MySQL 5.0 Reference Manual  /  INFORMATION_SCHEMA Tables


INFORMATION_SCHEMA provides access to database metadata.

Metadata is data about the data, such as the name of a database or table, the data type of a column, or access privileges. Other terms that sometimes are used for this information are data dictionary and system catalog.

INFORMATION_SCHEMA is the information database, the place that stores information about all the other databases that the MySQL server maintains. Inside INFORMATION_SCHEMA there are several read-only tables. They are actually views, not base tables, so there are no files associated with them, and you cannot set triggers on them. Also, there is no database directory with that name.

Although you can select INFORMATION_SCHEMA as the default database with a USE statement, you can only read the contents of tables, not perform INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE operations on them.

Here is an example of a statement that retrieves information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA:

mysql> SELECT table_name, table_type, engine
    -> FROM information_schema.tables
    -> WHERE table_schema = 'db5'
    -> ORDER BY table_name DESC;
| table_name | table_type | engine |
| v56        | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v3         | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v2         | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v          | VIEW       | NULL   |
| tables     | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t7         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t3         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t2         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t          | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| pk         | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
| loop       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| kurs       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| k          | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| into       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| goto       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| fk2        | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
| fk         | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
17 rows in set (0.01 sec)

Explanation: The statement requests a list of all the tables in database db5, in reverse alphabetic order, showing just three pieces of information: the name of the table, its type, and its storage engine.

The definition for character columns (for example, TABLES.TABLE_NAME) is generally VARCHAR(N) CHARACTER SET utf8 where N is at least 64. MySQL uses the default collation for this character set (utf8_general_ci) for all searches, sorts, comparisons, and other string operations on such columns. Values such as table names in INFORMATION_SCHEMA columns are treated as strings, not identifiers, and are not compared using the identifier rules described in Section 9.2.2, “Identifier Case Sensitivity”. If the result of a string operation on an INFORMATION_SCHEMA column differs from expectations, a workaround is to use an explicit COLLATE clause to force a suitable collation (Section, “Using COLLATE in SQL Statements”). You can also use the UPPER() or LOWER() function. For example, in a WHERE clause, you might use:

WHERE TABLE_NAME COLLATE utf8_general_ci = 'city'

Each MySQL user has the right to access these tables, but can see only the rows in the tables that correspond to objects for which the user has the proper access privileges. In some cases (for example, the ROUTINE_DEFINITION column in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.ROUTINES table), users who have insufficient privileges will see NULL.

The SELECT ... FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA statement is intended as a more consistent way to provide access to the information provided by the various SHOW statements that MySQL supports (SHOW DATABASES, SHOW TABLES, and so forth). Using SELECT has these advantages, compared to SHOW:

  • It conforms to Codd's rules. That is, all access is done on tables.

  • Nobody needs to learn a new statement syntax. Because they already know how SELECT works, they only need to learn the object names.

  • The implementor need not worry about adding keywords.

  • There are millions of possible output variations, instead of just one. This provides more flexibility for applications that have varying requirements about what metadata they need.

  • Migration is easier because every other DBMS does it this way.

However, because SHOW is popular and because it might be confusing were it to disappear, the advantages of conventional syntax are not a sufficient reason to eliminate SHOW. In fact, along with the implementation of INFORMATION_SCHEMA, there are enhancements to SHOW as well. These are described in Section 19.18, “Extensions to SHOW Statements”.

There is no difference between the privileges required for SHOW statements and those required to select information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA. In either case, you have to have some privilege on an object in order to see information about it.

The implementation for the INFORMATION_SCHEMA table structures in MySQL follows the ANSI/ISO SQL:2003 standard Part 11 Schemata. Our intent is approximate compliance with SQL:2003 core feature F021 Basic information schema.

Users of SQL Server 2000 (which also follows the standard) may notice a strong similarity. However, MySQL has omitted many columns that are not relevant for our implementation, and added columns that are MySQL-specific. One such column is the ENGINE column in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES table.

Although other DBMSs use a variety of names, like syscat or system, the standard name is INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

The following sections describe each of the tables and columns that are in INFORMATION_SCHEMA. For each column, there are three pieces of information:

  • INFORMATION_SCHEMA Name indicates the name for the column in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA table. This corresponds to the standard SQL name unless the Remarks field says MySQL extension.

  • SHOW Name indicates the equivalent field name in the closest SHOW statement, if there is one.

  • Remarks provides additional information where applicable. If this field is NULL, it means that the value of the column is always NULL. If this field says MySQL extension, the column is a MySQL extension to standard SQL.

To avoid using any name that is reserved in the standard or in DB2, SQL Server, or Oracle, we changed the names of some columns marked MySQL extension. (For example, we changed COLLATION to TABLE_COLLATION in the TABLES table.) See the list of reserved words near the end of this article:

Many sections indicate what SHOW statement is equivalent to a SELECT that retrieves information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA. For SHOW statements that display information for the default database if you omit a FROM db_name clause, you can often select information for the default database by adding an AND TABLE_SCHEMA = DATABASE() condition to the WHERE clause of a query that retrieves information from an INFORMATION_SCHEMA table.

For answers to questions that are often asked concerning the INFORMATION_SCHEMA database, see Section A.7, “MySQL 5.0 FAQ: INFORMATION_SCHEMA”.

User Comments
  Posted by Hans-Henrik Stærfeldt on February 20, 2009
The implementation of INFORMATION_SCHEMA can have serious impact on performance of the server. If you have many tables, and query into INFORMATION_SCHEMA without limitations on the schema and if possible the table itself, performance is severely impacted while the query runs.

This, i theorize, is because it uses the existing table cache to open and get information on tables, so in reality, all tables are closed when you execute the query in INFORMATION_SCHEMA (if you have many tables!).

  Posted by Ivan Cachicatari on February 29, 2012
You can found a custom SHOW TABLE STATUS command based on INFORMATION_SCHEMA database at:

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