14.4 The MEMORY (HEAP) Storage Engine

The MEMORY storage engine creates tables with contents that are stored in memory. Formerly, these were known as HEAP tables. MEMORY is the preferred term, although HEAP remains supported for backward compatibility.

The MEMORY storage engine associates each table with one disk file. The file name begins with the table name and has an extension of .frm to indicate that it stores the table definition.

To specify that you want to create a MEMORY table, indicate that with an ENGINE table option:

CREATE TABLE t (i INT) ENGINE = MEMORY;

The older term TYPE is supported as a synonym for ENGINE for backward compatibility, but ENGINE is the preferred term and TYPE is deprecated.

As indicated by the engine name, MEMORY tables are stored in memory. They use hash indexes by default, which makes them very fast, and very useful for creating temporary tables. However, when the server shuts down, all rows stored in MEMORY tables are lost. The tables themselves continue to exist because their definitions are stored in .frm files on disk, but they are empty when the server restarts.

This example shows how you might create, use, and remove a MEMORY table:

mysql> CREATE TABLE test ENGINE=MEMORY
    ->     SELECT ip,SUM(downloads) AS down
    ->     FROM log_table GROUP BY ip;
mysql> SELECT COUNT(ip),AVG(down) FROM test;
mysql> DROP TABLE test;

MEMORY tables have the following characteristics:

As mentioned earlier, the max_heap_table_size system variable sets the limit on the maximum size of MEMORY tables. To control the maximum size for individual tables, set the session value of this variable before creating each table. (Do not change the global max_heap_table_size value unless you intend the value to be used for MEMORY tables created by all clients.) The following example creates two MEMORY tables, with a maximum size of 1MB and 2MB, respectively:

mysql> SET max_heap_table_size = 1024*1024;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> CREATE TABLE t1 (id INT, UNIQUE(id)) ENGINE = MEMORY;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)

mysql> SET max_heap_table_size = 1024*1024*2;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> CREATE TABLE t2 (id INT, UNIQUE(id)) ENGINE = MEMORY;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

Both tables will revert to the server's global max_heap_table_size value if the server restarts.

You can also specify a MAX_ROWS table option in CREATE TABLE statements for MEMORY tables to provide a hint about the number of rows you plan to store in them. This does not enable the table to grow beyond the max_heap_table_size value, which still acts as a constraint on maximum table size. For maximum flexibility in being able to use MAX_ROWS, set max_heap_table_size at least as high as the value to which you want each MEMORY table to be able to grow.

Additional Resources