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14.12.4 Defragmenting a Table

Random insertions into or deletions from a secondary index can cause the index to become fragmented. Fragmentation means that the physical ordering of the index pages on the disk is not close to the index ordering of the records on the pages, or that there are many unused pages in the 64-page blocks that were allocated to the index.

One symptom of fragmentation is that a table takes more space than it should take. How much that is exactly, is difficult to determine. All InnoDB data and indexes are stored in B-trees, and their fill factor may vary from 50% to 100%. Another symptom of fragmentation is that a table scan such as this takes more time than it should take:

SELECT COUNT(*) FROM t WHERE non_indexed_column <> 12345;

The preceding query requires MySQL to perform a full table scan, the slowest type of query for a large table.

To speed up index scans, you can periodically perform a null ALTER TABLE operation, which causes MySQL to rebuild the table:


Another way to perform a defragmentation operation is to use mysqldump to dump the table to a text file, drop the table, and reload it from the dump file.

If the insertions into an index are always ascending and records are deleted only from the end, the InnoDB filespace management algorithm guarantees that fragmentation in the index does not occur.

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User Comments
  Posted by Robbie Lindsey on December 12, 2006
FYI: The above ALTER statement gets a syntax error in version 4.1.0-Alpha, but it works in 4.1.16-Production.
  Posted by Rick James on August 16, 2015
Defragmentation is almost never needed for InnoDB tables. Spend your time looking for other ways to speed up your queries.
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