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How to set up PostgreSQL on Compute Engine

Author(s): @jimtravis ,   Published: 2016-06-03

Contributed by Google employees.

This tutorial shows how to set up PostgreSQL on Google Cloud in just a few minutes. Follow this tutorial to configure PostgreSQL on an Ubuntu virtual machine instance on Compute Engine.

If you don't want to install and manage your own PostgreSQL database, Cloud SQL provides managed PostgreSQL.

You can also use Cloud Launcher to set up PostgreSQL on Compute Engine with just a few clicks.


  • Install PostgreSQL on a Compute Engine instance.
  • Configure PostgreSQL for remote access.
  • Configure a Google Cloud firewall to open a port.
  • Connect to PostgreSQL from a remote computer.

Before you begin

You'll need a Google Cloud project. You can use an existing project or click the button to create a new project:

Create a project


This tutorial uses billable components of Google Cloud, including Compute Engine.

Use the pricing calculator to generate a cost estimate based on your projected usage. New Google Cloud users might be eligible for a free trial.

Creating a Compute Engine instance

For the purposes of this tutorial, the default machine type works fine, so you don't need to change the default setting. In production, you need to decide how much computing power is required for your application. In general, database systems tend to be more constrained by I/O bottlenecks and hard disk speed than by CPU capabilities.

Most Linux distributions have some version of PostgreSQL integrated with their package managers. For this tutorial, you use Ubuntu Trusty because it includes PostgreSQL 9.3, which has some helpful tools that aren't available in earlier versions.

  1. In the Cloud Console, go to the VM Instances page.
  2. Click the Create instance button.
  3. Set Name to postgres-tutorial.
  4. In the Boot disk section, click Change to begin configuring your boot disk.
  5. In the Preconfigured image tab, choose Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.
  6. In the Boot disk type section, select Standard persistent disk.
  7. Click Select.
  8. In the Firewall section, select Allow HTTP traffic and Allow HTTPS traffic.
  9. Click the Create button to create the instance.

It will take a few moments to create your new instance.

Stay on the VM instances page for the next step.

Setting up PostgreSQL

To set up PostgreSQL, you must install it and set up a user.

Install PostgreSQL

Follow these steps to install PostgreSQL on your Compute Engine instance.

  1. In the list of virtual machine instances, click the SSH button in the row of the instance to which you want to connect.
  2. Update the packages. In the SSH terminal, enter the following command:

    sudo apt-get update
  3. Install PostgreSQL, including the PSQL client and server instrumentation:

    sudo apt-get -y install postgresql postgresql-client postgresql-contrib

Use PSQL to complete the setup

PostgreSQL created a default user, named "postgres", during installation. This user doesn't yet have a password, so you'll need to set one.

  1. In your SSH terminal, run the root shell:

    sudo -s
  2. Run PSQL as user postgres, instead of root, accessing the database named postgres:

    sudo -u postgres psql postgres

    You should see the PSQL command prompt, which looks like this: postgres=#

  3. Enter the following command to set the password:

    \password postgres
  4. When prompted, enter and confirm the password you've chosen.

    Important: For any system with an Internet connection, use a strong password to help keep the system secure.

  5. Install the adminpack extension to enable the server instrumentation that you installed earlier. The console prints CREATE EXTENSION when successful.

    CREATE EXTENSION adminpack;
  6. Enter \q to exit PSQL.

  7. Enter exit to exit the root shell.

Connecting remotely

To connect to your Postgres database, you'll need to change a configuration file and open a port in the firewall on Google Cloud.

Configure PostgreSQL remote access

By default, Postgres doesn't allow remote connections. To change this setting, you can change the file named pg_hba.conf. Follow these steps.

Caution: On production systems, or any system that has an internet connection, use strong authentication methods and restrict traffic to only those users and IP addresses that you want to connect to each database.

Edit pg_hba.conf

  1. In the SSH terminal window, edit pg_hba.conf. This tutorial uses the nano editor, but you can substitute your favorite editor. For PostgreSQL version 9.3, you can enter:

    sudo nano ../../etc/postgresql/9.3/main/pg_hba.conf
  2. Navigate to ip4.me to get the IPv4 address of your local computer.

    You'll need this IP address in an upcoming steps.

  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the file and add the following lines:

    # IPv4 remote connections for the tutorial:
    host    all             all           [YOUR_IPV4_ADDRESS]/32         md5
  4. Replace [YOUR_IPV4_ADDRESS] with the address of your local computer. Note that the CIDR suffix /32 is used for a single address, which is what you're providing in this tutorial.

  5. Save the file and exit the editor. In nano, press Control+x and then use the Return key to accept the prompts to save the file. Note that nano might not clear the console screen properly, so if you have trouble reading the text in the console after closing nano, enter clear to clear the screen.

Edit postgresql.conf

  1. Open postgresql.conf for editing. For example, enter the following command:

    sudo nano ../../etc/postgresql/9.3/main/postgresql.conf
  2. Scroll down to the line that begins with #listen_addresses = 'localhost'.

  3. Delete the # character to uncomment the line.

  4. Replace localhost with *:

    listen_addresses = '*'

    The '*' setting enables Postgres to listen on all IP addresses. This is a commonly used setting. When you set the IP address in hba.conf in the previous step, you restricted access to the database to only your computer.

  5. Save the file and exit the editor.

  6. Restart the database service. In the SSH terminal, enter:

    sudo service postgresql restart

Open the network port

PostgreSQL accepts remote connections on port 5432. Follow these steps to add a firewall rule that enables traffic on this port.

  1. In the Cloud Console, navigate to the Create a firewall rule page.

    Create a firewall rule

  2. In the Network field, leave the network as default.

  3. In the Name field, enter:

  4. In the Direction of traffic field, create a rule as Ingress and another rule as Egress.

  5. In Source IP Ranges, enter the same IP address you used in hba.conf. This is the IP address of your local computer. Remember to include the /32 suffix, for example:

  6. In Allowed protocols and ports, enter:

  7. Click Create.

Note that firewall rules are a global resource, so you'll only need to create this rule once for all instances.

Connect using pgAdmin

Now you can connect to your PostgreSQL database from your computer. This tutorial uses pgAdmin, which is a popular client application for working with Postgres databases. Follow these steps.

  1. Install pgAdmin on your local computer.

  2. Run pgAdmin.

    On macOS, you must open the program from Finder by choosing Open from the context menu. Otherwise, macOS will display a security warning and fail to run the program.

  3. Add the server. In pgAdmin3, you can click the first icon on the left side of the toolbar. Alternatively, click File > Add server.

  4. In the New Server Registration window, in the Name field, enter:

    Postgres tutorial
  5. Navigate to the VM instances page and find the external IP address of your Compute Engine instance in the External IP column.

    Open VM instances

  6. In the Host field, enter the external IP address of your Compute Engine instance.

    Note: Enter only the address as it appears in the Cloud Console; don't add any protocol specifiers, such as http:// or other characters.

  7. In the Port field, enter:

  8. In the Password field, enter the password that you set previously for the user named postgres.

  9. Click OK to close the window.

You should now be connected to your PostgreSQL database that is hosted on your Compute Engine instance. You can use pgAdmin to browse and modify the database and other settings. PgAdmin also includes a PSQL console that you can use to administer the database remotely.

Best practices

This tutorial provided you with a basic look at a one-machine, single-disk installation of PostgreSQL. In a production environment, it's a good idea to employ strategies for high availability, scalability, archiving, backup, load balancing, and disaster recovery. For information about disaster recovery planning, see How to Design a Disaster Recovery Plan.

For better performance and data safety, install the database engine on the boot disk as this tutorial showed, and then set up the data storage on a separate persistent disk. To learn how to add a disk for your database, see the follow-up tutorial How to Set Up a New Persistent Disk for PostgreSQL Data.

For machines that have an Internet connection, use only strong passwords and limit access only to trusted IP ranges.

Cleaning up

After you've finished the PostgreSQL tutorial, you can clean up the resources you created on Google Cloud so you won't be billed for them in the future. The following sections describe how to delete or turn off these resources.

Deleting the project

The easiest way to eliminate billing is to delete the project you created for the tutorial.

To delete the project:

  1. In the Cloud Console, go to the Projects page.
  2. Click the trash can icon to the right of the project name.

Warning: Deleting a project has the following consequences:

If you used an existing project, you'll also delete any other work you've done in the project. You can't reuse the project ID of a deleted project. If you created a custom project ID that you plan to use in the future, you should delete the resources inside the project instead. This ensures that URLs that use the project ID, such as an appspot.com URL, remain available.

Deleting instances

To delete a Compute Engine instance:

  1. In the Cloud Console, go to the VM Instances page.
  2. Click the checkbox next to your postgres-tutorial instance.
  3. Click the Delete button at the top of the page to delete the instance.

Deleting firewall rules for the default network

To delete a firewall rule:

  1. In the Cloud Console, go to the Firewall Rules page.
  2. Click the checkbox next to the firewall rule you want to delete.
  3. Click the Delete button at the top of the page to delete the firewall rule.

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