MySQL Restrictions and Limitations  /  Limits in MySQL  /  Limits Imposed by .frm File Structure

10.5 Limits Imposed by .frm File Structure

Each table has an .frm file that contains the table definition. The server uses the following expression to check some of the table information stored in the file against an upper limit of 64KB:

if (info_length+(ulong) create_fields.elements*FCOMP+288+
    n_length+int_length+com_length > 65535L || int_count > 255)

The portion of the information stored in the .frm file that is checked against the expression cannot grow beyond the 64KB limit, so if the table definition reaches this size, no more columns can be added.

The relevant factors in the expression are:

  • info_length is space needed for screens. This is related to MySQL's Unireg heritage.

  • create_fields.elements is the number of columns.

  • FCOMP is 17.

  • n_length is the total length of all column names, including one byte per name as a separator.

  • int_length is related to the list of values for ENUM and SET columns. In this context, int does not mean integer. It means interval, a term that refers collectively to ENUM and SET columns.

  • int_count is the number of unique ENUM and SET definitions.

  • com_length is the total length of column comments.

The expression just described has several implications for permitted table definitions:

  • Using long column names can reduce the maximum number of columns, as can the inclusion of ENUM or SET columns, or use of column comments.

  • A table can have no more than 255 unique ENUM and SET definitions. Columns with identical element lists are considered the same against this limt. For example, if a table contains these two columns, they count as one (not two) toward this limit because the definitions are identical:

    e1 ENUM('a','b','c')
    e2 ENUM('a','b','c')
  • The sum of the length of element names in the unique ENUM and SET definitions counts toward the 64KB limit, so although the theoretical limit on number of elements in a given ENUM column is 65,535, the practical limit is less than 3000.

User Comments
User comments in this section are, as the name implies, provided by MySQL users. The MySQL documentation team is not responsible for, nor do they endorse, any of the information provided here.
  Posted by Michael Clark on April 9, 2013
Documentation is at this time currently correct about com_length not including the table comment - see com_length in pack_header in sql/ In mysql-5.1.68 the relevant lines are 607 (set to 0), 638 (field->comment.length), 722 (the formula cited).

Also, while int_length is "related" to the list of values for ENUM and SET columns, the relationship is:
length of each string in each interval + 1 (for padding) + 2 * number of intervals (for terminal markers)
See lines 606 (set to 0), 704 (strlen+1), 711 (+= int_count*2), 723 (the formula cited).
  Posted by Michael Clark on April 8, 2013
info_length is (using integer or truncating division): (((create_fields.elements - 1)/19)+1)*48 as best I can tell - see pack_screens in sql/ - note that pos is incremented by 4+(cols>>1)+4 each time row == end_row, which loops from [4,22], for a loop size of 19 (4..22 inclusive, due to the post increment). Since cols is fixed at 80, cols>>1 is 40, and the total increment is 48. Because we can, we assume small_file is true. Since row starts at end_row, we subtract one before the divisor and add it back afterwards - we might also simply add 18 to create_fields.elements similar to elsewhere in the documentation (adding 7 before dividing by 8).