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Pre-General Availability Draft: 2017-09-22 Transaction Isolation Levels

Transaction isolation is one of the foundations of database processing. Isolation is the I in the acronym ACID; the isolation level is the setting that fine-tunes the balance between performance and reliability, consistency, and reproducibility of results when multiple transactions are making changes and performing queries at the same time.

InnoDB offers all four transaction isolation levels described by the SQL:1992 standard: READ UNCOMMITTED, READ COMMITTED, REPEATABLE READ, and SERIALIZABLE. The default isolation level for InnoDB is REPEATABLE READ.

A user can change the isolation level for a single session or for all subsequent connections with the SET TRANSACTION statement. To set the server's default isolation level for all connections, use the --transaction-isolation option on the command line or in an option file. For detailed information about isolation levels and level-setting syntax, see Section 13.3.7, “SET TRANSACTION Syntax”.

InnoDB supports each of the transaction isolation levels described here using different locking strategies. You can enforce a high degree of consistency with the default REPEATABLE READ level, for operations on crucial data where ACID compliance is important. Or you can relax the consistency rules with READ COMMITTED or even READ UNCOMMITTED, in situations such as bulk reporting where precise consistency and repeatable results are less important than minimizing the amount of overhead for locking. SERIALIZABLE enforces even stricter rules than REPEATABLE READ, and is used mainly in specialized situations, such as with XA transactions and for troubleshooting issues with concurrency and deadlocks.

The following list describes how MySQL supports the different transaction levels. The list goes from the most commonly used level to the least used.


    This is the default isolation level for InnoDB. Consistent reads within the same transaction read the snapshot established by the first read. This means that if you issue several plain (nonlocking) SELECT statements within the same transaction, these SELECT statements are consistent also with respect to each other. See Section, “Consistent Nonlocking Reads”.

    For locking reads (SELECT with FOR UPDATE or FOR SHARE), UPDATE, and DELETE statements, locking depends on whether the statement uses a unique index with a unique search condition, or a range-type search condition.

    • For a unique index with a unique search condition, InnoDB locks only the index record found, not the gap before it.

    • For other search conditions, InnoDB locks the index range scanned, using gap locks or next-key locks to block insertions by other sessions into the gaps covered by the range. For information about gap locks and next-key locks, see Section 15.5.1, “InnoDB Locking”.


    Each consistent read, even within the same transaction, sets and reads its own fresh snapshot. For information about consistent reads, see Section, “Consistent Nonlocking Reads”.

    For locking reads (SELECT with FOR UPDATE or FOR SHARE), UPDATE statements, and DELETE statements, InnoDB locks only index records, not the gaps before them, and thus permits the free insertion of new records next to locked records. Gap locking is only used for foreign-key constraint checking and duplicate-key checking.

    Because gap locking is disabled, phantom problems may occur, as other sessions can insert new rows into the gaps. For information about phantoms, see Section 15.5.4, “Phantom Rows”.

    If you use READ COMMITTED, you must use row-based binary logging.

    Using READ COMMITTED has additional effects:

    • For UPDATE or DELETE statements, InnoDB holds locks only for rows that it updates or deletes. Record locks for nonmatching rows are released after MySQL has evaluated the WHERE condition. This greatly reduces the probability of deadlocks, but they can still happen.

    • For UPDATE statements, if a row is already locked, InnoDB performs a semi-consistent read, returning the latest committed version to MySQL so that MySQL can determine whether the row matches the WHERE condition of the UPDATE. If the row matches (must be updated), MySQL reads the row again and this time InnoDB either locks it or waits for a lock on it.

    Consider the following example, beginning with this table:

    INSERT INTO t VALUES (1,2),(2,3),(3,2),(4,3),(5,2);

    In this case, table has no indexes, so searches and index scans use the hidden clustered index for record locking (see Section, “Clustered and Secondary Indexes”).

    Suppose that one client performs an UPDATE using these statements:

    SET autocommit = 0;
    UPDATE t SET b = 5 WHERE b = 3;

    Suppose also that a second client performs an UPDATE by executing these statements following those of the first client:

    SET autocommit = 0;
    UPDATE t SET b = 4 WHERE b = 2;

    As InnoDB executes each UPDATE, it first acquires an exclusive lock for each row, and then determines whether to modify it. If InnoDB does not modify the row, it releases the lock. Otherwise, InnoDB retains the lock until the end of the transaction. This affects transaction processing as follows.

    When using the default REPEATABLE READ isolation level, the first UPDATE acquires x-locks and does not release any of them:

    x-lock(1,2); retain x-lock
    x-lock(2,3); update(2,3) to (2,5); retain x-lock
    x-lock(3,2); retain x-lock
    x-lock(4,3); update(4,3) to (4,5); retain x-lock
    x-lock(5,2); retain x-lock

    The second UPDATE blocks as soon as it tries to acquire any locks (because first update has retained locks on all rows), and does not proceed until the first UPDATE commits or rolls back:

    x-lock(1,2); block and wait for first UPDATE to commit or roll back

    If READ COMMITTED is used instead, the first UPDATE acquires x-locks and releases those for rows that it does not modify:

    x-lock(1,2); unlock(1,2)
    x-lock(2,3); update(2,3) to (2,5); retain x-lock
    x-lock(3,2); unlock(3,2)
    x-lock(4,3); update(4,3) to (4,5); retain x-lock
    x-lock(5,2); unlock(5,2)

    For the second UPDATE, InnoDB does a semi-consistent read, returning the latest committed version of each row to MySQL so that MySQL can determine whether the row matches the WHERE condition of the UPDATE:

    x-lock(1,2); update(1,2) to (1,4); retain x-lock
    x-lock(2,3); unlock(2,3)
    x-lock(3,2); update(3,2) to (3,4); retain x-lock
    x-lock(4,3); unlock(4,3)
    x-lock(5,2); update(5,2) to (5,4); retain x-lock

    SELECT statements are performed in a nonlocking fashion, but a possible earlier version of a row might be used. Thus, using this isolation level, such reads are not consistent. This is also called a dirty read. Otherwise, this isolation level works like READ COMMITTED.


    This level is like REPEATABLE READ, but InnoDB implicitly converts all plain SELECT statements to SELECT ... FOR SHARE if autocommit is disabled. If autocommit is enabled, the SELECT is its own transaction. It therefore is known to be read only and can be serialized if performed as a consistent (nonlocking) read and need not block for other transactions. (To force a plain SELECT to block if other transactions have modified the selected rows, disable autocommit.)

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