A last-minute website error is always frustrating.

PostgreSQL database queries often end up in errors with code 42501.

This PostgreSQL error 42501 usually occurs when an underprivileged user queries a database. This can be tricky to troubleshoot.

That’s why we often get requests to fix PostgreSQL errors as a part of our Server Management Services.

Today, let’s have a look into the error 42501 and see how our Support Engineers fix it for our customers.


When does PostgreSQL error 42501 occur?

Before moving on to the error 42501, let’s first see more about PostgreSQL.

PostgreSQL is one of the versatile database management systems. It comes handy for developers to build applications, server administrators to protect data and so on. In other words, PostgreSQL is a highly extensible database system.

The error code 42501 denotes insufficient privilege for the database user. But, there can be many reasons that lead to this error.


1. Insufficient privilege for the user

Usually, the 42501 error occurs when a PostgreSQL user with insufficient privileges makes a query on a database.

This indicates that the database user executed an operation, for which the user has no rights.

For database management, the user needs enough rights over the database.

When one of our customers was trying to query a database table in a PostgreSQL tool like pgAdmin, it ended up in error 42501.

The error message was

PostgreSQL error 42501 after database query by a user with insufficient privilege.

By default, in the PostgreSQL database, the user restoring the database will have the database ownership. For instance, when restoring a database as the root user, all objects will be under root ownership. And if another user is running any query on this database, it shows the 42501 error.


2. SELinux setting

Sometimes, the SELinux setting in the server can also cause an insufficient privilege error.

SELinux is a security architecture that is a part of Linux kernel. In SELinux, access and transition rights of a user, application, process, and file are all defined. Thus, if SELinux is enabled it affects the user privileges then the database query can end up in a 42501 error.


Fix for 42501 permission denied error

When our customers approach us with this error, our Support Team first checks the reasons that cause this error. The major reasons are insufficient user privilege and SELinux settings.

Now, let’s see how our Support Team fixes this error.

1.Granting Privilege to a user

First and foremost, when a customer approaches us with a 42501 error, we check the database user privileges already given.

If the user lacks enough permission, then we change it accordingly.

Mostly, the user does not have privileges over the requested tables.

In this case, we give privileges to the user over the requested tables using the command.


This command gives all privileges over the table to the public, hence anyone can use it.

But, some customers prefer giving privileges only to a few users.

In this case, to give table access only to certain users, we use the command.

GRANT SELECT ON table_name TO user_name;


After giving privileges to the user, our Support Team executes the query once again. This ensures that the error is fixed.

Similarly, if the root user restored the dump file, this can cause insufficient privilege for the database user.

That is, if the root user restores the database using pg_dump --no-owner then the root user who restored the database will have all privileges.

So, we always restore the database using the login of the desired user. Then, this user will have all privileges over the database.


2. Disabling SELinux

In some cases, the user has enough privilege over the database and still the database query show 42501 error. Here, the SELinux can be the reason causing the error.

After considering other security settings, our Support Team disables this feature using the command.

selinuxenabled && echo enabled || echo disabled

[Still having trouble in fixing PostgreSQL errors? – We will fix it for you.]


In short, the PostgreSQL error 42501 occurs mainly due to insufficient privileges for database user for running query. We saw how our Support Engineers fixed this error for our customers.

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