Sets the planner's estimate of the cost of a non-sequentially-fetched disk page. The default is 4.0. This value can be overridden for tables and indexes in a particular tablespace by setting the tablespace parameter of the same name (see sql-altertablespace).
Reducing this value relative to seq_page_cost will cause the system to prefer index scans; raising it will make index scans look relatively more expensive. You can raise or lower both values together to change the importance of disk I/O costs relative to CPU costs, which are described by the following parameters.
Random access to mechanical disk storage is normally much more expensive than four times sequential access. However, a lower default is used (4.0) because the majority of random accesses to disk, such as indexed reads, are assumed to be in cache. The default value can be thought of as modeling random access as 40 times slower than sequential, while expecting 90% of random reads to be cached.
If you believe a 90% cache rate is an incorrect assumption for your workload, you can increase random_page_cost to better reflect the true cost of random storage reads. Correspondingly, if your data is likely to be completely in cache, such as when the database is smaller than the total server memory, decreasing random_page_cost can be appropriate. Storage that has a low random read cost relative to sequential, e.g. solid-state drives, might also be better modeled with a lower value for random_page_cost.
Although the system will let you set
random_page_cost to less than seq_page_cost, it is not physically sensible to do so. However, setting them equal makes sense if the database is entirely cached in RAM, since in that case there is no penalty for touching pages out of sequence. Also, in a heavily-cached database you should lower both values relative to the CPU parameters, since the cost of fetching a page already in RAM is much smaller than it would normally be.