7 Ways to Troubleshoot MySQL

MySQL databases are great work horses of the internet.  They back tons of modern websites, from blogs and checkout carts, to huge sites like Facebook.  But these technologies don’t run themselves.  When you’re faced with a system that is slowing down, you’ll need the right tools to diagnose and troubleshoot the problem.  MySQL has a huge community following and that means scores of great tools for your toolbox. Here are 7 ways to troubleshoot MySQL.

1. Use innotop

Innotop is a great tool for MySQL which despite the name monitors MySQL generally as well as InnoDB usage.  It’s fairly easy to install, just download the perl script. Be sure to include a [client] section to your local users .my.cnf file (you have one don’t you?).  Inside that section, place one line with “user=xyz” and one line with “password=abc”.

If you’re concerned that installing something new is too complicated, use the poor man’s version:

$ watch 'mysqladmin proc'

2. Analyze & Tune Queries

You’ve heard it before, so I hope you’re already doing it.  Not sure where to start?  Enable your slow query log first.  Set the long_query_time low enough to capture some queries.

Then use the great maatkit tool called mk-query-digest to analyze the slow.log file.  The results will amaze you.  You’ll quickly be able to sift for the heaviest four or five queries.

Next do an EXPLAIN for each of those queries from the command line prompt.  Isolate those lines which return a large number of rows.  Attempt to add columns in the WHERE clause to reduce these.  Already have a where clause?  Be sure that column is indexed.  Try to reduce sorting, consider how you are joining tables, and so forth.  Eliminate SELECT * and instead specify which columns you want, and which rows.

All these changes will make a huge impact on performance.

3. Verify & Troubleshoot Replication

Have you ever wondered if your replication is working properly?  Do you wonder if all the data in your slave database perfectly matches your master database?  As it turns out, the slave can silently drift out of sync with the master.  We are lucky when this happens and MySQL returns an error.

In either case you’ll need a tool to help you.  There are two included in maatkit which will come to your rescue.  The first mk-table-checksum is run periodically on the master.  It creates checksums in a table, and that tables data propagates through replication to the slave.  You then run another check with the same tool to verify the slave.

What happens if I find differences?  Well then you’ll turn to another wonderful Maatkit tool mk-table-sync designed specifically for that purpose.  Check the manual for details on usage.

4. Use Aspersa

Another great tool by Baron Schwartz author of Maatkit is the Aspersa toolset.  It helps you collect system information and then do performance profiling on that data.  Great diagnostic tool.

5. General Database Tuning

You may want to get a birds eye view on what is happening in your database.  How many tables are InnoDB versus MyISAM?  Am I using indexes well?  Am I doing too many joins?  Are there some memory settings that are not quite tweaked as best they can be.

To be sure much of this type of knowledge is learned with years of experience, there is a tool which can give you a healthy start.  Enter the MySQLTuner!

Grab a copy with wget.  Since they grabbed a .pl top-level domain, the command is quite simple to remember:

$ wget mysqltuner.pl

Then set execute permissions, and go!  Be sure to edit your .my.cnf file and include a [client] section so the tool can pickup your user/pass automatically!

6. Database Performance and Load Testing

As of 5.1 release of MySQL, all distributions include a really great tool for doing performance and load testing called mysqlslap.  You can hand it a query, tell it to run that query 10 times, 100 times, or in 10 threads and so forth.  It will fire consecutive queries at the database, and you can then capture the slow query log, or use innotop and the OS monitoring tools to see how the server responds.

7. Operating System Monitoring Tools

Most Unix folks are familiar with the interactive monitoring tool top.  If you’re not, please fire it up and watch it for a little while.  It will give you insight into what’s happening right now on your server.  Please also take a look at iostat to see what is happening as far as disk I/O goes.  Databases are generally disk hungry so keep a close eye on this output. A tool called mpstat will give insight into what your processors are doing.  Incidentally top can be configured to shop all of the individual processors as well, so check the options there for details.  Lastly sar can come to your assistance.  The acronym stands for system activity reporter, and tells you what Linux knows about the activity on the box.

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  • Sandy

    There is a great GUI tool to monitor MySQL – MONyog. Some of the highlighting features are:
    – Find problematic queries by reading slow, general log also MONyog has inbuilt sniffer which captures queries by executing SHOW PROCESSLIST and via MySQL proxy. Real time notification for long running queries.
    – 250+ Advisors which are written by MySQL experts.
    – Monitor system related(Linux) information like CPU consumption, Memory usage etc.
    – Dashboard and Server configuration to compare MySQL servers side-by-side
    – Replication tab which shows all Master and Slaves in a hierarchical manner.
    – Get alerts via email/SNMP traps in case of any critical events like server is down, connection limit.
    More features are listed here : http://www.webyog.com/en/monyog_feature_list.php

    • hullsean

      Thx @sandy9:disqus – We love Monyog too!