3.1. Introduction To Configuring

3.1.1. Configuration files

By default, CouchDB reads configuration files from the following locations, in the following order:

  1. etc/default.ini

  2. etc/default.d/*.ini

  3. etc/local.ini

  4. etc/local.d/*.ini

Configuration files in the *.d/ directories are sorted by name, that means for example a file with the name etc/local.d/00-shared.ini is loaded before etc/local.d/10-server-specific.ini.

All paths are specified relative to the CouchDB installation directory: /opt/couchdb recommended on UNIX-like systems, C:\CouchDB recommended on Windows systems, and a combination of two directories on macOS: Applications/Apache CouchDB.app/Contents/Resources/couchdbx-core/etc for the default.ini and default.d directories, and one of /Users/<your-user>/Library/Application Support/CouchDB2/etc/couchdb or /Users/<your-user>/Library/Preferences/couchdb2-local.ini for the local.ini and local.d directories.

Settings in successive documents override the settings in earlier entries. For example, setting the chttpd/bind_address parameter in local.ini would override any setting in default.ini.


The default.ini file may be overwritten during an upgrade or re-installation, so localised changes should be made to the local.ini file or files within the local.d directory.

The configuration file chain may be changed by setting the ERL_FLAGS environment variable:

export ERL_FLAGS="-couch_ini /path/to/my/default.ini /path/to/my/local.ini"

or by placing the -couch_ini .. flag directly in the etc/vm.args file. Passing -couch_ini .. as a command-line argument when launching couchdb is the same as setting the ERL_FLAGS environment variable.


The environment variable/command-line flag overrides any -couch_ini option specified in the etc/vm.args file. And, BOTH of these options completely override CouchDB from searching in the default locations. Use these options only when necessary, and be sure to track the contents of etc/default.ini, which may change in future releases.

If there is a need to use different vm.args or sys.config files, for example, in different locations to the ones provided by CouchDB, or you don’t want to edit the original files, the default locations may be changed by setting the COUCHDB_ARGS_FILE or COUCHDB_SYSCONFIG_FILE environment variables:

export COUCHDB_ARGS_FILE="/path/to/my/vm.args"
export COUCHDB_SYSCONFIG_FILE="/path/to/my/sys.config"

3.1.2. Parameter names and values

All parameter names are case-sensitive. Every parameter takes a value of one of five types: boolean, integer, string, tuple and proplist. Boolean values can be written as true or false.

Parameters with value type of tuple or proplist are following the Erlang requirement for style and naming.

3.1.3. Setting parameters via the configuration file

Changed in version 3.3: added ability to have = in parameter names

Changed in version 3.3: removed the undocumented ability to have multi-line values.

The common way to set some parameters is to edit the local.ini file (location explained above).

For example:

; This is a comment
param = value ; inline comments are allowed

Each configuration file line may contains section definition, parameter specification, empty (space and newline characters only) or commented line. You can set up inline commentaries for sections or parameters.

The section defines group of parameters that are belongs to some specific CouchDB subsystem. For instance, httpd section holds not only HTTP server parameters, but also others that directly interacts with it.

The parameter specification contains two parts divided by the equal sign (=): the parameter name on the left side and the parameter value on the right one. The leading and following whitespace for = is an optional to improve configuration readability.

Since version 3.3 it’s possible to use = in parameter names, but only when the parameter and value are separated `` = , i.e. the equal sign is surrounded by at least one space on each side. This might be useful in the ``[jwt_keys] section, where base64 encoded keys may contain some = characters.

The semicolon (;) signals the start of a comment. Everything after this character is ignored by CouchDB.

After editing the configuration file, CouchDB should be restarted to apply any changes.

3.1.4. Setting parameters via the HTTP API

Alternatively, configuration parameters can be set via the HTTP API. This API allows changing CouchDB configuration on-the-fly without requiring a server restart:

curl -X PUT http://adm:pass@localhost:5984/_node/<name@host>/_config/uuids/algorithm -d '"random"'

The old parameter’s value is returned in the response:


You should be careful changing configuration via the HTTP API since it’s possible to make CouchDB unreachable, for example, by changing the chttpd/bind_address:

curl -X PUT http://adm:pass@localhost:5984/_node/<name@host>/_config/chttpd/bind_address -d '""'

If you make a typo or the specified IP address is not available from your network, CouchDB will be unreachable. The only way to resolve this will be to remote into the server, correct the config file, and restart CouchDB. To protect yourself against such accidents you may set the chttpd/config_whitelist of permitted configuration parameters for updates via the HTTP API. Once this option is set, further changes to non-whitelisted parameters must take place via the configuration file, and in most cases, will also require a server restart before taking effect.

3.1.5. Configuring the local node

While the HTTP API allows configuring all nodes in the cluster, as a convenience, you can use the literal string _local in place of the node name, to interact with the local node’s configuration. For example:

curl -X PUT http://adm:pass@localhost:5984/_node/_local/_config/uuids/algorithm -d '"random"'