Table-Locking Restrictions and Conditions

You can safely use KILL to terminate a session that is waiting for a table lock. See Section, “KILL Syntax”.

You should not lock any tables that you are using with INSERT DELAYED. An INSERT DELAYED in this case results in an error because the insert must be handled by a separate thread, not by the session which holds the lock.

LOCK TABLES and UNLOCK TABLES cannot be used within stored programs.

Tables in the performance_schema database cannot be locked with LOCK TABLES, except the SETUP_xxx tables.

The following statements are prohibited while a LOCK TABLES statement is in effect:

For some operations, system tables in the mysql database must be accessed. For example, the HELP statement requires the contents of the server-side help tables, and CONVERT_TZ() might need to read the time zone tables. The server implicitly locks the system tables for reading as necessary so that you need not lock them explicitly. These tables are treated as just described:


If you want to explicitly place a WRITE lock on any of those tables with a LOCK TABLES statement, the table must be the only one locked; no other table can be locked with the same statement.

Normally, you do not need to lock tables, because all single UPDATE statements are atomic; no other session can interfere with any other currently executing SQL statement. However, there are a few cases when locking tables may provide an advantage:

  • If you are going to run many operations on a set of MyISAM tables, it is much faster to lock the tables you are going to use. Locking MyISAM tables speeds up inserting, updating, or deleting on them because MySQL does not flush the key cache for the locked tables until UNLOCK TABLES is called. Normally, the key cache is flushed after each SQL statement.

    The downside to locking the tables is that no session can update a READ-locked table (including the one holding the lock) and no session can access a WRITE-locked table other than the one holding the lock.

  • If you are using tables for a nontransactional storage engine, you must use LOCK TABLES if you want to ensure that no other session modifies the tables between a SELECT and an UPDATE. The example shown here requires LOCK TABLES to execute safely:

    LOCK TABLES trans READ, customer WRITE;
    SELECT SUM(value) FROM trans WHERE customer_id=some_id;
    UPDATE customer
      SET total_value=sum_from_previous_statement
      WHERE customer_id=some_id;

    Without LOCK TABLES, it is possible that another session might insert a new row in the trans table between execution of the SELECT and UPDATE statements.

You can avoid using LOCK TABLES in many cases by using relative updates (UPDATE customer SET value=value+new_value) or the LAST_INSERT_ID() function. See Section, “Transaction and Atomic Operation Differences”.

You can also avoid locking tables in some cases by using the user-level advisory lock functions GET_LOCK() and RELEASE_LOCK(). These locks are saved in a hash table in the server and implemented with pthread_mutex_lock() and pthread_mutex_unlock() for high speed. See Section 11.15, “Miscellaneous Functions”.

See Section 7.10.1, “Internal Locking Methods”, for more information on locking policy.

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