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Deleting millions of rows in MySQL

Posted by: admin November 1, 2017 Leave a comment


I recently found and fixed a bug in a site I was working on that resulted in millions of duplicate rows of data in a table that will be quite large even without them (still in the millions). I can easily find these duplicate rows and can run a single delete query to kill them all. The problem is that trying to delete this many rows in one shot locks up the table for a long time, which I would like to avoid if possible. The only ways I can see to get rid of these rows, without taking down the site (by locking up the table) are:

  1. Write a script that will execute thousands of smaller delete queries in a loop. This will theoretically get around the locked table issue because other queries will be able to make it into the queue and run in between the deletes. But it will still spike the load on the database quite a bit and will take a long time to run.
  2. Rename the table and recreate the existing table (it’ll now be empty). Then do my cleanup on the renamed table. Rename the new table, name the old one back and merge the new rows into the renamed table. This is way takes considerably more steps, but should get the job done with minimal interruption. The only tricky part here is that the table in question is a reporting table, so once it’s renamed out of the way and the empty one put in its place all historic reports go away until I put it back in place. Plus the merging process could be a bit of a pain because of the type of data being stored. Overall this is my likely choice right now.

I was just wondering if anyone else has had this problem before and, if so, how you dealt with it without taking down the site and, hopefully, with minimal if any interruption to the users? If I go with number 2, or a different, similar, approach, I can schedule the stuff to run late at night and do the merge early the next morning and just let the users know ahead of time, so that’s not a huge deal. I’m just looking to see if anyone has any ideas for a better, or easier, way to do the cleanup.

WHERE (whatever criteria)
LIMIT 1000

Wash, rinse, repeat until zero rows affected. Maybe in a script that sleeps for a second or three between iterations.


I’d also recommend adding some constraints to your table to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you again. A million rows, at 1000 per shot, will take 1000 repetitions of a script to complete. If the script runs once every 3.6 seconds you’ll be done in an hour. No worries. Your clients are unlikely to notice.


the following deletes 1,000,000 records, one at a time.

 for i in `seq 1 1000`; do 
     mysql  -e "select id from table_name where (condition) order by id desc limit 1000 " | sed 's;/|;;g' | awk '{if(NR>1)print "delete from table_name where id = ",$1,";" }' | mysql; 

you could group them together and do delete table_name where IN (id1,id2,..idN) im sure too w/o much difficulty


I’d use mk-archiver from the excellent Maatkit utilities package (a bunch of Perl scripts for MySQL management) Maatkit is from Baron Schwartz, the author of the O’Reilly “High Performance MySQL” book.

The goal is a low-impact, forward-only
job to nibble old data out of the
table without impacting OLTP queries
much. You can insert the data into another
table, which need not be on the same
server. You can also write it to a
file in a format suitable for LOAD
DATA INFILE. Or you can do neither, in
which case it’s just an incremental

It’s already built for archiving your unwanted rows in small batches and as a bonus, it can save the deleted rows to a file in case you screw up the query that selects the rows to remove.

No installation required, just grab http://www.maatkit.org/get/mk-archiver and run perldoc on it (or read the web site) for documentation.


Do it in batches of lets say 2000 rows at a time. Commit in-between. A million rows isn’t that much and this will be fast, unless you have many indexes on the table.


According to the mysql documentation, TRUNCATE TABLE is a fast alternative to DELETE FROM. Try this:


I tried this on 50M rows and it was done within two mins.

Note: Truncate operations are not transaction-safe; an error occurs when attempting one in the course of an active transaction or active table lock