How do I unlock a SQLite database? – Dev

The best answers to the question “How do I unlock a SQLite database?” in the category Dev.


sqlite> DELETE FROM mails WHERE (`id` = 71);
SQL error: database is locked

How do I unlock the database so this will work?


I caused my sqlite db to become locked by crashing an app during a write. Here is how i fixed it:

echo ".dump" | sqlite old.db | sqlite new.db

Taken from:


In windows you can try this program to find out the process is handling db file. Try closed that program for unlock database

In Linux and macOS you can do something similar, for example, if your locked file is development.db:

$ fuser development.db

This command will show what process is locking the file:

> development.db: 5430

Just kill the process…

kill -9 5430

…And your database will be unlocked.


Deleting the -journal file sounds like a terrible idea. It’s there to allow sqlite to roll back the database to a consistent state after a crash. If you delete it while the database is in an inconsistent state, then you’re left with a corrupted database. Citing a page from the sqlite site:

If a crash or power loss does occur and a hot journal is left on the disk, it is essential that the original database file and the hot journal remain on disk with their original names until the database file is opened by another SQLite process and rolled back. […]

We suspect that a common failure mode for SQLite recovery happens like this: A power failure occurs. After power is restored, a well-meaning user or system administrator begins looking around on the disk for damage. They see their database file named “”. This file is perhaps familiar to them. But after the crash, there is also a hot journal named “”. The user then deletes the hot journal, thinking that they are helping to cleanup the system. We know of no way to prevent this other than user education.

The rollback is supposed to happen automatically the next time the database is opened, but it will fail if the process can’t lock the database. As others have said, one possible reason for this is that another process currently has it open. Another possibility is a stale NFS lock, if the database is on an NFS volume. In that case, a workaround is to replace the database file with a fresh copy that isn’t locked on the NFS server (mv database.db original.db; cp original.db database.db). Note that the sqlite FAQ recommends caution regarding concurrent access to databases on NFS volumes, because of buggy implementations of NFS file locking.

I can’t explain why deleting a -journal file would let you lock a database that you couldn’t before. Is that reproducible?

By the way, the presence of a -journal file doesn’t necessarily mean that there was a crash or that there are changes to be rolled back. Sqlite has a few different journal modes, and in PERSIST or TRUNCATE modes it leaves the -journal file in place always, and changes the contents to indicate whether or not there are partial transactions to roll back.


The SQLite wiki DatabaseIsLocked page offers an explanation of this error message. It states, in part, that the source of contention is internal (to the process emitting the error). What this page doesn’t explain is how SQLite decides that something in your process holds a lock and what conditions could lead to a false positive.

This error code occurs when you try to do two incompatible things with a database at the same time from the same database connection.

Changes related to file locking introduced in v3 and may be useful for future readers and can be found here: File Locking And Concurrency In SQLite Version 3