10.3.1.1. TIMESTAMP Properties

TIMESTAMP columns are displayed in the same format as DATETIME columns. In other words, the display width is fixed at 19 characters, and the format is 'YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS'.

TIMESTAMP values are converted from the current time zone to UTC for storage, and converted back from UTC to the current time zone for retrieval. (This occurs only for the TIMESTAMP data type, not for other types such as DATETIME.) By default, the current time zone for each connection is the server's time. The time zone can be set on a per-connection basis, as described in Section 9.6, “MySQL Server Time Zone Support”. As long as the time zone setting remains constant, you get back the same value you store. If you store a TIMESTAMP value, and then change the time zone and retrieve the value, the retrieved value is different from the value you stored. This occurs because the same time zone was not used for conversion in both directions. The current time zone is available as the value of the time_zone system variable.

The TIMESTAMP data type offers automatic initialization and updating. You can choose whether to use these properties and which column should have them:

  • For one TIMESTAMP column in a table, you can assign the current timestamp as the default value and the auto-update value. It is possible to have the current timestamp be the default value for initializing the column, for the auto-update value, or both. It is not possible to have the current timestamp be the default value for one column and the auto-update value for another column.

  • Any single TIMESTAMP column in a table can be used as the one that is initialized to the current date and time, or updated automatically. This need not be the first TIMESTAMP column.

  • If a DEFAULT value is specified for the first TIMESTAMP column in a table, it is not ignored. The default can be CURRENT_TIMESTAMP or a constant date and time value.

  • In a CREATE TABLE statement, the first TIMESTAMP column can be declared in any of the following ways:

    • With both DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP and ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP clauses, the column has the current timestamp for its default value, and is automatically updated.

    • With neither DEFAULT nor ON UPDATE clauses, it is the same as DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP.

    • With a DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP clause and no ON UPDATE clause, the column has the current timestamp for its default value but is not automatically updated.

    • With no DEFAULT clause and with an ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP clause, the column has a default of 0 and is automatically updated.

    • With a constant DEFAULT value, the column has the given default and is not automatically initialized to the current timestamp. If the column also has an ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP clause, it is automatically updated; otherwise, it has a constant default and is not automatically updated.

    In other words, you can use the current timestamp for both the initial value and the auto-update value, or either one, or neither. (For example, you can specify ON UPDATE to enable auto-update without also having the column auto-initialized.) The following column definitions demonstrate each possibility:

    • Auto-initialization and auto-update:

      ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
      
    • Auto-initialization only:

      ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
      
    • Auto-update only:

      ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT 0 ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
      
    • Neither:

      ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT 0
      
  • To specify automatic default or updating for a TIMESTAMP column other than the first one, you must suppress the automatic initialization and update behaviors for the first TIMESTAMP column by explicitly assigning it a constant DEFAULT value (for example, DEFAULT 0 or DEFAULT '2003-01-01 00:00:00'). Then, for the other TIMESTAMP column, the rules are the same as for the first TIMESTAMP column, except that if you omit both of the DEFAULT and ON UPDATE clauses, no automatic initialization or updating occurs.

    Example:

    CREATE TABLE t (
        ts1 TIMESTAMP DEFAULT 0,
        ts2 TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
                      ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);
    
  • CURRENT_TIMESTAMP or any of its synonyms (CURRENT_TIMESTAMP(), NOW(), LOCALTIME, LOCALTIME(), LOCALTIMESTAMP, or LOCALTIMESTAMP()) can be used in the DEFAULT and ON UPDATE clauses. They all mean “the current timestamp.” (UTC_TIMESTAMP is not permitted. Its range of values does not align with those of the TIMESTAMP column anyway unless the current time zone is UTC.)

  • The order of the DEFAULT and ON UPDATE attributes does not matter. If both DEFAULT and ON UPDATE are specified for a TIMESTAMP column, either can precede the other. For example, these statements are equivalent:

    CREATE TABLE t (ts TIMESTAMP);
    CREATE TABLE t (ts TIMESTAMP DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
                                 ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);
    CREATE TABLE t (ts TIMESTAMP ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
                                 DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);
    
Note

The examples that use DEFAULT 0 will not work if the NO_ZERO_DATE SQL mode is enabled because that mode causes “zero” date values (specified as 0, '0000-00-00, or '0000-00-00 00:00:00') to be rejected. Be aware that the TRADITIONAL SQL mode includes NO_ZERO_DATE.

TIMESTAMP columns are NOT NULL by default, cannot contain NULL values, and assigning NULL assigns the current timestamp. However, a TIMESTAMP column can be permitted to contain NULL by declaring it with the NULL attribute. In this case, the default value also becomes NULL unless overridden with a DEFAULT clause that specifies a different default value. DEFAULT NULL can be used to explicitly specify NULL as the default value. (For a TIMESTAMP column not declared with the NULL attribute, DEFAULT NULL is illegal.) If a TIMESTAMP column permits NULL values, assigning NULL sets it to NULL, not to the current timestamp.

The following table contains several TIMESTAMP columns that permit NULL values:

CREATE TABLE t
(
  ts1 TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT NULL,
  ts2 TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT 0,
  ts3 TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP
);

Note that a TIMESTAMP column that permits NULL values will not take on the current timestamp except under one of the following conditions:

In other words, a TIMESTAMP column defined as NULL will auto-initialize only if it is created using a definition such as the following:

CREATE TABLE t (ts TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);

Otherwise—that is, if the TIMESTAMP column is defined to permit NULL values but not using DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, as shown here…

CREATE TABLE t1 (ts TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT NULL);
CREATE TABLE t2 (ts TIMESTAMP NULL DEFAULT '0000-00-00 00:00:00');

…then you must explicitly insert a value corresponding to the current date and time. For example:

INSERT INTO t1 VALUES (NOW());
INSERT INTO t2 VALUES (CURRENT_TIMESTAMP);
Note

The MySQL server can be run with the MAXDB SQL mode enabled. When the server runs with this mode enabled, TIMESTAMP is identical with DATETIME. That is, if this mode is enabled at the time that a table is created, TIMESTAMP columns are created as DATETIME columns. As a result, such columns use DATETIME display format, have the same range of values, and there is no automatic initialization or updating to the current date and time.

To enable MAXDB mode, set the server SQL mode to MAXDB at startup using the --sql-mode=MAXDB server option or by setting the global sql_mode variable at runtime:

mysql> SET GLOBAL sql_mode=MAXDB;

A client can cause the server to run in MAXDB mode for its own connection as follows:

mysql> SET SESSION sql_mode=MAXDB;
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