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28.1 Introduction

INFORMATION_SCHEMA provides access to database metadata, information about the MySQL server such as the name of a database or table, the data type of a column, or access privileges. Other terms that are sometimes used for this information are data dictionary and system catalog.


INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a database within each MySQL instance, the place that stores information about all the other databases that the MySQL server maintains. The INFORMATION_SCHEMA database contains several read-only tables. They are actually views, not base tables, so there are no files associated with them, and you cannot set triggers on them. Also, there is no database directory with that name.

Although you can select INFORMATION_SCHEMA as the default database with a USE statement, you can only read the contents of tables, not perform INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE operations on them.

Here is an example of a statement that retrieves information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA:

mysql> SELECT table_name, table_type, engine
       FROM information_schema.tables
       WHERE table_schema = 'db5'
       ORDER BY table_name;
| table_name | table_type | engine |
| fk         | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
| fk2        | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
| goto       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| into       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| k          | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| kurs       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| loop       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| pk         | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
| t          | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t2         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t3         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t7         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| tables     | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| v          | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v2         | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v3         | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v56        | VIEW       | NULL   |
17 rows in set (0.01 sec)

Explanation: The statement requests a list of all the tables in database db5, showing just three pieces of information: the name of the table, its type, and its storage engine.

Information about generated invisible primary keys is visible by default in all INFORMATION_SCHEMA tables describing table columns, keys, or both, such as the COLUMNS and STATISTICS tables. If you wish to make such information hidden from queries that select from these tables, you can do so by setting the value of the show_gipk_in_create_table_and_information_schema server system variable to OFF. For more information, see Section, “Generated Invisible Primary Keys”.

Character Set Considerations

The definition for character columns (for example, TABLES.TABLE_NAME) is generally VARCHAR(N) CHARACTER SET utf8mb3 where N is at least 64. MySQL uses the default collation for this character set (utf8mb3_general_ci) for all searches, sorts, comparisons, and other string operations on such columns.

Because some MySQL objects are represented as files, searches in INFORMATION_SCHEMA string columns can be affected by file system case sensitivity. For more information, see Section 12.8.7, “Using Collation in INFORMATION_SCHEMA Searches”.

INFORMATION_SCHEMA as Alternative to SHOW Statements

The SELECT ... FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA statement is intended as a more consistent way to provide access to the information provided by the various SHOW statements that MySQL supports (SHOW DATABASES, SHOW TABLES, and so forth). Using SELECT has these advantages, compared to SHOW:

  • It conforms to Codd's rules, because all access is done on tables.

  • You can use the familiar syntax of the SELECT statement, and only need to learn some table and column names.

  • The implementor need not worry about adding keywords.

  • You can filter, sort, concatenate, and transform the results from INFORMATION_SCHEMA queries into whatever format your application needs, such as a data structure or a text representation to parse.

  • This technique is more interoperable with other database systems. For example, Oracle Database users are familiar with querying tables in the Oracle data dictionary.

Because SHOW is familiar and widely used, the SHOW statements remain as an alternative. In fact, along with the implementation of INFORMATION_SCHEMA, there are enhancements to SHOW as described in Section 28.8, “Extensions to SHOW Statements”.


For most INFORMATION_SCHEMA tables, each MySQL user has the right to access them, but can see only the rows in the tables that correspond to objects for which the user has the proper access privileges. In some cases (for example, the ROUTINE_DEFINITION column in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA ROUTINES table), users who have insufficient privileges see NULL. Some tables have different privilege requirements; for these, the requirements are mentioned in the applicable table descriptions. For example, InnoDB tables (tables with names that begin with INNODB_) require the PROCESS privilege.

The same privileges apply to selecting information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA and viewing the same information through SHOW statements. In either case, you must have some privilege on an object to see information about it.

Performance Considerations

INFORMATION_SCHEMA queries that search for information from more than one database might take a long time and impact performance. To check the efficiency of a query, you can use EXPLAIN. For information about using EXPLAIN output to tune INFORMATION_SCHEMA queries, see Section 10.2.3, “Optimizing INFORMATION_SCHEMA Queries”.

Standards Considerations

The implementation for the INFORMATION_SCHEMA table structures in MySQL follows the ANSI/ISO SQL:2003 standard Part 11 Schemata. Our intent is approximate compliance with SQL:2003 core feature F021 Basic information schema.

Users of SQL Server 2000 (which also follows the standard) may notice a strong similarity. However, MySQL has omitted many columns that are not relevant for our implementation, and added columns that are MySQL-specific. One such added column is the ENGINE column in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA TABLES table.

Although other DBMSs use a variety of names, like syscat or system, the standard name is INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

To avoid using any name that is reserved in the standard or in DB2, SQL Server, or Oracle, we changed the names of some columns marked MySQL extension. (For example, we changed COLLATION to TABLE_COLLATION in the TABLES table.) See the list of reserved words near the end of this article:

Conventions in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA Reference Sections

The following sections describe each of the tables and columns in INFORMATION_SCHEMA. For each column, there are three pieces of information:

  • INFORMATION_SCHEMA Name indicates the name for the column in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA table. This corresponds to the standard SQL name unless the Remarks field says MySQL extension.

  • SHOW Name indicates the equivalent field name in the closest SHOW statement, if there is one.

  • Remarks provides additional information where applicable. If this field is NULL, it means that the value of the column is always NULL. If this field says MySQL extension, the column is a MySQL extension to standard SQL.

Many sections indicate what SHOW statement is equivalent to a SELECT that retrieves information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA. For SHOW statements that display information for the default database if you omit a FROM db_name clause, you can often select information for the default database by adding an AND TABLE_SCHEMA = SCHEMA() condition to the WHERE clause of a query that retrieves information from an INFORMATION_SCHEMA table.

Related Information

These sections discuss additional INFORMATION_SCHEMA-related topics: