7.13.10. GROUP BY Optimization

The most general way to satisfy a GROUP BY clause is to scan the whole table and create a new temporary table where all rows from each group are consecutive, and then use this temporary table to discover groups and apply aggregate functions (if any). In some cases, MySQL is able to do much better than that and to avoid creation of temporary tables by using index access.

The most important preconditions for using indexes for GROUP BY are that all GROUP BY columns reference attributes from the same index, and that the index stores its keys in order (for example, this is a BTREE index and not a HASH index). Whether use of temporary tables can be replaced by index access also depends on which parts of an index are used in a query, the conditions specified for these parts, and the selected aggregate functions.

There are two ways to execute a GROUP BY query through index access, as detailed in the following sections. In the first method, the grouping operation is applied together with all range predicates (if any). The second method first performs a range scan, and then groups the resulting tuples.

In MySQL, GROUP BY is used for sorting, so the server may also apply ORDER BY optimizations to grouping. See Section 7.13.9, “ORDER BY Optimization”.

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