Can any configuration mistake lead to creating too many temp tables by mysql..mysql tuner shows

Current max_heap_table_size = 200 M
Current tmp_table_size = 200 M
Of 17158 temp tables, 30% were created on disk

table_open_cache = 125 tables
table_definition_cache = 256 tables
You have a total of 97 tables
You have 125 open tables.
Current table_cache hit rate is 3%

Earlier temp table was "of the 23725 temp tables 38% were created on disk" but I changed max_heap and tmp_table to 200m from 16m and it lowered to 30%..


engine myisam 
group_concat_max_len = 32768
key_buffer_size = 3.7 GB,
thread_stack = 256k,
table_cache = 125
query_cache_limit = 1M
query_cache_size = 16M
join_buffer_size = 2.00 M
max_connections = 800

Another system with default configuration is showing "of 23725 temp tables, 1% were created on disk" with the same database.

I tried changing to default on the machine with this issue and it still shows "Of 580 temp tables, 16% were created on disk".

I am using Ubuntu 11.4 64 bit with 48 gb ram. Can any one suggest a solution?

Will changing the db engine from "myisam" to "memory" on tables using "group by" fix this? As explained here: http://www.mysqlperformanceblog.com/2007/08/16/how-much-overhead-is-caused-by-on-disk-temporary-tables/

2 Answers 2


mysqltuner rarely provides any useful information. It uses mostly irrelevant statistics about "hit rates" and puts arbitrary limits on what is an acceptable number of widgets are acceptable. If you are not facing a performance problem, then you don't actually need to solve any of the problems that it presents to you. That being said, here's a little background information about temporary tables...

MySQL internally uses the MEMORY storage engine for creating implicit temporary tables. On disk temporary tables use the MyISAM storage engine.

Temporary tables are created on disk when:

  • TEXT or BLOB fields are present (because MEMORY doesn't support these types)
  • the size of the resulting implicit temporary table exceeds the lesser of tmp_table_size or max_heap_table_size
  • If a column w/ more than 512 bytes is used with either a GROUP BY or UNION or ORDER BY

Read the MySQL Documentation on Internal Temporary Tables for more details.

What can you do about this? Presuming that it actually represents a performance problem (rather than just bothering you intelluctually):

  • Avoid TEXT/BLOB fields and instead use appropriately sized VARCHAR or CHAR fields where possible.
  • If TEXT/BLOB are unavoidable, sequester them to separate tables with a foreign key relationship and JOIN only when you need them.
  • Treat large columns, more than 512 bytes as you would the above mentioned TEXT/BLOB fields.
  • Make sure your queries are returning only the result set you need (appropriately selective WHERE clauses, avoid SELECT *)
  • Avoid subqueries and replace them with joins, especially if they return a large result set
  • Last resort - raise both tmp_table_size and max_heap_table_size. Don't do this unless you find that your queries cannot be optimized.

If you are concerned about your MySQL configuration and are not comfortable with the available settings yourself, you might want to check out the Percona Configuration Wizard as a starting point.

Will changing the db engine from "myisam" to "memory" on tables using "group by" fix this? as explained here

No, it won't and it will make it such that your tables are never persisted to disk. Don't do this.

  • +1, but added that it's the lesser of tmp_table_size or max_heap_table_size May 10, 2012 at 14:06
  • The best recommendation by mysqltuner was to enable slow query log. It will help you identify slow queries if any.
    – fat_mike
    Feb 7, 2017 at 15:36

"using temporary" and "using filesort" are not the end of the world!

SELECT ... GROUP BY a,b ORDER BY c,d -- Requires 1 or 2 "temp tables".

There are simply times when your queries will use temp tables. Temp tables may slow down a query by a small factor. But if the query is still "fast enough" then don't worry about it.

If the query is too slow (with or without tmp tables), let's discuss it. Please provide SHOW CREATE TABLE, SHOW TABLE STATUS, and EXPLAIN.

  • 1
    If you have an index on (a, b, c, d), there won't be any temp table.
    – Yvan
    Jan 13, 2015 at 17:17
  • @Yvan - That still needs a temp table(s) -- one to capture the results of the GROUP BY. Then that is sorted to get the results desired. Please locate some slow (or complex) query. Let's discuss it. Be sore to provide EXPLAIN SELECT ... -- it will say whether a temp table is being used (but it won't say whether 2 temps are needed).
    – Rick James
    Oct 27, 2022 at 16:08
  • you're right in the sense that MySQL's optimizer may not be able to use the correct indexes. In your example, using an index as I suggested it should avoid the temp tables. But sure, using EXPLAIN would help, as there's so many strange cases with the optimizer :-)
    – Yvan
    Oct 28, 2022 at 13:58
  • 1
    @Yvan - An index that is "covering" provides a performance benefit. That occurs when all of the needed columns are in the index. This lets the execution avoid bouncing between the index's BTree and the data's BTree. (My example does not specify the "...", so we can't say whether your index is "covering".)
    – Rick James
    Oct 28, 2022 at 20:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.