How to troubleshoot a dirty database

This document will take you through how to resolve a ‘dirty database’ error. During an upgrade, the database has to be migrated. If the upgrade was interrupted during the migration, this can result in a ‘dirty database’ error.

The error will look something like this:

ERROR: Failed to migrate the DB. Please contact [email protected] for further assistance: Dirty database version 1528395797. Fix and force version.


  • This document assumes that you are installing Sourcegraph or were attempting an upgrade when an error occurred
  • NOTE: If you encountered this error during an upgrade, ensure you followed the proper step upgrade process documented here. This document is not intended to resolve a dirty database which resulted from skipping the step upgrade.

Steps to resolve

  1. Check schema version. If it’s dirty, then note the version number by using this command:

SELECT * FROM schema_migrations;

  1. Find the up migration with that version in

  2. Run the code there explicitly

  3. Manually clear the dirty flag on the schema_migrations table

  4. Start up again and the remaining migrations should succeed, otherwise repeat

  • When migrations run, the schema_migrations table is updated to show the state of migrations.

    • The dirty column indicates whether a migration is in-process, and
    • The version column indicates the version of the migration the database is on or converting to.
    • On startup, frontend will abort if the dirty column is set to true. (The table has only one row.)
  • If frontend fails at startup with a complaint about a dirty migration, a migration was started but not recorded as completing.

    • It’s possible that one or more commands from the migration ran successfully.
  • Do not mark the migration table as clean if you have not verified that the migration was successfully completed.

  • To check the state of the migration table:

    • SELECT * FROM schema_migrations;
    • version | dirty
    • ------------+-------
    • 1528395539 | t
    • (1 row)
  • This indicates that migration 1528395539 was running, but has not yet completed.

  • Check on the actual state of the migration directly; if it has completed, you can manually clear the dirty bit:

    • UPDATE schema_migrations SET dirty = 'f' WHERE version = 1528395539;
  • Checking on the status of the migration requires looking at the migration’s commands.

    • The source for each migration is in sourcegraph/sourcegraph/migrations, in a file named something like 1528395539_.up.sql
    • The number indicates a migration serial number
    • The text (usually empty in recent migrations) after the serial number describes the purpose of the migration
    • There should be a corresponding .down.sql file to reverse the migration.
  • Many migrations do nothing but create tables and/or indexes or alter them.

  • You can get a description of a table and its associated indexes quickly using the \d command (note lack of semicolon):

    • sg=# \d global_dep
    • Using this information, you can determine whether a table exists, what columns it contains, and what indexes on it exist.
    • This allows you to determine whether a given command ran successfully.

Further resources