Navigating MySQL Error 1069 (ER_TOO_MANY_KEYS): Resolving Excessive Key Specifications

In MySQL, Error 1069 with the SQLSTATE code 42000 is an indication that a table has been defined with more keys than the storage engine supports. The error message “Too many keys specified; max %d keys allowed” specifies the maximum number of keys permitted, and the ‘%d’ will be replaced by the storage engine’s limit.

Understanding Error 1069 – SQLSTATE: 42000 (ER_TOO_MANY_KEYS)

This error typically arises during table creation or alteration when the number of keys (indexes) exceeds the maximum number allowed by the MySQL storage engine. For MyISAM, the default limit is 64 keys, and for InnoDB, the limit is 3500 in MySQL 5.7.7 and later (though it can be less in earlier versions).

Diagnosing the Issue

To diagnose Error 1069, review the table schema to count the number of keys defined. Compare this count with the maximum number allowed by the storage engine you are using.

Fixing the Error

Example 1: Reducing the Number of Indexes

Review your table’s indexes and remove any that are not necessary for your queries:

ALTER TABLE table_name DROP INDEX index_name;

Replace table_name with the name of your table and index_name with the name of the index you want to drop.

Example 2: Combining Indexes

If possible, combine multiple single-column indexes into a multi-column index that serves the same queries:

ALTER TABLE table_name 
  DROP INDEX index_name1,
  DROP INDEX index_name2,
  ADD INDEX new_combined_index (column1, column2);

Example 3: Increasing the Maximum Allowed Keys

In the case of MyISAM, you can recompile MySQL to increase the maximum number of keys. However, this is an advanced operation and should be done with caution:

  1. Download the MySQL source code.
  2. Modify the source code to increase the limit in the header file (e.g., myisam.h).
  3. Recompile and reinstall MySQL.

Example 4: Changing the Storage Engine

If you are using MyISAM and hitting the key limit, consider migrating to InnoDB, which supports a higher number of indexes:

ALTER TABLE table_name ENGINE = InnoDB;

Example 5: Reviewing Schema Design

Reevaluate your database schema design. A table with too many indexes might be a sign that the table is trying to do too much or is not normalized properly.

Example 6: Using Partial Indexes

For large VARCHAR or TEXT columns, use a prefix as the index instead of indexing the entire column:

ALTER TABLE table_name ADD INDEX index_name (column_name(10));

This creates an index on the first 10 characters of column_name.

Example 7: Prioritizing Indexes

Determine which indexes are most important based on query performance and prioritize the creation of those indexes.


MySQL Error 1069 alerts you to the fact that your table has too many indexes for the storage engine’s capabilities. By carefully reviewing and optimizing your indexes, considering a change of storage engine, or even modifying your database schema, you can resolve this error. Regularly monitoring and optimizing your database’s indexes can prevent such errors and ensure efficient database performance.

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