MySQL 8.0 Reference Manual Including MySQL NDB Cluster 8.0

8.2.1.19 LIMIT Query Optimization

If you need only a specified number of rows from a result set, use a LIMIT clause in the query, rather than fetching the whole result set and throwing away the extra data.

MySQL sometimes optimizes a query that has a LIMIT row_count clause and no HAVING clause:

If multiple rows have identical values in the ORDER BY columns, the server is free to return those rows in any order, and may do so differently depending on the overall execution plan. In other words, the sort order of those rows is nondeterministic with respect to the nonordered columns.

One factor that affects the execution plan is LIMIT, so an ORDER BY query with and without LIMIT may return rows in different orders. Consider this query, which is sorted by the category column but nondeterministic with respect to the id and rating columns:

mysql> SELECT * FROM ratings ORDER BY category;
+----+----------+--------+
| id | category | rating |
+----+----------+--------+
|  1 |        1 |    4.5 |
|  5 |        1 |    3.2 |
|  3 |        2 |    3.7 |
|  4 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  6 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  2 |        3 |    5.0 |
|  7 |        3 |    2.7 |
+----+----------+--------+

Including LIMIT may affect order of rows within each category value. For example, this is a valid query result:

mysql> SELECT * FROM ratings ORDER BY category LIMIT 5;
+----+----------+--------+
| id | category | rating |
+----+----------+--------+
|  1 |        1 |    4.5 |
|  5 |        1 |    3.2 |
|  4 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  3 |        2 |    3.7 |
|  6 |        2 |    3.5 |
+----+----------+--------+

In each case, the rows are sorted by the ORDER BY column, which is all that is required by the SQL standard.

If it is important to ensure the same row order with and without LIMIT, include additional columns in the ORDER BY clause to make the order deterministic. For example, if id values are unique, you can make rows for a given category value appear in id order by sorting like this:

mysql> SELECT * FROM ratings ORDER BY category, id;
+----+----------+--------+
| id | category | rating |
+----+----------+--------+
|  1 |        1 |    4.5 |
|  5 |        1 |    3.2 |
|  3 |        2 |    3.7 |
|  4 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  6 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  2 |        3 |    5.0 |
|  7 |        3 |    2.7 |
+----+----------+--------+

mysql> SELECT * FROM ratings ORDER BY category, id LIMIT 5;
+----+----------+--------+
| id | category | rating |
+----+----------+--------+
|  1 |        1 |    4.5 |
|  5 |        1 |    3.2 |
|  3 |        2 |    3.7 |
|  4 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  6 |        2 |    3.5 |
+----+----------+--------+

For a query with an ORDER BY or GROUP BY and a LIMIT clause, the optimizer tries to choose an ordered index by default when it appears doing so would speed up query execution. Prior to MySQL 8.0.21, there was no way to override this behavior, even in cases where using some other optimization might be faster. Beginning with MySQL 8.0.21, it is possible to turn off this optimization by setting the optimizer_switch system variable's prefer_ordering_index flag to off.

Example: First we create and populate a table t as shown here:

# Create and populate a table t:

mysql> CREATE TABLE t (
    ->     id1 BIGINT NOT NULL,
    ->     id2 BIGINT NOT NULL,
    ->     c1 VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,
    ->     c2 VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,
    ->  PRIMARY KEY (id1),
    ->  INDEX i (id2, c1)
    -> );

# [Insert some rows into table t - not shown]

Verify that the prefer_ordering_index flag is enabled:

mysql> SELECT @@optimizer_switch LIKE '%prefer_ordering_index=on%';
+------------------------------------------------------+
| @@optimizer_switch LIKE '%prefer_ordering_index=on%' |
+------------------------------------------------------+
|                                                    1 |
+------------------------------------------------------+

Since the following query has a LIMIT clause, we expect it to use an ordered index, if possible. In this case, as we can see from the EXPLAIN output, it uses the table's primary key.

mysql> EXPLAIN SELECT c2 FROM t
    ->     WHERE id2 > 3
    ->     ORDER BY id1 ASC LIMIT 2\G
*************************** 1. row ***************************
           id: 1
  select_type: SIMPLE
        table: t
   partitions: NULL
         type: index
possible_keys: i
          key: PRIMARY
      key_len: 8
          ref: NULL
         rows: 2
     filtered: 70.00
        Extra: Using where

Now we disable the prefer_ordering_index flag, and re-run the same query; this time it uses the index i (which includes the id2 column used in the WHERE clause), and a filesort:

mysql> SET optimizer_switch = "prefer_ordering_index=off";

mysql> EXPLAIN SELECT c2 FROM t
    ->     WHERE id2 > 3
    ->     ORDER BY id1 ASC LIMIT 2\G
*************************** 1. row ***************************
           id: 1
  select_type: SIMPLE
        table: t
   partitions: NULL
         type: range
possible_keys: i
          key: i
      key_len: 8
          ref: NULL
         rows: 14
     filtered: 100.00
        Extra: Using index condition; Using filesort

See also Section 8.9.2, “Switchable Optimizations”.