PostgreSQL Import Dump: A Step-by-Step Comprehensive Guide

February 29, 2024
15 min read

Efficient data transfer between databases is crucial for seamless operation and growth of your businesses. Among so many database management systems, PostgreSQL offers reliability, scalability, and a rich feature set, making it a suitable choice for your organization. However, migrating data between databases, whether for upgrading systems or consolidating information, requires meticulous planning and execution to minimize disruptions and ensure data integrity.

In this article, you will learn about Postgres import dump, focusing on mastering the functionality of Postgres import dump feature.

PostgreSQL Dump Import

A PostgreSQL import dump, often referred to simply as a dump, is a logical backup of a PostgreSQL database's contents. It contains SQL statements necessary to recreate the database schema along with the data stored within it. This format allows you to quickly transfer and restore Postgres databases, making it an invaluable tool for data migration, disaster recovery, and database replication.

Advantages of Using Import Dump Postgres:

  • The platform-independent backup format allows seamless migration between different operating systems and PostgreSQL versions.
  • You get granular control over the migration process, which enables customized data, schema, and object definitions.
  • It facilitates efficient data storage and transfer, minimizing network bandwidth and storage space requirements.

Best Practices for Postgres Import Dump:

  • Backup Before Export: Having a recent backup of your source database is always wise. This ensures you can revert in case of unexpected issues during the export or import process.
  • Consider Data Size & Compression: Large databases can take a long time to transfer. Compress your dump file using gzip or similar tools to optimize storage and transfer efficiency.
  • Address Schema Differences: If you are importing into a different schema, adapt the exported SQL commands to match the target structure. This prevents errors and ensures smooth data migration.
  • Test & Document: Before deploying to your production environment, perform a test import on a non-production system. Document the entire process for future reference and reproducibility. This saves time and ensures consistency.

The section below provides three different methods and a step-by-step guide for importing data into PostgreSQL.

Method 1: Using pgAdmin for PostgreSQL Import Dump

In this method, you will learn how to create a database backup and how to restore data from the backup using pgAdmin.


  • Ensure read access to the source database and read & write access to the target database with appropriate user privileges.
  • Install pgAdmin.
  • Back up the source database and ensure data consistency before exporting.
  • Consider database size (compression might be needed), schema differences (potential adaptations), and version compatibility.

Step 1: Exporting Data

  • Open pgAdmin and connect to the source server by providing the necessary credentials.
  • Right-click on the desired database and select Backup.
  • Specify the output file in Filename and choose Custom or Tar format.
  • Select specific tables or schemas to include in Dump Options (optional).
  • Click on the Backup button to start the export.

Step 2: Importing Data into PostgreSQL

  • Prepare the target database. If you are creating a new database, use CREATE DATABASE in the Query tool in pgAdmin, or if overwriting, consider dropping existing tables or schemas to avoid conflicts.
  • Right-click the target database and select Restore.
  • Choose the Custom option in format and provide the file path of your dump file in Filename
  • Click Restore to start the import.

Method 2: Using psql for Postgre SQL Import Dump

This method utilizes SQL Shell (psql) for Postgres import SQL dump. Using the command line, you can use different commands to export and import data into Postgres.


  • Install psql and ensure pg_dump is accessible.

Step 1: Exporting Data

  • Open SQL Shell (psql).
  • Connect to the database using the psql command.
  • Once connected, enter the command mentioned below to export data into .sql file:
  • pg_dump -h hostname -p port -u username -d database -t table1 > my_dump.sql

Replace the above-mentioned fields with:

  • hostname: Hostname of the source server,
  • port: Port number,
  • username: Add username with read access,
  • database: Name of the source database to export,
  • table1: Specify the tables from where the data should be exported (optional),
  • my_dump.sql: Output filename ( Format extensions include .sql for plaintext, .dump for custom, -dir for directory, tar for tar)

Step 2: Importing Data

  • Prepare the target database. If creating a new database, use CREATE DATABASE command in psql.
  • Use psql with the -f option to import the dump file into Postgres:

psql -u username -W -d testdb -f my_dump.sql

Replace the above-mentioned fields with:

  • testdb: database name you want to import into,
  • -f my_dump.sql: Used to mention the file format and the input filename.

Step 3: Post-import Checks

  • Verify data integrity in the target database using SELECT statements or other tools like pgaudit, or pglogical.
  • Ensure appropriate user permissions are set in the target database.
  • If you created a new database, consider dropping the empty source database (after verification).

Some Tips for PostgreSQL Import dump using pgAdmin and psql

  • Use pg_restore for more advanced import options and selective restoration. You can fine-tune your import with options like specifying tables, excluding specific data, or filtering based on timestamps. This control allows selective restoration, importing only the relevant portions of your dump for efficient and targeted data retrieval.
  • Consider splitting your dump into smaller files using tools like split or pg_split_dump. This improves manageability and facilitates parallel restoration, significantly reducing overall import time. 

Limitations of using pgAdmin and psql for PostgreSQL Dump Import

  • Importing large datasets can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, requiring careful planning and resource allocation.
  • Import dumps may not capture appended changes to the database, necessitating additional strategies for data synchronization.
  • Compatibility issues may arise when importing dumps generated from different PostgreSQL versions or when migrating databases with complex dependencies or custom extensions.

Method 3: Using Airbyte to Import Data into Postgres

Airbyte is a reliable solution for data replication that not only overcomes the above-mentioned challenges but also empowers you to integrate and manage data across multiple sources and destinations seamlessly. With Airbyte, you can quickly migrate your data into PostgreSQL with its wide range of 350+ pre-built connectors. It also offers continuous synchronization via the Change Data Capture (CDC) technique, which only transfers the appended changes.

Step 1: Configure Your Source

  • If you haven’t registered an Airbyte account, quickly sign up for free, or you can log in to your existing Airbyte account.
  • On the Airbyte dashboard, choose the source connector from where you want to import data. Add all the mandatory fields and configure the connections. Finally, click on Set up Source.

Step 2: Configure Your Destination

  • For the Postgres connector, go back to the dashboard and click Destinations.
  • On the destinations connector page, search for PostgreSQL in the Search box. Once you locate the connector, click on it.

  • On the Postgres connector page, enter connection details like your PostgreSQL database Host, Port, DB Name, DB Schema, Username, and Password.
  • Once you have filled in all the details, click on Set up Destination and wait for the tests to complete. 
  • Now, the final step is to configure the connection. You can adjust the frequency and choose the sync mode. Click on Set up the connection, then Sync now. Airbyte will start replicating your data from source systems to PostgreSQL tables. Once the synchronization is complete, you can check your Postgres database to view the replicated tables.

These two straightforward steps complete the Postgres import dump using Airbyte. To learn more about each field, visit the Airbyte Postgres destination connector page.

Benefits of using Airbyte for your Postgres Dump

  • Flexibility & Control: Airbyte offers two deployment options: open-source and cloud. The open-source option provides granular customization. While Airbyte’s cloud solution caters to streamlined data movement, avoiding infrastructure management.
  • Effortless Automation: You can ditch manual scripting and rely on Airbyte Cloud to seamlessly automate data imports and updates between your PostgreSQL instances, saving you valuable time and resources.
  • Change Data Capture: With the Airbyte Change Data Capture technique, you can capture and replicate changes made in the source systems. This will ensure your PostgreSQL database always has the latest information tailored to your workflow.
  • Seamless Integration: Along with popular databases and data warehouses, Airbyte also supports various file formats such as (CSV, JSON, etc.). This allows you to import data from diverse source file formats and integrate it into your existing PostgreSQL environment effortlessly.
  • Enhanced Security & Monitoring: Airbyte prioritizes data security with industry-leading certifications like SOC 2, GDPR, and HIPAA Conduit, ensuring your information remains protected throughout the data transfer process. Its comprehensive dashboards provide insights into your data pipeline flows, ensuring data integrity and facilitating troubleshooting.


This article presented three distinct approaches for Postgres import dump—pgAdmin, psql, and Airbyte.

pgAdmin has a user-friendly GUI that simplifies single data transfers. For those proficient in programming, psql would be a better choice for smaller transfers. However, manual configuration and limited automation become less efficient for extensive datasets using both approaches.

In contrast, Airbyte is a reliable data integration solution that is capable of handling enormous datasets. Its 350+ pre-built connectors streamline setup without writing a single line of code, and Change Data Capture (CDC) technology ensures data remains updated for analysis. 

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