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Oracle® Database Administrator's Guide
10g Release 1 (10.1)

Part Number B10739-01
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15 Managing Indexes

This chapter discusses the management of indexes, and contains the following topics:

About Indexes

Indexes are optional structures associated with tables and clusters that allow SQL statements to execute more quickly against a table. Just as the index in this manual helps you locate information faster than if there were no index, an Oracle Database index provides a faster access path to table data. You can use indexes without rewriting any queries. Your results are the same, but you see them more quickly.

Oracle Database provides several indexing schemes that provide complementary performance functionality. These are:

Indexes are logically and physically independent of the data in the associated table. Being independent structures, they require storage space. You can create or drop an index without affecting the base tables, database applications, or other indexes. The database automatically maintains indexes when you insert, update, and delete rows of the associated table. If you drop an index, all applications continue to work. However, access to previously indexed data might be slower.

See Also:

Chapter 13, " Managing Space for Schema Objects" is recommended reading before attempting tasks described in this chapter.

Guidelines for Managing Indexes

This section discusses guidelines for managing indexes and contains the following topics:

Create Indexes After Inserting Table Data

Data is often inserted or loaded into a table using either the SQL*Loader or an import utility. It is more efficient to create an index for a table after inserting or loading the data. If you create one or more indexes before loading data, the database then must update every index as each row is inserted.

Creating an index on a table that already has data requires sort space. Some sort space comes from memory allocated for the index creator. The amount for each user is determined by the initialization parameter SORT_AREA_SIZE. The database also swaps sort information to and from temporary segments that are only allocated during the index creation in the users temporary tablespace.

Under certain conditions, data can be loaded into a table with SQL*Loader direct-path load and an index can be created as data is loaded.

See Also:

Oracle Database Utilities for information about using SQL*Loader for direct-path load

Index the Correct Tables and Columns

Use the following guidelines for determining when to create an index:

  • Create an index if you frequently want to retrieve less than 15% of the rows in a large table. The percentage varies greatly according to the relative speed of a table scan and how the distribution of the row data in relation to the index key. The faster the table scan, the lower the percentage; the more clustered the row data, the higher the percentage.

  • To improve performance on joins of multiple tables, index columns used for joins.


    Primary and unique keys automatically have indexes, but you might want to create an index on a foreign key.

  • Small tables do not require indexes. If a query is taking too long, then the table might have grown from small to large.

Some columns are strong candidates for indexing. Columns with one or more of the following characteristics are candidates for indexing:

  • Values are relatively unique in the column.

  • There is a wide range of values (good for regular indexes).

  • There is a small range of values (good for bitmap indexes).

  • The column contains many nulls, but queries often select all rows having a value. In this case, use the following phrase:

    WHERE COL_X > -9.99 * power(10,125)

    Using the preceding phrase is preferable to:


    This is because the first uses an index on COL_X (assuming that COL_X is a numeric column).

Columns with the following characteristics are less suitable for indexing:

  • There are many nulls in the column and you do not search on the not null values.

LONG and LONG RAW columns cannot be indexed.

The size of a single index entry cannot exceed roughly one-half (minus some overhead) of the available space in the data block.

Order Index Columns for Performance

The order of columns in the CREATE INDEX statement can affect query performance. In general, specify the most frequently used columns first.

If you create a single index across columns to speed up queries that access, for example, col1, col2, and col3; then queries that access just col1, or that access just col1 and col2, are also speeded up. But a query that accessed just col2, just col3, or just col2 and col3 does not use the index.

Limit the Number of Indexes for Each Table

A table can have any number of indexes. However, the more indexes there are, the more overhead is incurred as the table is modified. Specifically, when rows are inserted or deleted, all indexes on the table must be updated as well. Also, when a column is updated, all indexes that contain the column must be updated.

Thus, there is a trade-off between the speed of retrieving data from a table and the speed of updating the table. For example, if a table is primarily read-only, having more indexes can be useful; but if a table is heavily updated, having fewer indexes could be preferable.

Drop Indexes That Are No Longer Required

Consider dropping an index if:

  • It does not speed up queries. The table could be very small, or there could be many rows in the table but very few index entries.

  • The queries in your applications do not use the index.

  • The index must be dropped before being rebuilt.

Specify Index Block Space Use

When an index is created for a table, data blocks of the index are filled with the existing values in the table up to PCTFREE. The space reserved by PCTFREE for an index block is only used when a new row is inserted into the table and the corresponding index entry must be placed in the correct index block (that is, between preceding and following index entries).

If no more space is available in the appropriate index block, the indexed value is placed where it belongs (based on the lexical set ordering). Therefore, if you plan on inserting many rows into an indexed table, PCTFREE should be high to accommodate the new index values. If the table is relatively static without many inserts, PCTFREE for an associated index can be low so that fewer blocks are required to hold the index data.

PCTUSED cannot be specified for indexes.

See Also:

"Managing Space in Data Blocks" for information about the PCTFREE parameter

Estimate Index Size and Set Storage Parameters

Estimating the size of an index before creating one can facilitate better disk space planning and management. You can use the combined estimated size of indexes, along with estimates for tables, the undo tablespace, and redo log files, to determine the amount of disk space that is required to hold an intended database. From these estimates, you can make correct hardware purchases and other decisions.

Use the estimated size of an individual index to better manage the disk space that the index uses. When an index is created, you can set appropriate storage parameters and improve I/O performance of applications that use the index. For example, assume that you estimate the maximum size of an index before creating it. If you then set the storage parameters when you create the index, fewer extents are allocated for the table data segment, and all of the index data is stored in a relatively contiguous section of disk space. This decreases the time necessary for disk I/O operations involving this index.

The maximum size of a single index entry is approximately one-half the data block size.

See Also:

"Managing Storage Parameters" for specific information about storage parameters

Specify the Tablespace for Each Index

Indexes can be created in any tablespace. An index can be created in the same or different tablespace as the table it indexes. If you use the same tablespace for a table and its index, it can be more convenient to perform database maintenance (such as tablespace or file backup) or to ensure application availability. All the related data is always online together.

Using different tablespaces (on different disks) for a table and its index produces better performance than storing the table and index in the same tablespace. Disk contention is reduced. But, if you use different tablespaces for a table and its index and one tablespace is offline (containing either data or index), then the statements referencing that table are not guaranteed to work.

Consider Parallelizing Index Creation

You can parallelize index creation, much the same as you can parallelize table creation. Because multiple processes work together to create the index, the database can create the index more quickly than if a single server process created the index sequentially.

When creating an index in parallel, storage parameters are used separately by each query server process. Therefore, an index created with an INITIAL value of 5M and a parallel degree of 12 consumes at least 60M of storage during index creation.

See Also:

Consider Creating Indexes with NOLOGGING

You can create an index and generate minimal redo log records by specifying NOLOGGING in the CREATE INDEX statement.


Because indexes created using NOLOGGING are not archived, perform a backup after you create the index.

Creating an index with NOLOGGING has the following benefits:

  • Space is saved in the redo log files.

  • The time it takes to create the index is decreased.

  • Performance improves for parallel creation of large indexes.

In general, the relative performance improvement is greater for larger indexes created without LOGGING than for smaller ones. Creating small indexes without LOGGING has little effect on the time it takes to create an index. However, for larger indexes the performance improvement can be significant, especially when you are also parallelizing the index creation.

Consider Costs and Benefits of Coalescing or Rebuilding Indexes

Improper sizing or increased growth can produce index fragmentation. To eliminate or reduce fragmentation, you can rebuild or coalesce the index. But before you perform either task weigh the costs and benefits of each option and choose the one that works best for your situation. Table 15-1 is a comparison of the costs and benefits associated with rebuilding and coalescing indexes.

Table 15-1 To Rebuild or Coalesce ... That Is the Question

Rebuild Index Coalesce Index
Quickly moves index to another tablespace Cannot move index to another tablespace
Higher costs: requires more disk space Lower costs: does not require more disk space
Creates new tree, shrinks height if applicable Coalesces leaf blocks within same branch of tree
Enables you to quickly change storage and tablespace parameters without having to drop the original index. Quickly frees up index leaf blocks for use.

In situations where you have B-tree index leaf blocks that can be freed up for reuse, you can merge those leaf blocks using the following statement:


Figure 15-1 illustrates the effect of an ALTER INDEX COALESCE on the index vmoore. Before performing the operation, the first two leaf blocks are 50% full. This means you have an opportunity to reduce fragmentation and completely fill the first block, while freeing up the second. In this example, assume that PCTFREE=0.

Figure 15-1 Coalescing Indexes

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Description of the illustration admin026.gif

Consider Cost Before Disabling or Dropping Constraints

Because unique and primary keys have associated indexes, you should factor in the cost of dropping and creating indexes when considering whether to disable or drop a UNIQUE or PRIMARY KEY constraint. If the associated index for a UNIQUE key or PRIMARY KEY constraint is extremely large, you can save time by leaving the constraint enabled rather than dropping and re-creating the large index. You also have the option of explicitly specifying that you want to keep or drop the index when dropping or disabling a UNIQUE or PRIMARY KEY constraint.

Creating Indexes

This section describes how to create indexes. To create an index in your own schema, at least one of the following conditions must be true:

To create an index in another schema, all of the following conditions must be true:

This section contains the following topics:

Creating an Index Explicitly

You can create indexes explicitly (outside of integrity constraints) using the SQL statement CREATE INDEX. The following statement creates an index named emp_ename for the ename column of the emp table:

CREATE INDEX emp_ename ON emp(ename)
      TABLESPACE users
      NEXT 20k
      PCTFREE 0;

Notice that several storage settings and a tablespace are explicitly specified for the index. If you do not specify storage options (such as INITIAL and NEXT) for an index, the default storage options of the default or specified tablespace are automatically used.

See Also:

Oracle Database SQL Reference for syntax and restrictions on the use of the CREATE INDEX statement

Creating a Unique Index Explicitly

Indexes can be unique or nonunique. Unique indexes guarantee that no two rows of a table have duplicate values in the key column (or columns). Nonunique indexes do not impose this restriction on the column values.

Use the CREATE UNIQUE INDEX statement to create a unique index. The following example creates a unique index:

CREATE UNIQUE INDEX dept_unique_index ON dept (dname)
      TABLESPACE indx;

Alternatively, you can define UNIQUE integrity constraints on the desired columns. The database enforces UNIQUE integrity constraints by automatically defining a unique index on the unique key. This is discussed in the following section. However, it is advisable that any index that exists for query performance, including unique indexes, be created explicitly.

See Also:

Oracle Database Performance Tuning Guide for more information about creating an index for performance

Creating an Index Associated with a Constraint

Oracle Database enforces a UNIQUE key or PRIMARY KEY integrity constraint on a table by creating a unique index on the unique key or primary key. This index is automatically created by the database when the constraint is enabled. No action is required by you when you issue the CREATE TABLE or ALTER TABLE statement to create the index, but you can optionally specify a USING INDEX clause to exercise control over its creation. This includes both when a constraint is defined and enabled, and when a defined but disabled constraint is enabled.

To enable a UNIQUE or PRIMARY KEY constraint, thus creating an associated index, the owner of the table must have a quota for the tablespace intended to contain the index, or the UNLIMITED TABLESPACE system privilege. The index associated with a constraint always takes the name of the constraint, unless you optionally specify otherwise.


An efficient procedure for enabling a constraint that can make use of parallelism is described in"Efficient Use of Integrity Constraints: A Procedure".

Specifying Storage Options for an Index Associated with a Constraint

You can set the storage options for the indexes associated with UNIQUE and PRIMARY KEY constraints using the USING INDEX clause. The following CREATE TABLE statement enables a PRIMARY KEY constraint and specifies the storage options of the associated index:

     empno NUMBER(5) PRIMARY KEY, age INTEGER)
     TABLESPACE users
     PCTFREE 0;

Specifying the Index Associated with a Constraint

If you require more explicit control over the indexes associated with UNIQUE and PRIMARY KEY constraints, the database lets you:

  • Specify an existing index that the database is to use to enforce the constraint

  • Specify a CREATE INDEX statement that the database is to use to create the index and enforce the constraint

These options are specified using the USING INDEX clause. The following statements present some examples.

Example 1:

     a1 INT PRIMARY KEY USING INDEX (create index ai on a (a1)));

Example 2:

     b1 INT, 
     b2 INT, 
     CONSTRAINT bu1 UNIQUE (b1, b2) 
                    USING INDEX (create unique index bi on b(b1, b2)),
     CONSTRAINT bu2 UNIQUE (b2, b1) USING INDEX bi);

Example 3:

CREATE INDEX ci ON c (c1, c2);

If a single statement creates an index with one constraint and also uses that index for another constraint, the system will attempt to rearrange the clauses to create the index before reusing it.

Collecting Incidental Statistics when Creating an Index

Oracle Database provides you with the opportunity to collect statistics at very little resource cost during the creation or rebuilding of an index. These statistics are stored in the data dictionary for ongoing use by the optimizer in choosing a plan for the execution of SQL statements. The following statement computes index, table, and column statistics while building index emp_ename on column ename of table emp:

CREATE INDEX emp_ename ON emp(ename)

See Also:

Creating a Large Index

When creating an extremely large index, consider allocating a larger temporary tablespace for the index creation using the following procedure:

  1. Create a new temporary tablespace using the CREATE TABLESPACE or CREATE TEMPORARY TABLESPACE statement.

  2. Use the TEMPORARY TABLESPACE option of the ALTER USER statement to make this your new temporary tablespace.

  3. Create the index using the CREATE INDEX statement.

  4. Drop this tablespace using the DROP TABLESPACE statement. Then use the ALTER USER statement to reset your temporary tablespace to your original temporary tablespace.

Using this procedure can avoid the problem of expanding your usual, and usually shared, temporary tablespace to an unreasonably large size that might affect future performance.

Creating an Index Online

You can create and rebuild indexes online. This enables you to update base tables at the same time you are building or rebuilding indexes on that table. You can perform DML operations while the index build is taking place, but DDL operations are not allowed. Parallel execution is not supported when creating or rebuilding an index online.

The following statements illustrate online index build operations:

CREATE INDEX emp_name ON emp (mgr, emp1, emp2, emp3) ONLINE;


While you can perform DML operations during an online index build, Oracle recommends that you do not perform major/large DML operations during this procedure. This is because while the DML on the base table is taking place it holds a lock on that resource. The DDL to build the index cannot proceed until the transaction acting on the base table commits or rolls back, thus releasing the lock.

For example, if you want to load rows that total up to 30% of the size of an existing table, you should perform this load before the online index build.

Creating a Function-Based Index

Function-based indexes facilitate queries that qualify a value returned by a function or expression. The value of the function or expression is precomputed and stored in the index.

To create a function-based index, you must have the COMPATIBLE parameter set to or higher. In addition to the prerequisites for creating a conventional index, if the index is based on user-defined functions, then those functions must be marked DETERMINISTIC. Also, you just have the EXECUTE object privilege on any user-defined function(s) used in the function-based index if those functions are owned by another user.

Additionally, to use a function-based index:

  • The table must be analyzed after the index is created.

  • The query must be guaranteed not to need any NULL values from the indexed expression, since NULL values are not stored in indexes.


    CREATE INDEX stores the timestamp of the most recent function used in the function-based index. This timestamp is updated when the index is validated. When performing tablespace point-in-time recovery of a function-based index, if the timestamp on the most recent function used in the index is newer than the timestamp stored in the index, then the index is marked invalid. You must use the ANALYZE INDEX ... VALIDATE STRUCTURE statement to validate this index.

To illustrate a function-based index, consider the following statement that defines a function-based index (area_index) defined on the function area(geo):

CREATE INDEX area_index ON rivers (area(geo));

In the following SQL statement, when area(geo) is referenced in the WHERE clause, the optimizer considers using the index area_index.

SELECT id, geo, area(geo), desc
     FROM rivers     
     WHERE Area(geo) >5000;

Table owners should have EXECUTE privileges on the functions used in function-based indexes.

Because a function-based index depends upon any function it is using, it can be invalidated when a function changes. If the function is valid, you can use an ALTER INDEX ... ENABLE statement to enable a function-based index that has been disabled. The ALTER INDEX ... DISABLE statement lets you disable the use of a function-based index. Consider doing this if you are working on the body of the function.

See Also:

Creating a Key-Compressed Index

Creating an index using key compression enables you to eliminate repeated occurrences of key column prefix values.

Key compression breaks an index key into a prefix and a suffix entry. Compression is achieved by sharing the prefix entries among all the suffix entries in an index block. This sharing can lead to huge savings in space, allowing you to store more keys for each index block while improving performance.

Key compression can be useful in the following situations:

  • You have a nonunique index where ROWID is appended to make the key unique. If you use key compression here, the duplicate key is stored as a prefix entry on the index block without the ROWID. The remaining rows become suffix entries consisting of only the ROWID.

  • You have a unique multicolumn index.

You enable key compression using the COMPRESS clause. The prefix length (as the number of key columns) can also be specified to identify how the key columns are broken into a prefix and suffix entry. For example, the following statement compresses duplicate occurrences of a key in the index leaf block:

CREATE INDEX  emp_ename ON emp(ename)

The COMPRESS clause can also be specified during rebuild. For example, during rebuild you can disable compression as follows:


See Also:

Oracle Database Concepts for a more detailed discussion of key compression

Altering Indexes

To alter an index, your schema must contain the index or you must have the ALTER ANY INDEX system privilege. Among the actions allowed by the ALTER INDEX statement are:

You cannot alter index column structure.

More detailed discussions of some of these operations are contained in the following sections:

Altering Storage Characteristics of an Index

Alter the storage parameters of any index, including those created by the database to enforce primary and unique key integrity constraints, using the ALTER INDEX statement. For example, the following statement alters the emp_ename index:

ALTER INDEX emp_ename

The storage parameters INITIAL and MINEXTENTS cannot be altered. All new settings for the other storage parameters affect only extents subsequently allocated for the index.

For indexes that implement integrity constraints, you can adjust storage parameters by issuing an ALTER TABLE statement that includes the USING INDEX subclause of the ENABLE clause. For example, the following statement changes the storage options of the index created on table emp to enforce the primary key constraint:

     PCTFREE 5;

See Also:

Oracle Database SQL Reference for syntax and restrictions on the use of the ALTER INDEX statement

Rebuilding an Existing Index

Before rebuilding an existing index, compare the costs and benefits associated with rebuilding to those associated with coalescing indexes as described in Table 15-1.

When you rebuild an index, you use an existing index as the data source. Creating an index in this manner enables you to change storage characteristics or move to a new tablespace. Rebuilding an index based on an existing data source removes intra-block fragmentation. Compared to dropping the index and using the CREATE INDEX statement, re-creating an existing index offers better performance.

The following statement rebuilds the existing index emp_name:


The REBUILD clause must immediately follow the index name, and precede any other options. It cannot be used in conjunction with the DEALLOCATE UNUSED clause.

You have the option of rebuilding the index online. The following statement rebuilds the emp_name index online:


If you do not have the space required to rebuild an index, you can choose instead to coalesce the index. Coalescing an index is an online operation.

Monitoring Index Usage

Oracle Database provides a means of monitoring indexes to determine whether they are being used. If an index is not being used, then it can be dropped, eliminating unnecessary statement overhead.

To start monitoring the usage of an index, issue this statement:


Later, issue the following statement to stop the monitoring:


The view V$OBJECT_USAGE can be queried for the index being monitored to see if the index has been used. The view contains a USED column whose value is YES or NO, depending upon if the index has been used within the time period being monitored. The view also contains the start and stop times of the monitoring period, and a MONITORING column (YES/NO) to indicate if usage monitoring is currently active.

Each time that you specify MONITORING USAGE, the V$OBJECT_USAGE view is reset for the specified index. The previous usage information is cleared or reset, and a new start time is recorded. When you specify NOMONITORING USAGE, no further monitoring is performed, and the end time is recorded for the monitoring period. Until the next ALTER INDEX ... MONITORING USAGE statement is issued, the view information is left unchanged.

Monitoring Space Use of Indexes

If key values in an index are inserted, updated, and deleted frequently, the index can lose its acquired space efficiently over time. Monitor index efficiency of space usage at regular intervals by first analyzing the index structure, using the ANALYZE INDEX ... VALIDATE STRUCTURE statement, and then querying the INDEX_STATS view:


The percentage of index space usage varies according to how often index keys are inserted, updated, or deleted. Develop a history of average efficiency of space usage for an index by performing the following sequence of operations several times:

When you find that index space usage drops below its average, you can condense the index space by dropping the index and rebuilding it, or coalescing it.

Dropping Indexes

To drop an index, the index must be contained in your schema, or you must have the DROP ANY INDEX system privilege.

Some reasons for dropping an index include:

When you drop an index, all extents of the index segment are returned to the containing tablespace and become available for other objects in the tablespace.

How you drop an index depends on whether you created the index explicitly with a CREATE INDEX statement, or implicitly by defining a key constraint on a table. If you created the index explicitly with the CREATE INDEX statement, then you can drop the index with the DROP INDEX statement. The following statement drops the emp_ename index:

DROP INDEX emp_ename;

You cannot drop only the index associated with an enabled UNIQUE key or PRIMARY KEY constraint. To drop a constraints associated index, you must disable or drop the constraint itself.


If a table is dropped, all associated indexes are dropped automatically.

See Also:

Viewing Index Information

The following views display information about indexes:

View Description



DBA view describes indexes on all tables in the database. ALL view describes indexes on all tables accessible to the user. USER view is restricted to indexes owned by the user. Some columns in these views contain statistics that are generated by the DBMS_STATS package or ANALYZE statement.



These views describe the columns of indexes on tables. Some columns in these views contain statistics that are generated by the DBMS_STATS package or ANALYZE statement.



These views describe the expressions of function-based indexes on tables.
INDEX_STATS Stores information from the last ANALYZE INDEX ... VALIDATE STRUCTURE statement.
INDEX_HISTOGRAM Stores information from the last ANALYZE INDEX ... VALIDATE STRUCTURE statement.
V$OBJECT_USAGE Contains index usage information produced by the ALTER INDEX ... MONITORING USAGE functionality.

See Also:

Oracle Database Reference for a complete description of these views