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PostgreSQL 9.0 High Performance by Gregory Smith

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Per-client settings

While all of the settings in this section can be adjusted per client, you'll still want good starting settings for these parameters in the main configuration file. Individual clients that need values outside the standard can always do so using the SET command within their session.

effective_cache_size

As mentioned in the last chapter, PostgreSQL is expected to have both its own dedicated memory (shared_buffers) as well as utilize the filesystem cache. In some cases, when making decisions like whether it is efficient to use an index or not, the database compares sizes it computes against the effective sum of all these caches; that's what it expects to find in effective_cache_size.

The same rough rule of thumb that would put shared_buffers ...

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