This question is based on some testing I've done recently in order to better understand SQL indexing system.

Table with 500k entries, InnoDB engine

This is a simple select query on a varchar field. The name column is not indexed.

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After indexing these are the results:

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All good until this point. When I'm trying to place a wildcard at the beginning of the search key, even though the column is indexed, the result time is the one from the non-index case:

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I'm wondering why is this happening? Is it because the index cannot be used any more? Is this solvable in any way? can I achieve a better search time even though I'm using % both at the beginning and at the end of the search string?

Thank you!

1 Answer 1


If you want to see what indicies mysql is using, try using explain:


As for how indicies are used, when you have a wildcard at the start and end of the like expression, e.g. '%something%', then no, the index is not used, as per this reference:

The following SELECT statements do not use indexes:

SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE key_col LIKE '%Patrick%';
SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE key_col LIKE other_col;

In the first statement, the LIKE value begins with a wildcard character. In the second statement, the LIKE value is not a constant.


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