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

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