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Matthew Segal
Matthew Segal

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How to automatically reset your local Django database

Sometimes when you're working on a Django app you want a fresh start. You want to nuke all of the data in your local database and start again from scratch. Maybe you ran some migrations that you don't want to keep, or perhaps there's some test data that you want to get rid of. This kind of problem doesn't crop up very often, but when it does it's super annoying to do it manually over and over.

In this post I'll show you small script that you can use to reset your local Django database. It completely automates deleting the old data, running migrations and setting up new users. I've written the script in bash but most of it will also work in powershell or cmd with only minor changes.

For those of you who hate reading, the full script is near the bottom.

Resetting the database

We're going to reset our local database with the django-extensions package, which provides a nifty little helper command called reset_db. This command destroys and recreates your Django app's database.

./ reset_db

I like to add the --noinput flag so the script does not ask me for confirmation, and the --close-sessions flag if I'm using PostgreSQL locally so that the command does not fail if my Django app is connected the database at the same time.

./ reset_db --noinput --close-sessions

This is is a good start, but now we have no migrations, users or any other data in our database. We need to add some data back in there before we can start using the app again.

Running migrations

Before you do anything else it's important to run migrations so that all your database tables are set up correctly:

./ migrate

Creating an admin user

You want to have a superuser set up so you can log into the Django admin. It's nice when a script guarantees that your superuser always has the same username and password. The first part of creating a superuser is pretty standard:

./ createsuperuser \
   --username admin \
   --email \

Now we want to set the admin user's password to something easy to remember, like "12345". This isn't a security risk because it's just for local development. This step involves a little more scripting trickery. Here we can use shell_plus, which is an enhanced Django shell provided by django-extensions. The shell_plus command will automatically import all of our models, which means we can write short one liners like this one, which prints the number of Users in the database:

./ shell_plus --quiet-load -c "print(User.objects.count())"
# 13

Using this method we can grab our admin user and set their password:

./ shell_plus --quiet-load -c "
u = User.objects.get(username='admin')

Setting up new data

There might be a little bit of data that you want to set up every time you reset your database. For example, in one app I run, I want to ensure that there is always a SlackMessage model that has a SlackChannel. We can set up this data in the same way we set up the admin user's password:

./ shell_plus --quiet-load -c "
c = SlackChannel.objects.create(name='Test Alerts')

If you need to set up a lot of data then there are options like fixtures or tools like Factory Boy (which I heartily recommend). If you only need to do a few lines of scripting to create your data, then you can include them in this script. If your development data setup is very complicated, then I recommend putting all the setup code into a custom management command.

The final script

This is the script that you can use to reset your local Django database:

# Resets the local Django database, adding an admin login and migrations
set -e
echo -e "\n>>> Resetting the database"
./ reset_db --close-sessions --noinput

echo -e "\n>>> Running migrations"
./ migrate

echo -e "\n>>> Creating new superuser 'admin'"
./ createsuperuser \
   --username admin \
   --email \

echo -e "\n>>> Setting superuser 'admin' password to 12345"
./ shell_plus --quiet-load -c "

# Any extra data setup goes here.

echo -e "\n>>> Database restore finished."

Other methods

It's good to note that what I'm proposing is the "nuclear option": purge everything and restart from scratch. There are also some more precise methods available for managing your local database:

  • If you just want to reverse some particular migrations, then you can use the migrate command as documented here.
  • If you just want to delete all your data and you don't care about re-applying the migrations, then the flush management command, documented here will take care of that.

Docker environments

If you're running your local Django app in a Docker container via docker-compose, then this process is a little bit more tricky, but it's not too much more complicated. You just need to add two commands to your script.

First you want a command to kill all running containers, which I do because I'm superstitious and don't trust that reset_db will actually close all database connections:

function stop_docker {
    echo -e "\nStopping all running Docker containers"
    # Ensure that no containers automatically restart
    docker update --restart=no `docker ps -q`
    # Kill everything
    docker kill `docker ps -q`

We also want a shorthand way to run commands inside your docker environment. Let's say you are working with a compose file located at docker/docker-compose.local.yml and your Django app's container is called web. Then you can run your commands inside the container as follows:

function run_docker {
    docker-compose -f docker/docker-compose.local.yml run --rm web $@

Now we can just prefix run_docker to all the management commands we run. For example:

# Without Docker
./ reset_db --close-sessions --noinput
# With Docker
run_docker ./ reset_db --close-sessions --noinput

I will note that this run_docker shortcut can act a little weird when you're passing strings to shell_plus. You might need to experiment with different methods of escaping whitespace etc.


Hopefully this script will save you some time when you're working on your Django app. If you're interested in more Django-related database stuff then you might enjoy reading about how to back up and restore a Postgres database and then how to fully automate your prod backup process.

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