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InnoDB 1.1 for MySQL 5.5 User's Guide
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7.5. Controlling Adaptive Hash Indexing

If a table fits almost entirely in main memory, the fastest way to perform queries on it is to use hash indexes rather than B-tree lookups. MySQL monitors searches on each index defined for an InnoDB table. If it notices that certain index values are being accessed frequently, it automatically builds an in-memory hash table for that index. See Adaptive Hash Indexes for background information and usage guidelines for the adaptive hash index feature and the innodb_adaptive_hash_index configuration option.

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