Setting up an SQLite Database on a Raspberry Pi?

SQLite is a popular relational database management system that is self-contained, serverless, zero-configuration and transactional. It is used in many applications and devices today where a lightweight and compact database system is preferred. In this guide, we will walk through the steps for setting up and optimizing an SQLite database on a Raspberry Pi.

Setting up an SQLite Database on a Raspberry Pi?

Hardware and OS Requirements

The latest Raspberry Pi OS comes with SQLite pre-installed. However, to set up SQLite, you will need:

  • A Raspberry Pi board. Any model with 1GB RAM should work.
  • A microSD card loaded with Raspberry Pi OS. We recommend the 32GB card.
  • Access to terminal on Raspberry Pi OS.
  • SQLite 3 packages already installed.

Installing Required SQLite Packages

Although SQLite is pre-installed in Raspberry Pi OS, you still need to install some additional packages.

To install them, run the following commands in the terminal:

sudo apt update

sudo apt install sqlite3 libsqlite3-dev

This will install sqlite3 and libsqlite3 that contains the command line shell and libraries to manage SQLite databases.

Creating a New SQLite Database

Once SQLite is set up on the Raspberry Pi, we can go ahead and create a new database.

Here are the basic steps to create a database:

  1. Open the terminal application in Raspberry Pi OS.
  2. Navigate to the directory where you want the database file to be stored. For example:
  3. cd /home/pi/databases
  4. Run the sqlite3 command to open the SQLite prompt:
  5. sqlite3 mydatabase.db
  6. This will create a new database file called mydatabase.db in the current directory.
  7. You can verify that the database is created by running .databases command:

sqlite> .databases

seq  name             file

  1. 0    main             /home/pi/databases/mydatabase.db

And that’s it! The database is ready to go. Next, we can create some tables and insert data.

Creating Tables and Inserting Data

To create tables and insert data into the SQLite database, you can run SQLite commands within the sqlite prompt after creating the database.

For example:

create table users(

   id integer primary key autoincrement,

   name text,

   age integer

insert into users (name, age) values (“John”, 35);

insert into users (name, age) values (“Mary”, 28);

This creates a simple users table with some data. You can further build upon the database schema based on your requirements.

Some other basic SQLite commands include:

  • .tables – list all tables
  • select * from users; – display data in users table
  • .schema – show create statement for each table

Query Optimization and Performance

As the SQLite database grows with more data, queries will start slowing down impacting performance. Here are some tips for optimization:

Create Indexes on Columns in Where Clause

If you filter data a lot on a column in the WHERE clause, add an index on it.

CREATE INDEX idx_users_age ON users(age);

This will speed up queries filtering on the age column like:

SELECT  FROM users WHERE age = 30;

Avoid using SELECT 

Instead of SELECT *, specify the columns you need to return. This reduces the amount of data retrieved and improves performance.

Use EXPLAIN to Check Queries

Prefix your queries with EXPLAIN to get details on what SQLite is doing to run it:


This can help optimize slow or inefficient queries.

By following these practices and database design principles, you can build an optimized SQLite database that runs fast on the Raspberry Pi.

Automating Database Administration with SQLite Plugins

Manually running SQLite commands can get tedious for database administration tasks. This is where plugins like Datasette come in handy.

Datasette is an open source tool that provides a web interface and REST API for SQLite databases. Here is how you can set it up:

  1. Install Datasette using pip:
  2. sudo pip3 install datasette
  3. Start Datasette, pointing to the database file:
  4. datasette /home/pi/databases/mydatabase.db
  5. Access the web UI at port 8001 to browse data, run SQL queries and more.

Datasette plugins are also available to further extend administrative capabilities over SQLite databases. These enhancements can save considerable time versus manual methods.

Securing the SQLite Database

Since SQLite databases are stored as regular files on the filesystem, it is important to restrict unauthorized access to them. Here are some ways to secure SQLite on the Raspberry Pi:

Set File Permissions

Restrict permissions on the database files using Linux file permissions. For example:

chmod 600 /home/pi/databases/mydatabase.db

This allows only the Pi user to access the file.

Run SQLite with Access Control

Use the sqlite3 command line tool to open databases instead of direct disk access. The sqlite3 tool can enforce additional access security policies as well.

For example:

sqlite3 -readonly mydb.db

This opens the database in read-only mode preventing writes.

Encrypt the Disk

For high security requirements, enable full disk encryption on the SD card containing SQLite databases. Popular options on Raspberry Pi include dm-crypt or LUKS.

This protects the data if the SD card gets physically stolen.

Backing up and Restoring an SQLite Database

It is important to take periodic backups of the SQLite database. Raspberry Pi systems are generally prone to occasional corruption and failure. Backups can prevent loss of critical data in such cases.

Here is how you can take a backup of the database:

  1. With the database closed, copy the main database file to a backup location:
  2. cp /home/pi/databases/mydb.db /backups/mydb-20220131.db
  3. This takes a snapshot of the entire data to restore from.
  4. For incremental backups, use SQLite’s backup API while the database is running:
  5. sqlite3 mydb.db “.backup ‘/backups/mydb-latest.db'”

To restore backups:

  1. Stop any application using the main database file.
  2. Overwrite it with the contents of the backup.
  3. Restart the application so it uses the restored data.

This way you can protect the time and effort invested in building the SQLite databases on your Raspberry Pi deployment.

Key Takeaways

  • SQLite is a lightweight, zero-configuration database well-suited for Raspberry Pi and IoT devices
  • Set up required SQLite 3 packages like sqlite3 in Raspberry Pi OS before starting
  • Run sqlite3 to enter interactive environment to create databases, tables and insert data
  • Optimize queries by adding indexes, removing SELECT * and analyzing EXPLAIN plans
  • Consider Datasette for a web UI and API to manage databases
  • Restrict access to database files using filesystem permissions and sqlite3 security policies
  • Take file backups or use incremental sqlite3 backups for easy restore of SQLite data


By following the best practices outlined here, you can effectively set up and run an SQLite database on your Raspberry Pi. Optimization and security steps will ensure your database remains high-performance and resilient to failures. SQLite’s serverless and self-contained architecture is perfect for portable Raspberry Pi projects as well. With backups in place, recovering from any corruption or card failures is also straightforward. As one of the most widely deployed databases that powers countless mobile and web applications today, SQLite is a great skill to have for any developer or IT enthusiast venturing into IoT and single board computing projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How to check the SQLite version installed on Raspberry Pi OS?
A: Run sqlite3 –version on the terminal to print the currently installed SQLite version.

Q: What is the difference between SQLite and MySQL?
A: SQLite is serverless and requires zero-configuration, while MySQL requires installing and configuring a database server. SQLite stores the database in a single file, MySQL uses separate database files.

Q: Can SQLite databases be accessed from multiple clients simultaneously?
A: Yes, multiple processes can access the SQLite database file at the same, thanks to SQLite’s built-in locking mechanisms.

Q: Is there a storage limit for an SQLite database file?
A: No, SQLite database files can theoretically grow to up to 281 trillion terabytes. Practical limits depend on the filesystem holding the files.

Q: What are some good GUI tools for managing SQLite databases on Pi?
A: Some good options include DB Browser for SQLite and SQLiteStudio.

Q: How do I export data from an SQLite database to a CSV file on Raspberry Pi?
A: Use the .output filename.csv and .mode csv commands in sqlite3 before running your select query.

Q: What is the typical storage size for SQLite databases on Raspberry Pi projects?
A: Most simple databases are less than 100 MB. More complex ones can reach upto 1-2GB based on the data size.

Q: Can I connect an SQLite database from Raspberry Pi to an application or dashboard?
A: Yes, use the sqlite3 module in Python or other languages to connect applications to the database.

Q: Is there an option to password protect access to an SQLite database file?
A: SQLite does not have built-in authentication, but the database file itself can be password protected using encryption tools.

Q: How do I optimize INSERT performance on an SQLite database on the Pi?
A: Wrap multiple INSERT statements into a transaction to vastly speed up bulk inserts by minimizing sync overhead.

Q: Can the SQLite database files be stored on external USB drives attached to the Pi?
A: Yes, as long as permissions are correctly setup on the external drive to read/write.

Q: How can I view disk space usage by an SQLite database on the Pi?
A: Run sqlite3 db_file ‘PRAGMA page_size, page_count;’ to see space usage details.

Q: Is SQLite optimized for the ARM architecture used on the Raspberry Pi boards?
A: Yes, SQLite contains optimizations specifically for the ARM platform for better performance.

Q: Can I host multiple isolated SQLite database files to serve multiple applications?
A: Yes absolutely. SQLite was built for this usage, just ensure each app points to the correct database file.

Q: How do I delete an existing SQLite database file through the terminal?
A: Simply remove the database file itself using rm. Make sure no applications have it open when deleting.

Q: How do I share or transfer an SQLite database from my Raspberry Pi to another computer?
A: Since the database is a single file, you can simply copy or sync this file to the target system.

Q: Can journaling be enabled in SQLite to prevent database corruption?
A: No, SQLite does not offer full journaling capabilities. You need enterprise solutions like Oracle or MS SQL for journaling.

Q: Is there something like phpMyAdmin to visually manage SQLite Raspberry Pi databases?
A: Yes, Adminer is a database management tool that supports SQLite among other databases. Worth trying out.


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