Running PostgreSQL with Docker on Linux using local persistent data storage

A quick guide demonstrating how to get PostgreSQL up & running in minutes under Linux using Docker. We’ll create local persistent data storage using a Docker volume and connect from localhost with psql.

Preparing local data storage

By default, running PostgreSQL with Docker would store all the data within the container, meaning it would not survive a rebuild of the container. To overcome that, let’s create a local directory that will be mounted as a Docker volume where PostgreSQL can save all of the data to be persistent regardless of container rebuilds etc.

As a best practice, let’s first create a new user called postgres to manage the permissions for all local directories mounted as a volume by the PostgreSQL Docker container. To do so, run the following commands with root privileges.

$ useradd -M postgres
$ usermod -L postgres

This creates a new user postgres having no home directory and a locked password preventing unwanted use. Next, we create a directory (I prefer something under /var/db) for the PostgreSQL data volume and assign it to the newly created user.

$ cd /var/db
$ mkdir postgres
$ chown -R postgres:postgres /var/db/postgres

That’s it for the local preparation. Now let’s move on to start PostgreSQL with Docker. All following steps can be done without having root privileges.

Running PostgreSQL with Docker

To run PostgreSQL with docker, we’ll first download the offical Postgres docker image.

$ docker pull postgres:16.2

Before starting the database, we need to figure out the user ID of the postgres user for passing it to Docker. This will ensure the running container has sufficient rights to access the local data directory mounted as a volume.

$ id -u postgres                                

Now we are ready to run Postgres with Docker using the following command:

$ docker run -d \
  --name mypostgres \
  --user 1002 \
  -e PGDATA=/var/lib/postgresql/data/pgdata \
  -v /var/db/postgres:/var/lib/postgresql/data:Z \
  -p 5432:5432 \

Let’s break down the options of the docker run command in detail.

docker run optionDescription
-dRun the container in background mode.
--name mypostgres[optional] Name the container mypostgres.
--user 1002Set the user ID the container is running with to ensure appropriate rights for accessing the mounted volumes.
-e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=Test123$Set the environment variable for the Postgres admin password.
-e PGDATA=/var/lib/postgresql/data/pgdataSet the environment variable for the Postgres data directory.
-v /var/db/postgres:/var/lib/postgresql/data:ZMount local directory /var/db/postgres as a volume to container directory /var/lib/postgresql/data for persistent data storage on your localhost.
-p 5432:5432Map the Postgres container port 5432 to local port 5432.
postgres:16.2The container image to run.

Note here that the PGDATA variable must be set to something different then /var/lib/postgresql to support mounting to a local persistent directory. For details refere to the corresponding Postgres docker image documentation.

Also you may need the “:Z” option for the volume mounts depending on your SELinux configuration. For an in-depth explanation refer to the Docker MongoDB guide.

Now let’s check if the container is up & running.

$ docker ps | grep postgres
b020097a3a6f   postgres:16.2         "docker-entrypoint.sā€¦"   2 days ago      Up 9 seconds>5432/tcp, :::5432->5432/tcp   mypostgres

Looks good – we’re now ready to connect and use the PostgreSQL Docker instance.

Connecting from localhost with psql

Having the container running, let’s connect with the standard Postgres CLI tool psql. If you haven’t installed it already, you should opt-in for a local installation. This is done by installing the postgresl package using dnf with admin rights. If you are on another Linux distribution than Fedora, use your respective package manager.

$ dnf install postgresql

After psql is installed, run the following command as a normal user to connect to the Postgres container from localhost.

$ psql -h localhost -p 5432 -U postgres
Password for user postgres:  # enter the password specified in the docker run command


That’s already it – you’re connected to PostgreSQL running with Docker šŸ™‚

If you want to use other database systems with Docker under Linux, also check out the guides for MongoDB and Oracle.

Useful links