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I can imagine that it's actually more important to explain SELECT statements, but I wonder why there's no possibility to use EXPLAIN on UPDATEs/INSERTs. I may use a WHERE-statement in an UPDATE where indexes are being used (I guess?), it should be possible to see if they are actually used. Additionally, in the case of using a SELECT-statement inside an UPDATE, I also cannot use explain for this part without getting a syntax error.
Did I misunderstand something about the processes on UPDATEs and INSERTs? How else can I else debug those statements?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

MySQL currently doesn't support this (unlike nearly all other DBMS).

I think this will be in 5.6 but I'm not entirely sure.

I don't think there is any workaround for that (except upgrading to a DBMS that does support this)

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It is in MySQL 5.6 (still in dev.) – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jul 31 '12 at 16:15
@ypercube: thanks for the confirmation. I just heard that it's finally going to come but wasn't sure in which version. – a_horse_with_no_name Jul 31 '12 at 16:16
I have been mistakenly thinking it was added in MariaDB but it's only in MySQL 5.6 – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jul 31 '12 at 16:18
Thanks. It seems 5.6 turns out to be a really desirable version, thinking of fulltext-search in InnoDB and now the fact about the's just curious why quite essential features (in my opinion) aren't implemented yet. – 32bitfloat Jul 31 '12 at 18:47
@32bitfloat: any of the commercial ones and PostgreSQL in the OpenSource league. – a_horse_with_no_name Jul 31 '12 at 19:54

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