After choosing which version of MySQL to install, you should decide whether to use a binary distribution or a source distribution. In most cases, you should probably use a binary distribution, if one exists for your platform. Binary distributions are available in native format for many platforms, such as RPM packages for Linux, DMG packages for Mac OS X, and PKG packages for Solaris. Distributions are also available in more generic formats such as Zip archives or compressed tar files.
Reasons to choose a binary distribution include the following:
Binary distributions generally are easier to install than source distributions.
To satisfy different user requirements, we provide several servers in binary distributions. mysqld is an optimized server that is a smaller, faster binary. mysqld-debug is compiled with debugging support.
Each of these servers is compiled from the same source distribution, though with different configuration options. All native MySQL clients can connect to servers from either MySQL version.
Under some circumstances, you may be better off installing MySQL from a source distribution:
You want to install MySQL at some explicit location. The standard binary distributions are ready to run at any installation location, but you might require even more flexibility to place MySQL components where you want.
You want to configure mysqld to ensure that features are available that might not be included in the standard binary distributions. Here is a list of the most common extra options that you may want to use to ensure feature availability:
For additional information, see Section 2.9.4, “MySQL Source-Configuration Options”.
You want to configure mysqld without some features that are included in the standard binary distributions. For example, distributions normally are compiled with support for all character sets. If you want a smaller MySQL server, you can recompile it with support for only the character sets you need.
You want to use the latest sources from one of the Bazaar repositories to have access to all current bugfixes. For example, if you have found a bug and reported it to the MySQL development team, the bugfix is committed to the source repository and you can access it there. The bugfix does not appear in a release until a release actually is issued.
You want to read (or modify) the C and C++ code that makes up MySQL. For this purpose, you should get a source distribution, because the source code is always the ultimate manual.
Source distributions contain more tests and examples than binary distributions.