MySQL 5.1 Reference Manual  /  ...  /  Dynamic Table Characteristics Dynamic Table Characteristics

Dynamic storage format is used if a MyISAM table contains any variable-length columns (VARCHAR, VARBINARY, BLOB, or TEXT), or if the table was created with the ROW_FORMAT=DYNAMIC table option.

Dynamic format is a little more complex than static format because each row has a header that indicates how long it is. A row can become fragmented (stored in noncontiguous pieces) when it is made longer as a result of an update.

You can use OPTIMIZE TABLE or myisamchk -r to defragment a table. If you have fixed-length columns that you access or change frequently in a table that also contains some variable-length columns, it might be a good idea to move the variable-length columns to other tables just to avoid fragmentation.

Dynamic-format tables have these characteristics:

  • All string columns are dynamic except those with a length less than four.

  • Each row is preceded by a bitmap that indicates which columns contain the empty string (for string columns) or zero (for numeric columns). This does not include columns that contain NULL values. If a string column has a length of zero after trailing space removal, or a numeric column has a value of zero, it is marked in the bitmap and not saved to disk. Nonempty strings are saved as a length byte plus the string contents.

  • Much less disk space usually is required than for fixed-length tables.

  • Each row uses only as much space as is required. However, if a row becomes larger, it is split into as many pieces as are required, resulting in row fragmentation. For example, if you update a row with information that extends the row length, the row becomes fragmented. In this case, you may have to run OPTIMIZE TABLE or myisamchk -r from time to time to improve performance. Use myisamchk -ei to obtain table statistics.

  • More difficult than static-format tables to reconstruct after a crash, because rows may be fragmented into many pieces and links (fragments) may be missing.

  • The expected row length for dynamic-sized rows is calculated using the following expression:

    + (number of columns + 7) / 8
    + (number of char columns)
    + (packed size of numeric columns)
    + (length of strings)
    + (number of NULL columns + 7) / 8

    There is a penalty of 6 bytes for each link. A dynamic row is linked whenever an update causes an enlargement of the row. Each new link is at least 20 bytes, so the next enlargement probably goes in the same link. If not, another link is created. You can find the number of links using myisamchk -ed. All links may be removed with OPTIMIZE TABLE or myisamchk -r.

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