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11.3.5 Automatic Initialization and Updating for TIMESTAMP

Note

In older versions of MySQL (prior to 4.1), the properties of the TIMESTAMP data type differed significantly in several ways from what is described in this section (see the MySQL 3.23, 4.0, 4.1 Reference Manual for details); these include syntax extensions which are deprecated in MySQL 5.1, and no longer supported in MySQL 5.5. This has implications for performing a dump and restore or replicating between MySQL Server versions. If you are using columns that are defined using the old TIMESTAMP(N) syntax, see Section 2.13.1.1, “Changes Affecting Upgrades to 5.1”, prior to upgrading to MySQL 5.1 or later.

The TIMESTAMP data type offers automatic initialization and updating to the current date and time (that is, the current timestamp). You can choose whether to use these properties and which column should have them:

  • One TIMESTAMP column in a table can have the current timestamp as the default value for initializing the column, as the auto-update value, or both. It is not possible to have the current timestamp be the default value for one column and the auto-update value for another column.

  • If the column is auto-initialized, it is set to the current timestamp for inserted rows that specify no value for the column.

  • If the column is auto-updated, it is automatically updated to the current timestamp when the value of any other column in the row is changed from its current value. The column remains unchanged if all other columns are set to their current values. To prevent the column from updating when other columns change, explicitly set it to its current value. To update the column even when other columns do not change, explicitly set it to the value it should have (for example, set it to CURRENT_TIMESTAMP).

In addition, you can initialize or update any TIMESTAMP column to the current date and time by assigning it a NULL value, unless it has been defined with the NULL attribute to permit NULL values.

To specify automatic properties, use the DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP and ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP clauses. The order of the clauses does not matter. If both are present in a column definition, either can occur first. Any of the synonyms for CURRENT_TIMESTAMP have the same meaning as CURRENT_TIMESTAMP. These are CURRENT_TIMESTAMP(), NOW(), LOCALTIME, LOCALTIME(), LOCALTIMESTAMP, and LOCALTIMESTAMP().

Use of DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP and ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP is specific to TIMESTAMP. The DEFAULT clause also can be used to specify a constant (nonautomatic) default value; for example, DEFAULT 0 or DEFAULT '2000-01-01 00:00:00'.

Note

The following examples use DEFAULT 0, a default that can produce warnings or errors depending on whether strict SQL mode or the NO_ZERO_DATE SQL mode is enabled. Be aware that the TRADITIONAL SQL mode includes strict mode and NO_ZERO_DATE. See Section 5.1.7, “Server SQL Modes”.

The following rules describe the possibilities for defining the first TIMESTAMP column in a table with the current timestamp for both the default and auto-update values, for one but not the other, or for neither:

  • With both DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP and ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, the column has the current timestamp for its default value and is automatically updated to the current timestamp.

    CREATE TABLE t1 (
      ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
    );
    
  • With neither DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP nor ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, it is the same as specifying both DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP and ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP.

    CREATE TABLE t1 (
      ts TIMESTAMP
    );
    
  • With a DEFAULT clause but no ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP clause, the column has the given default value and is not automatically updated to the current timestamp.

    The default depends on whether the DEFAULT clause specifies CURRENT_TIMESTAMP or a constant value. With CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, the default is the current timestamp.

    CREATE TABLE t1 (
      ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
    );
    

    With a constant, the default is the given value. In this case, the column has no automatic properties at all.

    CREATE TABLE t1 (
      ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT 0
    );
    
  • With an ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP clause and a constant DEFAULT clause, the column is automatically updated to the current timestamp and has the given constant default value.

    CREATE TABLE t1 (
      ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT 0 ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
    );
    
  • With an ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP clause but no DEFAULT clause, the column is automatically updated to the current timestamp. The default is 0 unless the column is defined with the NULL attribute, in which case the default is NULL.

    CREATE TABLE t1 (
      ts TIMESTAMP ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP      -- default 0
    );
    CREATE TABLE t2 (
      ts TIMESTAMP NULL ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP -- default NULL
    );
    

It need not be the first TIMESTAMP column in a table that is automatically initialized or updated to the current timestamp. However, to specify automatic initialization or updating for a different TIMESTAMP column, you must suppress the automatic properties for the first one. Then, for the other TIMESTAMP column, the rules for the DEFAULT and ON UPDATE clauses are the same as for the first TIMESTAMP column, except that if you omit both clauses, no automatic initialization or updating occurs.

To suppress automatic properties for the first TIMESTAMP column, do either of the following:

  • Define the column with a DEFAULT clause that specifies a constant default value.

  • Specify the NULL attribute. This also causes the column to permit NULL values, which means that you cannot assign the current timestamp by setting the column to NULL. Assigning NULL sets the column to NULL.

Consider these table definitions:

CREATE TABLE t1 (
  ts1 TIMESTAMP DEFAULT 0,
  ts2 TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
                ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);
CREATE TABLE t2 (
  ts1 TIMESTAMP NULL,
  ts2 TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
                ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);
CREATE TABLE t3 (
  ts1 TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT 0,
  ts2 TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
                ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);

The tables have these properties:

  • In each table definition, the first TIMESTAMP column has no automatic initialization or updating.

  • The tables differ in how the ts1 column handles NULL values. For t1, ts1 is NOT NULL and assigning it a value of NULL sets it to the current timestamp. For t2 and t3, ts1 permits NULL and assigning it a value of NULL sets it to NULL.

  • t2 and t3 differ in the default value for ts1. For t2, ts1 is defined to permit NULL, so the default is also NULL in the absence of an explicit DEFAULT clause. For t3, ts1 permits NULL but has an explicit default of 0.

TIMESTAMP Initialization and the NULL Attribute

By default, TIMESTAMP columns are NOT NULL, cannot contain NULL values, and assigning NULL assigns the current timestamp. To permit a TIMESTAMP column to contain NULL, explicitly declare it with the NULL attribute. In this case, the default value also becomes NULL unless overridden with a DEFAULT clause that specifies a different default value. DEFAULT NULL can be used to explicitly specify NULL as the default value. (For a TIMESTAMP column not declared with the NULL attribute, DEFAULT NULL is invalid.) If a TIMESTAMP column permits NULL values, assigning NULL sets it to NULL, not to the current timestamp.

The following table contains several TIMESTAMP columns that permit NULL values:

CREATE TABLE t
(
  ts1 TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT NULL,
  ts2 TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT 0,
  ts3 TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
);

A TIMESTAMP column that permits NULL values does not take on the current timestamp at insert time except under one of the following conditions:

In other words, a TIMESTAMP column defined to permit NULL values auto-initializes only if its definition includes DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP:

CREATE TABLE t (ts TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);

If the TIMESTAMP column permits NULL values but its definition does not include DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, you must explicitly insert a value corresponding to the current date and time. Suppose that tables t1 and t2 have these definitions:

CREATE TABLE t1 (ts TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT '0000-00-00 00:00:00');
CREATE TABLE t2 (ts TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT NULL);

To set the TIMESTAMP column in either table to the current timestamp at insert time, explicitly assign it that value. For example:

INSERT INTO t1 VALUES (NOW());
INSERT INTO t2 VALUES (CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);

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