with default values, and you need those values immediately after insertion.
  • You’ve inserted data into a table with a serial or auto-incrementing primary key.

Insert and Return Example

For a table users with an auto-incrementing id:

INSERT INTO users(name, email) VALUES ('John Doe', '[email protected]') RETURNING id;

This will insert the user and return the generated id.

9. Handling Conflicts & Duplicates

Data integrity is crucial, and PostgreSQL offers robust tools to manage unique constraints and avoid data redundancy.


The ON CONFLICT clause is a powerful tool that helps handle duplicate data or constraint violations. It allows you to define actions like “do nothing” or update the conflicting row.

Upsert Operations Example

Imagine a table users with an email column that must be unique. If you want to insert a new user, or update the user if the email already exists, you’d use:

INSERT INTO users(email, name) VALUES ('[email protected]', 'John Doe')
ON CONFLICT (email) DO UPDATE SET name = 'John Doe';

This ensures the user is either added or updated, based on the email uniqueness.

10. Advanced Tips

Prepared Statements

Prepared statements allow you to pre-compile SQL statements for execution later. They enhance performance and help prevent SQL injection attacks. PostgreSQL supports this feature through its PREPARE and EXECUTE commands.

Bulk Insertion Techniques

Instead of inserting one row at a time, bulk insertion allows you to insert multiple rows in a single command, which can be more efficient. For instance:

INSERT INTO users(name, email) VALUES ('John', '[email protected]'), ('Jane', '[email protected]');

Transaction Management

When performing multiple related insertions, it’s essential to use transactions to ensure data integrity. With transactions, you can ensure that either all the commands are executed successfully or none are.

11. Common Mistakes & Troubleshooting

Frequent Errors

  1. Violating unique constraints: Ensure you’re not inserting duplicate values into unique columns.
  2. Inserting wrong data types: Always make sure the data you’re inserting matches the column’s data type.

Error Interpretation

PostgreSQL provides clear error messages. By paying attention to them, you can usually determine the cause of an issue. For example, “unique constraint violation” indicates duplicate data.

Troubleshooting Guide

  1. Check the data types and constraints on the table.
  2. Look at the provided error message.
  3. Use tools like pgAdmin or psql to inspect and debug.

12. Best Practices

Data Validation

Always validate data before insertion. This ensures data consistency and integrity.

Batch vs Individual Operations

While batch operations can be efficient, they might also be riskier if something goes wrong. Evaluate the trade-offs.

Regular Backups

Regularly backup your database. It’s your safety net in case of data corruption or loss.

13. Integration with Programming Languages

PostgreSQL with Python

With Python’s psycopg2 library, inserting data into PostgreSQL is straightforward. After establishing a connection, use a cursor to execute your insert statements.

Other Languages Overview

PostgreSQL also integrates well with languages like Java (through JDBC), Ruby (with pg gem), and many others.

14. Conclusion

Data insertion in PostgreSQL is versatile and powerful. By understanding the core concepts and best practices, you can optimize your data operations on codedamn and beyond.

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