Once you’ve deployed your code to a web server, you’ll be pretty stoked. I know I was. One thing you’ll need to start thinking about though is converting your SQLite database to a ‘real’ database. I say ‘real’ because SQLite is a great engine to start off with, but once you have more than 1 user, you’ll really need to have a database that can support concurrency, and can scale when you need it to.

Enter PostgreSQL. Django offers built-in database support for several different databases, but Postgres is the preferred engine.

We’ll take care of this in stages:

  1. Create the database
  2. Prep project for use of Postgres
    1. Install needed package
    2. Update settings.py to change to Postgres
    3. Run the migration locally
  3. Deploy updates to server
  4. Script it all out

Create the database

I’m going to assume that you already have Postgres installed locally. If you don’t, there are many good tutorials to walk you through it.

You’ll need three things to create a database in Postgres

  1. Database name
  2. Database user
  3. Database password for your user

For this example, I’ll be as generic as possible and choose the following:

  • Database name will be my_database
  • Database user will be my_database_user
  • Database password will be my_database_user_password

From our terminal we’ll run a couple of commands:

# This will open the Postgres Shell


# From the psql shell

CREATE DATABASE my_database;
CREATE USER my_database_user WITH PASSWORD 'my_database_user_password';
ALTER ROLE my_database_user SET client_encoding TO 'utf8';
ALTER ROLE my_database_user SET default_transaction_isolation TO 'read committed';
ALTER ROLE my_database_user SET timezone TO 'UTC'

The last 3 ALTER commands are based on Django recommendations for Postgres user.

One thing to note, before you go creating databases and users, you should make sure that they don’t already exist. The \l will list the various databases present. If this is your first time in the psql shell you’ll see three databases list:


To see a list of the users \du will display that. If this is your first time in the psql shell you’ll see one user listed:


OK … the database has been created. Next, we start updating our project to use this new database engine

Prep project for use of Postgres

Install Needed Package

The only python package needed to use Postgres is psycopg2-binary so we’ll

pip install psycopg2-binary

Update settings.py

The DATABASES portion of the settings.py is set to use SQLite by default and will look (something) like this:

    'default': {
        'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.sqlite3',
        'NAME': 'mydatabase',

The Django documentation is really good on what changes need to be made. From the documentation we see that we need to update the DATABASES section to be something like this:

    'default': {
        'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.postgresql',
        'NAME': 'mydatabase',
        'USER': 'mydatabaseuser',
        'PASSWORD': 'mypassword',
        'HOST': '',
        'PORT': '5432',

With our database from above, ours will look like this:

    'default': {
        'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.postgresql',
        'NAME': 'my_database',
        'USER': 'my_database_user',
        'PASSWORD': 'my_database_user_password',
        'HOST': 'localhost',
        'PORT': '',

The HOST is changed to localhost and we remove the value for PORT

Once we get ready to push this to our web server we’ll want to replace the NAME, USER, and PASSWORD with environment variables, but we’ll get to that later

Run migrations

OK, we’ve got our database set up, we’ve got our settings updated to use the new database, now we can run set that database up.

All that we need to do is to:

python manage.py migrate

This will run any migrations that we had created previously on our new Postgres database.

A few things to note:

  1. You will need to create a new superuser
  2. You will need to migrate over any data from the old SQLite database1

Congratulations! You’ve migrated from SQLite to Postgres!

  1. This can be done with the datadump and dataload commands available in manage.py

This post is part 6 of the "Deploying your Django App to Digital Ocean" series:

  1. Deploying a Django Site to Digital Ocean - A Series
  2. Setting up the Server (on Digital Ocean)
  3. Getting your Domain to point to Digital Ocean Your Server
  4. Preparing the code for deployment to Digital Ocean
  5. Automating the deployment
  6. Using PostgreSQL
  7. Setting up multiple Django Sites on a Digital Ocean server
  8. Enhancements: Using GitHub Actions to Deploy

tags: postgres