5.1.5 Using System Variables

5.1.5.1 Structured System Variables
5.1.5.2 Dynamic System Variables

The MySQL server maintains many system variables that indicate how it is configured. Section 5.1.4, “Server System Variables”, describes the meaning of these variables. Each system variable has a default value. System variables can be set at server startup using options on the command line or in an option file. Most of them can be changed dynamically while the server is running by means of the SET statement, which enables you to modify operation of the server without having to stop and restart it. You can also use system variable values in expressions.

There are two scopes in which system variables exist. Global variables affect the overall operation of the server. Session variables affect its operation for individual client connections. A given system variable can have both a global and a session value. Global and session system variables are related as follows:

System variable values can be set globally at server startup by using options on the command line or in an option file. When you use a startup option to set a variable that takes a numeric value, the value can be given with a suffix of K, M, or G (either uppercase or lowercase) to indicate a multiplier of 1024, 10242 or 10243; that is, units of kilobytes, megabytes, or gigabytes, respectively. Thus, the following command starts the server with a query cache size of 16 megabytes and a maximum packet size of one gigabyte:

mysqld --query_cache_size=16M --max_allowed_packet=1G

Within an option file, those variables are set like this:

[mysqld]
query_cache_size=16M
max_allowed_packet=1G

The lettercase of suffix letters does not matter; 16M and 16m are equivalent, as are 1G and 1g.

To restrict the maximum value to which a system variable can be set at runtime with the SET statement, specify this maximum by using an option of the form --maximum-var_name=value at server startup. For example, to prevent the value of query_cache_size from being increased to more than 32MB at runtime, use the option --maximum-query_cache_size=32M.

Many system variables are dynamic and can be changed at runtime by using the SET statement. For a list, see Section 5.1.5.2, “Dynamic System Variables”. To change a system variable with SET, refer to it by name, optionally preceded by a modifier:

The preceding modifiers apply only to system variables. It is not permitted to apply them to user-defined variables, stored procedure or function parameters, or stored program local variables. An error occurs for such attempts.

A SET statement can contain multiple variable assignments, separated by commas. This statement assigns values to a user-defined variable and a system variable:

SET @x = 1, SESSION sql_mode = '';

If you set multiple system variables, the most recent GLOBAL or SESSION modifier in the statement is used for following assignments that have no modifier specified.

Examples of multiple-variable assignment:

SET GLOBAL sort_buffer_size = 1000000, SESSION sort_buffer_size = 1000000;
SET @@global.sort_buffer_size = 1000000, @@local.sort_buffer_size = 1000000;
SET GLOBAL max_connections = 1000, sort_buffer_size = 1000000;

If any variable assignment in a SET statement fails, the entire statement fails and no variables are changed.

If you change a session system variable, the value remains in effect within your session until you change the variable to a different value or the session ends. The change has no effect on other sessions.

If you change a global system variable, the value is remembered and used for new connections until you change the variable to a different value or the server restarts. The change is visible to any client that accesses the global variable. However, the change affects the corresponding session variable only for clients that connect after the change. The global variable change does not affect the session variable for any client that is currently connected (not even the session within which the SET GLOBAL statement occurred).

To make a global system variable setting permanent so that it applies across server restarts, you should also set it in an option file.

To set a GLOBAL value to the compiled-in MySQL default value or a SESSION variable to the current corresponding GLOBAL value, set the variable to the value DEFAULT. For example, the following two statements are identical in setting the session value of max_join_size to the current global value:

SET @@session.max_join_size=DEFAULT;
SET @@session.max_join_size=@@global.max_join_size;

Not all system variables can be set to DEFAULT. In such cases, assigning DEFAULT results in an error.

It is not permitted to assign DEFAULT to user-defined variables, and not supported for stored procedure or function parameters or stored program local variables. This results in an error for user-defined variables, and the results are undefined for parameters or local variables.

To refer to the value of a system variable in expressions, use one of the @@-modifiers. For example, you can retrieve values in a SELECT statement like this:

SELECT @@global.sql_mode, @@session.sql_mode, @@sql_mode;

When you refer to a system variable in an expression as @@var_name (that is, when you do not specify @@global. or @@session.), MySQL returns the session value if it exists and the global value otherwise. This differs from SET @@var_name = value, which always refers to the session value.

Suffixes for specifying a value multiplier can be used when setting a variable at server startup, but not to set the value with SET at runtime. On the other hand, with SET you can assign a variable's value using an expression, which is not true when you set a variable at server startup. For example, the first of the following lines is legal at server startup, but the second is not:

shell> mysql --max_allowed_packet=16M
shell> mysql --max_allowed_packet=16*1024*1024

Conversely, the second of the following lines is legal at runtime, but the first is not:

mysql> SET GLOBAL max_allowed_packet=16M;
mysql> SET GLOBAL max_allowed_packet=16*1024*1024;
Note

Some system variables can be enabled with the SET statement by setting them to ON or 1, or disabled by setting them to OFF or 0. However, to set such a variable on the command line or in an option file, you must set it to 1 or 0; setting it to ON or OFF will not work. For example, on the command line, --delay_key_write=1 works but --delay_key_write=ON does not.

To display system variable names and values, use the SHOW VARIABLES statement:

mysql> SHOW VARIABLES;
+---------------------------------+-----------------------------------+
| Variable_name                   | Value                             |
+---------------------------------+-----------------------------------+
| auto_increment_increment        | 1                                 |
| auto_increment_offset           | 1                                 |
| automatic_sp_privileges         | ON                                |
| back_log                        | 50                                |
| basedir                         | /home/mysql/                      |
| binlog_cache_size               | 32768                             |
| bulk_insert_buffer_size         | 8388608                           |
| character_set_client            | latin1                            |
| character_set_connection        | latin1                            |
| character_set_database          | latin1                            |
| character_set_results           | latin1                            |
| character_set_server            | latin1                            |
| character_set_system            | utf8                              |
| character_sets_dir              | /home/mysql/share/mysql/charsets/ |
| collation_connection            | latin1_swedish_ci                 |
| collation_database              | latin1_swedish_ci                 |
| collation_server                | latin1_swedish_ci                 |
...
| innodb_additional_mem_pool_size | 1048576                           |
| innodb_autoextend_increment     | 8                                 |
| innodb_buffer_pool_size         | 8388608                           |
| innodb_checksums                | ON                                |
| innodb_commit_concurrency       | 0                                 |
| innodb_concurrency_tickets      | 500                               |
| innodb_data_file_path           | ibdata1:10M:autoextend            |
| innodb_data_home_dir            |                                   |
...
| version                         | 5.1.6-alpha-log                   |
| version_comment                 | Source distribution               |
| version_compile_machine         | i686                              |
| version_compile_os              | suse-linux                        |
| wait_timeout                    | 28800                             |
+---------------------------------+-----------------------------------+

With a LIKE clause, the statement displays only those variables that match the pattern. To obtain a specific variable name, use a LIKE clause as shown:

SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'max_join_size';
SHOW SESSION VARIABLES LIKE 'max_join_size';

To get a list of variables whose name match a pattern, use the % wildcard character in a LIKE clause:

SHOW VARIABLES LIKE '%size%';
SHOW GLOBAL VARIABLES LIKE '%size%';

Wildcard characters can be used in any position within the pattern to be matched. Strictly speaking, because _ is a wildcard that matches any single character, you should escape it as \_ to match it literally. In practice, this is rarely necessary.

For SHOW VARIABLES, if you specify neither GLOBAL nor SESSION, MySQL returns SESSION values.

The reason for requiring the GLOBAL keyword when setting GLOBAL-only variables but not when retrieving them is to prevent problems in the future. If we were to remove a SESSION variable that has the same name as a GLOBAL variable, a client with the SUPER privilege might accidentally change the GLOBAL variable rather than just the SESSION variable for its own connection. If we add a SESSION variable with the same name as a GLOBAL variable, a client that intends to change the GLOBAL variable might find only its own SESSION variable changed.