13.2.9.3 Index Hint Syntax

You can provide hints to give the optimizer information about how to choose indexes during query processing. Section 13.2.9.2, “JOIN Syntax”, describes the general syntax for specifying tables in a SELECT statement. The syntax for an individual table, including that for index hints, looks like this:

tbl_name [[AS] alias] [index_hint_list]

index_hint_list:
    index_hint [, index_hint] ...

index_hint:
    USE {INDEX|KEY}
      [FOR {JOIN|ORDER BY|GROUP BY}] ([index_list])
  | IGNORE {INDEX|KEY}
      [FOR {JOIN|ORDER BY|GROUP BY}] (index_list)
  | FORCE {INDEX|KEY}
      [FOR {JOIN|ORDER BY|GROUP BY}] (index_list)

index_list:
    index_name [, index_name] ...

By specifying USE INDEX (index_list), you can tell MySQL to use only one of the named indexes to find rows in the table. The alternative syntax IGNORE INDEX (index_list) can be used to tell MySQL to not use some particular index or indexes. These hints are useful if EXPLAIN shows that MySQL is using the wrong index from the list of possible indexes.

You can also use FORCE INDEX, which acts like USE INDEX (index_list) but with the addition that a table scan is assumed to be very expensive. In other words, a table scan is used only if there is no way to use one of the given indexes to find rows in the table.

Each hint requires the names of indexes, not the names of columns. The name of a PRIMARY KEY is PRIMARY. To see the index names for a table, use SHOW INDEX.

An index_name value need not be a full index name. It can be an unambiguous prefix of an index name. If a prefix is ambiguous, an error occurs.

Examples:

SELECT * FROM table1 USE INDEX (col1_index,col2_index)
  WHERE col1=1 AND col2=2 AND col3=3;

SELECT * FROM table1 IGNORE INDEX (col3_index)
  WHERE col1=1 AND col2=2 AND col3=3;

The syntax for index hints has the following characteristics:

if you specify no FOR clause for an index hint, the hint by default applies to all parts of the statement. For example, this hint:

IGNORE INDEX (i1)

is equivalent to this combination of hints:

IGNORE INDEX FOR JOIN (i1)
IGNORE INDEX FOR ORDER BY (i1)
IGNORE INDEX FOR GROUP BY (i1)

To cause the server to use the older behavior for hint scope when no FOR clause is present (so that hints apply only to row retrieval), enable the old system variable at server startup. Take care about enabling this variable in a replication setup. With statement-based binary logging, having different modes for the master and slaves might lead to replication errors.

When index hints are processed, they are collected in a single list by type (USE, FORCE, IGNORE) and by scope (FOR JOIN, FOR ORDER BY, FOR GROUP BY). For example:

SELECT * FROM t1
  USE INDEX () IGNORE INDEX (i2) USE INDEX (i1) USE INDEX (i2);

is equivalent to:

SELECT * FROM t1
   USE INDEX (i1,i2) IGNORE INDEX (i2);

The index hints then are applied for each scope in the following order:

  1. {USE|FORCE} INDEX is applied if present. (If not, the optimizer-determined set of indexes is used.)

  2. IGNORE INDEX is applied over the result of the previous step. For example, the following two queries are equivalent:

    SELECT * FROM t1 USE INDEX (i1) IGNORE INDEX (i2) USE INDEX (i2);
    
    SELECT * FROM t1 USE INDEX (i1);
    

For FULLTEXT searches, index hints work as follows:

For example, the following two queries are equivalent:

SELECT * FROM t
  USE INDEX (index1)
  IGNORE INDEX (index1) FOR ORDER BY
  IGNORE INDEX (index1) FOR GROUP BY
  WHERE ... IN BOOLEAN MODE ... ;

SELECT * FROM t
  USE INDEX (index1)
  WHERE ... IN BOOLEAN MODE ... ;