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13.2.5. LOAD DATA INFILE Syntax

    INTO TABLE tbl_name
        [TERMINATED BY 'string']
        [[OPTIONALLY] ENCLOSED BY 'char']
        [ESCAPED BY 'char']
        [STARTING BY 'string']
        [TERMINATED BY 'string']
    [IGNORE number LINES]
    [SET col_name = expr,...)]

The LOAD DATA INFILE statement reads rows from a text file into a table at a very high speed. The filename must be given as a literal string.

The syntax for the FIELDS and LINES clauses also applies to the SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE statement, as described later in this section. (See also Section 13.2.7, “SELECT Syntax”.)

For more information about the efficiency of INSERT versus LOAD DATA INFILE and speeding up LOAD DATA INFILE, see Section 7.2.16, “Speed of INSERT Statements”.

The character set indicated by the character_set_database system variable is used to interpret the information in the file. SET NAMES and the setting of character_set_client do not affect interpretation of input.

Note that it is currently not possible to load data files that use the ucs2 character set.

As of MySQL 5.1.6, the character_set_filesystem system variable controls the interpretation of the filename.

You can also load data files by using the mysqlimport utility; it operates by sending a LOAD DATA INFILE statement to the server. The --local option causes mysqlimport to read data files from the client host. You can specify the --compress option to get better performance over slow networks if the client and server support the compressed protocol. See Section 8.12, “mysqlimport — A Data Import Program”.

If you use LOW_PRIORITY, execution of the LOAD DATA statement is delayed until no other clients are reading from the table.

If you specify CONCURRENT with a MyISAM table that satisfies the condition for concurrent inserts (that is, it contains no free blocks in the middle), other threads can retrieve data from the table while LOAD DATA is executing. Using this option affects the performance of LOAD DATA a bit, even if no other thread is using the table at the same time.

The LOCAL keyword, if specified, is interpreted with respect to the client end of the connection:

  • If LOCAL is specified, the file is read by the client program on the client host and sent to the server. The file can be given as a full pathname to specify its exact location. If given as a relative pathname, the name is interpreted relative to the directory in which the client program was started.

  • If LOCAL is not specified, the file must be located on the server host and is read directly by the server. The server uses the following rules to locate the file:

    • If the filename is an absolute pathname, the server uses it as given.

    • If the filename is a relative pathname with one or more leading components, the server searches for the file relative to the server's data directory.

    • If a filename with no leading components is given, the server looks for the file in the database directory of the default database.

Note that, in the non-LOCAL case, these rules mean that a file named as ./myfile.txt is read from the server's data directory, whereas the file named as myfile.txt is read from the database directory of the default database. For example, if db1 is the default database, the following LOAD DATA statement reads the file data.txt from the database directory for db1, even though the statement explicitly loads the file into a table in the db2 database:

LOAD DATA INFILE 'data.txt' INTO TABLE db2.my_table;

Windows pathnames are specified using forward slashes rather than backslashes. If you do use backslashes, you must double them.

For security reasons, when reading text files located on the server, the files must either reside in the database directory or be readable by all. Also, to use LOAD DATA INFILE on server files, you must have the FILE privilege. See Section 5.7.3, “Privileges Provided by MySQL”.

Using LOCAL is a bit slower than letting the server access the files directly, because the contents of the file must be sent over the connection by the client to the server. On the other hand, you do not need the FILE privilege to load local files.

LOCAL works only if your server and your client both have been enabled to allow it. For example, if mysqld was started with --local-infile=0, LOCAL does not work. See Section 5.6.4, “Security Issues with LOAD DATA LOCAL.

On Unix, if you need LOAD DATA to read from a pipe, you can use the following technique (here we load the listing of the / directory into a table):

mkfifo /mysql/db/x/x
chmod 666 /mysql/db/x/x
find / -ls > /mysql/db/x/x
mysql -e "LOAD DATA INFILE 'x' INTO TABLE x" x

The REPLACE and IGNORE keywords control handling of input rows that duplicate existing rows on unique key values.

If you specify REPLACE, input rows replace existing rows. In other words, rows that have the same value for a primary key or unique index as an existing row. See Section 13.2.6, “REPLACE Syntax”.

If you specify IGNORE, input rows that duplicate an existing row on a unique key value are skipped. If you do not specify either option, the behavior depends on whether the LOCAL keyword is specified. Without LOCAL, an error occurs when a duplicate key value is found, and the rest of the text file is ignored. With LOCAL, the default behavior is the same as if IGNORE is specified; this is because the server has no way to stop transmission of the file in the middle of the operation.

If you want to ignore foreign key constraints during the load operation, you can issue a SET FOREIGN_KEY_CHECKS=0 statement before executing LOAD DATA.

If you use LOAD DATA INFILE on an empty MyISAM table, all non-unique indexes are created in a separate batch (as for REPAIR TABLE). Normally, this makes LOAD DATA INFILE much faster when you have many indexes. In some extreme cases, you can create the indexes even faster by turning them off with ALTER TABLE ... DISABLE KEYS before loading the file into the table and using ALTER TABLE ... ENABLE KEYS to re-create the indexes after loading the file. See Section 7.2.16, “Speed of INSERT Statements”.

LOAD DATA INFILE is the complement of SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE. (See Section 13.2.7, “SELECT Syntax”.) To write data from a table to a file, use SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE. To read the file back into a table, use LOAD DATA INFILE. The syntax of the FIELDS and LINES clauses is the same for both statements. Both clauses are optional, but FIELDS must precede LINES if both are specified.

If you specify a FIELDS clause, each of its subclauses (TERMINATED BY, [OPTIONALLY] ENCLOSED BY, and ESCAPED BY) is also optional, except that you must specify at least one of them.

If you specify no FIELDS clause, the defaults are the same as if you had written this:


If you specify no LINES clause, the defaults are the same as if you had written this:


In other words, the defaults cause LOAD DATA INFILE to act as follows when reading input:

  • Look for line boundaries at newlines.

  • Do not skip over any line prefix.

  • Break lines into fields at tabs.

  • Do not expect fields to be enclosed within any quoting characters.

  • Interpret occurrences of tab, newline, or ‘\’ preceded by ‘\’ as literal characters that are part of field values.

Conversely, the defaults cause SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE to act as follows when writing output:

  • Write tabs between fields.

  • Do not enclose fields within any quoting characters.

  • Use ‘\’ to escape instances of tab, newline, or ‘\’ that occur within field values.

  • Write newlines at the ends of lines.

Backslash is the MySQL escape character within strings, so to write FIELDS ESCAPED BY '\\', you must specify two backslashes for the value to be interpreted as a single backslash.

Note: If you have generated the text file on a Windows system, you might have to use LINES TERMINATED BY '\r\n' to read the file properly, because Windows programs typically use two characters as a line terminator. Some programs, such as WordPad, might use \r as a line terminator when writing files. To read such files, use LINES TERMINATED BY '\r'.

If all the lines you want to read in have a common prefix that you want to ignore, you can use LINES STARTING BY 'prefix_string' to skip over the prefix, and anything before it. If a line does not include the prefix, the entire line is skipped. Suppose that you issue the following statement:

LOAD DATA INFILE '/tmp/test.txt' INTO TABLE test

If the data file looks like this:

something xxx"def",2

The resulting rows will be ("abc",1) and ("def",2). The third row in the file will be skipped because it does not contain the prefix.

The IGNORE number LINES option can be used to ignore lines at the start of the file. For example, you can use IGNORE 1 LINES to skip over an initial header line containing column names:


When you use SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE in tandem with LOAD DATA INFILE to write data from a database into a file and then read the file back into the database later, the field- and line-handling options for both statements must match. Otherwise, LOAD DATA INFILE will not interpret the contents of the file properly. Suppose that you use SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE to write a file with fields delimited by commas:

  FROM table2;

To read the comma-delimited file back in, the correct statement would be:


If instead you tried to read in the file with the statement shown following, it wouldn't work because it instructs LOAD DATA INFILE to look for tabs between fields:


The likely result is that each input line would be interpreted as a single field.

LOAD DATA INFILE can be used to read files obtained from external sources. For example, many programs can export data in comma-separate values (CSV) format, such that lines have fields separated by commas and enclosed within double quotes. If lines in such a file are terminated by newlines, the statement shown here illustrates the field- and line-handling options you would use to load the file:

LOAD DATA INFILE 'data.txt' INTO TABLE tbl_name

Any of the field- or line-handling options can specify an empty string (''). If not empty, the FIELDS [OPTIONALLY] ENCLOSED BY and FIELDS ESCAPED BY values must be a single character. The FIELDS TERMINATED BY, LINES STARTING BY, and LINES TERMINATED BY values can be more than one character. For example, to write lines that are terminated by carriage return/linefeed pairs, or to read a file containing such lines, specify a LINES TERMINATED BY '\r\n' clause.

To read a file containing jokes that are separated by lines consisting of %%, you can do this

  joke TEXT NOT NULL);
LOAD DATA INFILE '/tmp/jokes.txt' INTO TABLE jokes
  LINES TERMINATED BY '\n%%\n' (joke);

FIELDS [OPTIONALLY] ENCLOSED BY controls quoting of fields. For output (SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE), if you omit the word OPTIONALLY, all fields are enclosed by the ENCLOSED BY character. An example of such output (using a comma as the field delimiter) is shown here:

"1","a string","100.20"
"2","a string containing a , comma","102.20"
"3","a string containing a \" quote","102.20"
"4","a string containing a \", quote and comma","102.20"

If you specify OPTIONALLY, the ENCLOSED BY character is used only to enclose values from columns that have a string data type (such as CHAR, BINARY, TEXT, or ENUM):

1,"a string",100.20
2,"a string containing a , comma",102.20
3,"a string containing a \" quote",102.20
4,"a string containing a \", quote and comma",102.20

Note that occurrences of the ENCLOSED BY character within a field value are escaped by prefixing them with the ESCAPED BY character. Also note that if you specify an empty ESCAPED BY value, it is possible to inadvertently generate output that cannot be read properly by LOAD DATA INFILE. For example, the preceding output just shown would appear as follows if the escape character is empty. Observe that the second field in the fourth line contains a comma following the quote, which (erroneously) appears to terminate the field:

1,"a string",100.20
2,"a string containing a , comma",102.20
3,"a string containing a " quote",102.20
4,"a string containing a ", quote and comma",102.20

For input, the ENCLOSED BY character, if present, is stripped from the ends of field values. (This is true regardless of whether OPTIONALLY is specified; OPTIONALLY has no effect on input interpretation.) Occurrences of the ENCLOSED BY character preceded by the ESCAPED BY character are interpreted as part of the current field value.

If the field begins with the ENCLOSED BY character, instances of that character are recognized as terminating a field value only if followed by the field or line TERMINATED BY sequence. To avoid ambiguity, occurrences of the ENCLOSED BY character within a field value can be doubled and are interpreted as a single instance of the character. For example, if ENCLOSED BY '"' is specified, quotes are handled as shown here:

"The ""BIG"" boss"  -> The "BIG" boss
The "BIG" boss      -> The "BIG" boss
The ""BIG"" boss    -> The ""BIG"" boss

FIELDS ESCAPED BY controls how to write or read special characters. If the FIELDS ESCAPED BY character is not empty, it is used to prefix the following characters on output:

  • The FIELDS ESCAPED BY character


  • The first character of the FIELDS TERMINATED BY and LINES TERMINATED BY values

  • ASCII 0 (what is actually written following the escape character is ASCII ‘0’, not a zero-valued byte)

If the FIELDS ESCAPED BY character is empty, no characters are escaped and NULL is output as NULL, not \N. It is probably not a good idea to specify an empty escape character, particularly if field values in your data contain any of the characters in the list just given.

For input, if the FIELDS ESCAPED BY character is not empty, occurrences of that character are stripped and the following character is taken literally as part of a field value. The exceptions are an escaped ‘0’ or ‘N’ (for example, \0 or \N if the escape character is ‘\’). These sequences are interpreted as ASCII NUL (a zero-valued byte) and NULL. The rules for NULL handling are described later in this section.

For more information about ‘\’-escape syntax, see Section 9.1, “Literal Values”.

In certain cases, field- and line-handling options interact:

  • If LINES TERMINATED BY is an empty string and FIELDS TERMINATED BY is non-empty, lines are also terminated with FIELDS TERMINATED BY.

  • If the FIELDS TERMINATED BY and FIELDS ENCLOSED BY values are both empty (''), a fixed-row (non-delimited) format is used. With fixed-row format, no delimiters are used between fields (but you can still have a line terminator). Instead, column values are written and read using the display widths of the columns. For example, if a column is declared as INT(7), values for the column are written using seven-character fields. On input, values for the column are obtained by reading seven characters.

    LINES TERMINATED BY is still used to separate lines. If a line does not contain all fields, the rest of the columns are set to their default values. If you do not have a line terminator, you should set this to ''. In this case, the text file must contain all fields for each row.

    Fixed-row format also affects handling of NULL values, as described later. Note that fixed-size format does not work if you are using a multi-byte character set.

Handling of NULL values varies according to the FIELDS and LINES options in use:

  • For the default FIELDS and LINES values, NULL is written as a field value of \N for output, and a field value of \N is read as NULL for input (assuming that the ESCAPED BY character is ‘\’).

  • If FIELDS ENCLOSED BY is not empty, a field containing the literal word NULL as its value is read as a NULL value. This differs from the word NULL enclosed within FIELDS ENCLOSED BY characters, which is read as the string 'NULL'.

  • If FIELDS ESCAPED BY is empty, NULL is written as the word NULL.

  • With fixed-row format (which is used when FIELDS TERMINATED BY and FIELDS ENCLOSED BY are both empty), NULL is written as an empty string. Note that this causes both NULL values and empty strings in the table to be indistinguishable when written to the file because both are written as empty strings. If you need to be able to tell the two apart when reading the file back in, you should not use fixed-row format.

Some cases are not supported by LOAD DATA INFILE:

  • Fixed-size rows (FIELDS TERMINATED BY and FIELDS ENCLOSED BY both empty) and BLOB or TEXT columns.

  • If you specify one separator that is the same as or a prefix of another, LOAD DATA INFILE cannot interpret the input properly. For example, the following FIELDS clause would cause problems:

  • If FIELDS ESCAPED BY is empty, a field value that contains an occurrence of FIELDS ENCLOSED BY or LINES TERMINATED BY followed by the FIELDS TERMINATED BY value causes LOAD DATA INFILE to stop reading a field or line too early. This happens because LOAD DATA INFILE cannot properly determine where the field or line value ends.

The following example loads all columns of the persondata table:

LOAD DATA INFILE 'persondata.txt' INTO TABLE persondata;

By default, when no column list is provided at the end of the LOAD DATA INFILE statement, input lines are expected to contain a field for each table column. If you want to load only some of a table's columns, specify a column list:

LOAD DATA INFILE 'persondata.txt' INTO TABLE persondata (col1,col2,...);

You must also specify a column list if the order of the fields in the input file differs from the order of the columns in the table. Otherwise, MySQL cannot tell how to match input fields with table columns.

The column list can contain either column names or user variables. With user variables, the SET clause enables you to perform transformations on their values before assigning the result to columns.

User variables in the SET clause can be used in several ways. The following example uses the first input column directly for the value of t1.column1, and assigns the second input column to a user variable that is subjected to a division operation before being used for the value of t1.column2:

  (column1, @var1)
  SET column2 = @var1/100;

The SET clause can be used to supply values not derived from the input file. The following statement sets column3 to the current date and time:

  (column1, column2)

You can also discard an input value by assigning it to a user variable and not assigning the variable to a table column:

  (column1, @dummy, column2, @dummy, column3);

Use of the column/variable list and SET clause is subject to the following restrictions:

  • Assignments in the SET clause should have only column names on the left hand side of assignment operators.

  • You can use subqueries in the right hand side of SET assignments. A subquery that returns a value to be assigned to a column may be a scalar subquery only. Also, you cannot use a subquery to select from the table that is being loaded.

  • Lines ignored by an IGNORE clause are not processed for the column/variable list or SET clause.

  • User variables cannot be used when loading data with fixed-row format because user variables do not have a display width.

When processing an input line, LOAD DATA splits it into fields and uses the values according to the column/variable list and the SET clause, if they are present. Then the resulting row is inserted into the table. If there are BEFORE INSERT or AFTER INSERT triggers for the table, they are activated before or after inserting the row, respectively.

If an input line has too many fields, the extra fields are ignored and the number of warnings is incremented.

If an input line has too few fields, the table columns for which input fields are missing are set to their default values. Default value assignment is described in Section 11.1.4, “Data Type Default Values”.

An empty field value is interpreted differently than if the field value is missing:

  • For string types, the column is set to the empty string.

  • For numeric types, the column is set to 0.

  • For date and time types, the column is set to the appropriate “zero” value for the type. See Section 11.3, “Date and Time Types”.

These are the same values that result if you assign an empty string explicitly to a string, numeric, or date or time type explicitly in an INSERT or UPDATE statement.

TIMESTAMP columns are set to the current date and time only if there is a NULL value for the column (that is, \N), or if the TIMESTAMP column's default value is the current timestamp and it is omitted from the field list when a field list is specified.

LOAD DATA INFILE regards all input as strings, so you cannot use numeric values for ENUM or SET columns the way you can with INSERT statements. All ENUM and SET values must be specified as strings.

When the LOAD DATA INFILE statement finishes, it returns an information string in the following format:

Records: 1  Deleted: 0  Skipped: 0  Warnings: 0

If you are using the C API, you can get information about the statement by calling the mysql_info() function. See Section, “mysql_info().

Warnings occur under the same circumstances as when values are inserted via the INSERT statement (see Section 13.2.4, “INSERT Syntax”), except that LOAD DATA INFILE also generates warnings when there are too few or too many fields in the input row. The warnings are not stored anywhere; the number of warnings can be used only as an indication of whether everything went well.

You can use SHOW WARNINGS to get a list of the first max_error_count warnings as information about what went wrong. See Section, “SHOW WARNINGS Syntax”.

  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire