Suppose a read (select) query R is reading some 100 records from a table, 50 records are read so far, could in the meanwhile a write query W change some of the unread records?

We didn't take any locks on the table (or to be read records).

I think it is obvious that reading single records (reading every record) is an atomic operation, but i am not sure about reading several (possibly millions) records. Is it an atomic operation? Do we need to take a read lock when reading multiple records (in one query) if it is possible that a write query be run in the meanwhile and we want a consistent snapshot of all of the records at the time the read query starts to be executed?

I am using MySQL.

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is possible and this may or may not be desirable. The database theory has a concept of isolation, which is about transaction visibility to other processes. MySql's documentation about set transaction has a discussion about product specific syntax.

  • just for sure, is reading a single record always an atomic operation?
    – user40602
    Sep 18, 2014 at 5:58
  • InnoDB claims full ACID compliance, so no partial insert should be able to mess data consistency. That being said, with right isolation level, a transaction that won't be committed might mess up your data anyway. So, please study carefully the transaction isolation theory and documentation.
    – vonPryz
    Sep 22, 2014 at 9:41

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