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MySQL 8.4 Reference Manual  /  ...  /  Clustered and Secondary Indexes Clustered and Secondary Indexes

Each InnoDB table has a special index called the clustered index that stores row data. Typically, the clustered index is synonymous with the primary key. To get the best performance from queries, inserts, and other database operations, it is important to understand how InnoDB uses the clustered index to optimize the common lookup and DML operations.

  • When you define a PRIMARY KEY on a table, InnoDB uses it as the clustered index. A primary key should be defined for each table. If there is no logical unique and non-null column or set of columns to use a the primary key, add an auto-increment column. Auto-increment column values are unique and are added automatically as new rows are inserted.

  • If you do not define a PRIMARY KEY for a table, InnoDB uses the first UNIQUE index with all key columns defined as NOT NULL as the clustered index.

  • If a table has no PRIMARY KEY or suitable UNIQUE index, InnoDB generates a hidden clustered index named GEN_CLUST_INDEX on a synthetic column that contains row ID values. The rows are ordered by the row ID that InnoDB assigns. The row ID is a 6-byte field that increases monotonically as new rows are inserted. Thus, the rows ordered by the row ID are physically in order of insertion.

How the Clustered Index Speeds Up Queries

Accessing a row through the clustered index is fast because the index search leads directly to the page that contains the row data. If a table is large, the clustered index architecture often saves a disk I/O operation when compared to storage organizations that store row data using a different page from the index record.

How Secondary Indexes Relate to the Clustered Index

Indexes other than the clustered index are known as secondary indexes. In InnoDB, each record in a secondary index contains the primary key columns for the row, as well as the columns specified for the secondary index. InnoDB uses this primary key value to search for the row in the clustered index.

If the primary key is long, the secondary indexes use more space, so it is advantageous to have a short primary key.

For guidelines to take advantage of InnoDB clustered and secondary indexes, see Section 10.3, “Optimization and Indexes”.