Optimizing Database Resource Usage by Analyzing and Removing Unused Indexes in PostgreSQL

We know more ways how to indexing to optimize your queries in database, however…

JackyNote ⭐️
3 min readMay 15, 2024

Indexes are essential for optimizing query performance in PostgreSQL databases.

However, over time, some indexes may become redundant or unused, consuming unnecessary resources and impacting performance. This article will guide you through the process of identifying and removing these unused indexes to optimize your PostgreSQL database.

Step-by-Step Guide to Analyze and Remove Unused Indexes

1. Understand the Impact of Indexes

Indexes speed up data retrieval operations but come with trade-offs:

  • Storage Overhead: Indexes consume additional disk space.
  • Maintenance Overhead: Every insert, update, or delete operation requires additional time to update the indexes.

2. Identify Unused Indexes

To identify unused indexes, we can leverage PostgreSQL’s pg_stat_user_indexes and pg_stat_user_tables system catalogs. These catalogs provide statistics on index usage.

relname AS table_name,
indexrelname AS index_name,
idx_scan AS index_scans
ON pg_stat_user_indexes.indexrelid = pg_index.indexrelid
idx_scan = 0

This query lists all indexes that have not been scanned since the last statistics reset.

3. Review Index Usage

Before removing any index, it’s essential to review its usage thoroughly:

  • Period of Analysis: Ensure that the analysis covers a sufficiently long period to account for infrequent queries.
  • Query Log Review: Examine the query logs to verify that the index is genuinely unused.

To reset statistics and start fresh monitoring:

SELECT pg_stat_reset();

Monitor for a reasonable period (e.g., a few weeks) before deciding on the index’s utility.

4. Evaluate Index Purpose

Some indexes may be designed for specific but rare maintenance tasks, reporting, or backup operations. Ensure that the index is not critical for these occasional activities.

5. Remove Unused Indexes

Once you have confirmed that an index is not used and not required for any special tasks, you can safely remove it:

DROP INDEX index_name;

To be cautious, consider performing these actions in a maintenance window to minimize the impact on the production environment.

Automation and Ongoing Maintenance

1. Automate Monitoring

Automate the process of monitoring index usage with periodic jobs that collect and analyze index usage statistics. Use tools like pgBadger or custom scripts to automate this task.

2. Regular Review Process

Incorporate regular index reviews into your database maintenance routine. Schedule reviews (e.g., quarterly) to ensure that unused indexes are promptly identified and removed.

3. Documentation and Change Management

Maintain thorough documentation of index management activities. Use change management processes to track when indexes are added or removed, and ensure that changes are reviewed and approved to avoid unintended impacts.


Proper index management is crucial for maintaining optimal database performance and resource usage. By regularly analyzing index usage and removing unused indexes, you can ensure that your PostgreSQL database remains efficient and responsive. Following the steps outlined above will help you systematically identify and remove unused indexes, contributing to overall database optimization.



JackyNote ⭐️

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