June 25, 2024 By Matthew Rathbone *


SQLite uses file-level locking to manage access to the database file on disk. The “database is locked” error occurs when one process tries to access the database while another is actively writing to it. This situation can arise in various scenarios, such as:

  • Multiple applications accessing the database at the same time.
  • Long-running transactions that do not commit or rollback promptly.
  • Improper handling of database connections and cursors.

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How to Resolve the Error

Solution 1: Ensure Proper Transaction Management

Improper transaction handling can often lead to a locked database. Ensure that transactions are completed promptly by committing or rolling back as appropriate.


-- Insert data into the table
INSERT INTO employees (name, position) VALUES ('John Doe', 'Software Engineer');
-- Commit the transaction

Expected Output:

No output, but the transaction completes successfully without locking the database.

Solution 2: Use Database Connection Properly

Always close the database connection properly after operations are completed. This prevents the database from being unnecessarily locked.


import sqlite3
from contextlib import closing

database_path = 'mydatabase.db'

with closing(sqlite3.connect(database_path)) as conn:
    with closing(conn.cursor()) as cursor:
        cursor.execute("INSERT INTO employees (name, position) VALUES (?, ?)", ('Jane Doe', 'Project Manager'))

Expected Output:

No output, but the insert operation is performed without locking the database, and the connection is closed properly.

Solution 3: Configure Timeout

Setting a timeout duration can help in scenarios where multiple accesses are expected. This tells SQLite how long to wait before returning a “database is locked” error, giving the lock a chance to be released.


import sqlite3

conn = sqlite3.connect('mydatabase.db', timeout=10.0)  # Set timeout to 10 seconds
cursor = conn.cursor()

    cursor.execute("INSERT INTO employees (name, position) VALUES (?, ?)", ('Sam Smith', 'Data Analyst'))

Expected Output:

No output, but the timeout provides a window for overcoming temporary locks.

Solution 4: Avoid Long-Running Transactions

Keep transactions short to minimize the time the database is locked. This reduces the likelihood of encountering the “database is locked” error.


INSERT INTO employees (name, position) VALUES ('Alice Johnson', 'HR Manager');

Expected Output:

No output, but the transaction completes swiftly, reducing the lock duration.


The “SQLite database is locked” error is typically a symptom of concurrency issues or mismanagement of database connections and transactions. By following the best practices outlined above, such as managing transactions efficiently, using connections properly, setting appropriate timeouts, and avoiding long-running transactions, you can prevent this error from occurring. These strategies ensure that your SQLite database operations are both robust and efficient.