8.7.4 External Locking

External locking is the use of file system locking to manage contention for MyISAM database tables by multiple processes. External locking is used in situations where a single process such as the MySQL server cannot be assumed to be the only process that requires access to tables. Here are some examples:

With external locking in effect, each process that requires access to a table acquires a file system lock for the table files before proceeding to access the table. If all necessary locks cannot be acquired, the process is blocked from accessing the table until the locks can be obtained (after the process that currently holds the locks releases them).

External locking affects server performance because the server must sometimes wait for other processes before it can access tables.

External locking is unnecessary if you run a single server to access a given data directory (which is the usual case) and if no other programs such as myisamchk need to modify tables while the server is running. If you only read tables with other programs, external locking is not required, although myisamchk might report warnings if the server changes tables while myisamchk is reading them.

With external locking disabled, to use myisamchk, you must either stop the server while myisamchk executes or else lock and flush the tables before running myisamchk. (See Section 8.9.1, “System Factors and Startup Parameter Tuning”.) To avoid this requirement, use the CHECK TABLE and REPAIR TABLE statements to check and repair MyISAM tables.

For mysqld, external locking is controlled by the value of the skip_external_locking system variable. When this variable is enabled, external locking is disabled, and vice versa. From MySQL 4.0 on, external locking is disabled by default.

Use of external locking can be controlled at server startup by using the --external-locking or --skip-external-locking option.

If you do use external locking option to enable updates to MyISAM tables from many MySQL processes, you must ensure that the following conditions are satisfied:

The easiest way to satisfy these conditions is to always use --external-locking together with --delay-key-write=OFF and --query-cache-size=0. (This is not done by default because in many setups it is useful to have a mixture of the preceding options.)