Can anyone explain why despite having inaccurate table statistics, the actual query plan "estimated number of rows" is correct? E.g table has 30 rows but all table statistics show 50 rows. However a query on the table produces a plan that apparently correctly estimates 30 rows. How did it know there are actually 30 rows?

     ID   INT IDENTITY(1, 1),
     Col1 VARCHAR(100)

SELECT 'badger'

GO 1000

CREATE STATISTICS stat_TestPerf_Col1 ON dbo.TestPerf (Col1) WITH FULLSCAN;

--lose some rows 
DELETE dbo.TestPerf
WHERE  ID > 750 --Check the stat not updated - still shows 1000 rows 
DBCC SHOW_STATISTICS (N'dbo.TestPerf', stat_TestPerf_Col1) --now run a query and see the estimatedRows 
SET statistics profile ON

FROM   dbo.TestPerf

SET statistics profile OFF --estimatedRows = 750

1 Answer 1


You are checking the statistics for changes in the wrong place in your code. They won't be auto updated immediately after the delete. This will happen when a query is executed or compiled that needs them (and in fact your code contains no query that needs them anyway apart from the delete itself).

But SQL Server does maintain cardinality information for the partitions of the table/indexes as a whole after every insert/delete etc.

You can see this with the below (only returns 1 row as the table is not partitioned and has no indexes)

SELECT row_count
FROM   sys.dm_db_partition_stats
WHERE  object_id = object_id('dbo.TestPerf'); 

This shows it that the current row count is 750. The query

FROM   dbo.TestPerf

Doesn't benefit from column statistics. It can just use that directly and even if statistics are disabled will be accurate.

A query with WHERE ID > 0 would use the statistics and return the whole table. As it happens the statistics don't get updated in your case anyway when such a query is executed as you haven't hit the threshold for modifications for an auto update to occur. But the estimates are still accurate.

The statistics records that there were 1,000 rows at sampling time.

enter image description here

So it would be simple to just scale the estimates down to adjust for the new table cardinality by multiplying by 0.75.

The scaling down works fine for WHERE Id>0 as 1,000 * 0.75 gives the correct result but if you try querying the 250 rows that you just deleted this will not show correct estimates.

enter image description here

The statistics indicate that it will return 250 rows, multiplying that by 0.75 gives 187.5.

  • Thank you for your answer that is very helpful. I am relatively new to analysing table stats so bear with me.. Am I right to consider partition stats as "separate" to table stats? I notice they are created irrespective of is_auto_create_stats_on and is_auto_create_stats_on options. Also they do not show up when searching for statistics used by the query.So they seem a more "fundamental" set of stats that SQL uses instead or in addition to table stats, where appropriate.
    – softfox
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 15:17
  • @softfox yes the "stats" in "partition_stats" are entirely different from what is usually referred to when talking about statistics in SQL Server. They are just integer row and page counts with no other metadata attached, the statistics that you can see in the statistics node in SSMS or sys.stats and can examine with DBCC SHOW_STATISTICS are column statistics. These are what is normally referred to when talking about statistics in SQL Server. They contain information about column density and histogram of values but a simple select all from table doesn't need this. Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 15:32

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