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EXPLAIN -- show the execution plan of a statement




This command displays the execution plan that the PostgreSQL planner generates for the supplied statement. The execution plan shows how the table(s) referenced by the statement will be scanned---by plain sequential scan, index scan, etc.---and if multiple tables are referenced, what join algorithms will be used to bring together the required row from each input table.

The most critical part of the display is the estimated statement execution cost, which is the planner's guess at how long it will take to run the statement (measured in units of disk page fetches). Actually two numbers are shown: the start-up time before the first row can be returned, and the total time to return all the rows. For most queries the total time is what matters, but in contexts such as a subquery in EXISTS, the planner will choose the smallest start-up time instead of the smallest total time (since the executor will stop after getting one row, anyway). Also, if you limit the number of rows to return with a LIMIT clause, the planner makes an appropriate interpolation between the endpoint costs to estimate which plan is really the cheapest.

The ANALYZE option causes the statement to be actually executed, not only planned. The total elapsed time expended within each plan node (in milliseconds) and total number of rows it actually returned are added to the display. This is useful for seeing whether the planner's estimates are close to reality.

Important: Keep in mind that the statement is actually executed when ANALYZE is used. Although EXPLAIN will discard any output that a SELECT would return, other side effects of the statement will happen as usual. If you wish to use EXPLAIN ANALYZE on an INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, or EXECUTE statement without letting the command affect your data, use this approach:




Carry out the command and show the actual run times.


Show the full internal representation of the plan tree, rather than just a summary. Usually this option is only useful for debugging PostgreSQL. The VERBOSE output is either pretty-printed or not, depending on the setting of the explain_pretty_print configuration parameter.


Any SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, EXECUTE, or DECLARE statement, whose execution plan you wish to see.


There is only sparse documentation on the optimizer's use of cost information in PostgreSQL. Refer to Section 13.1 for more information.

In order to allow the PostgreSQL query planner to make reasonably informed decisions when optimizing queries, the ANALYZE statement should be run to record statistics about the distribution of data within the table. If you have not done this (or if the statistical distribution of the data in the table has changed significantly since the last time ANALYZE was run), the estimated costs are unlikely to conform to the real properties of the query, and consequently an inferior query plan may be chosen.

Prior to PostgreSQL 7.3, the plan was emitted in the form of a NOTICE message. Now it appears as a query result (formatted like a table with a single text column).


To show the plan for a simple query on a table with a single integer column and 10000 rows:


                       QUERY PLAN
 Seq Scan on foo  (cost=0.00..155.00 rows=10000 width=4)
(1 row)

If there is an index and we use a query with an indexable WHERE condition, EXPLAIN might show a different plan:


                         QUERY PLAN
 Index Scan using fi on foo  (cost=0.00..5.98 rows=1 width=4)
   Index Cond: (i = 4)
(2 rows)

And here is an example of a query plan for a query using an aggregate function:

EXPLAIN SELECT sum(i) FROM foo WHERE i < 10;

                             QUERY PLAN
 Aggregate  (cost=23.93..23.93 rows=1 width=4)
   ->  Index Scan using fi on foo  (cost=0.00..23.92 rows=6 width=4)
         Index Cond: (i < 10)
(3 rows)

Here is an example of using EXPLAIN EXECUTE to display the execution plan for a prepared query:

PREPARE query(int, int) AS SELECT sum(bar) FROM test
    WHERE id > $1 AND id < $2
    GROUP BY foo;


                                                       QUERY PLAN                                                        
 HashAggregate  (cost=39.53..39.53 rows=1 width=8) (actual time=0.661..0.672 rows=7 loops=1)
   ->  Index Scan using test_pkey on test  (cost=0.00..32.97 rows=1311 width=8) (actual time=0.050..0.395 rows=99 loops=1)
         Index Cond: ((id > $1) AND (id < $2))
 Total runtime: 0.851 ms
(4 rows)

Of course, the specific numbers shown here depend on the actual contents of the tables involved. Also note that the numbers, and even the selected query strategy, may vary between PostgreSQL releases due to planner improvements. In addition, the ANALYZE command uses random sampling to estimate data statistics; therefore, it is possible for cost estimates to change after a fresh run of ANALYZE, even if the actual distribution of data in the table has not changed.


There is no EXPLAIN statement defined in the SQL standard.