What is a unique index?
A unique index on a column is an index on that column that also enforces the constraint that you cannot have two equal values in that column in two different rows. Example:
CREATE TABLE table1 (foo int, bar int);
CREATE UNIQUE INDEX ux_table1_foo ON table1(foo); -- Create unique index on foo.
INSERT INTO table1 (foo, bar) VALUES (1, 2); -- OK
INSERT INTO table1 (foo, bar) VALUES (2, 2); -- OK
INSERT INTO table1 (foo, bar) VALUES (3, 1); -- OK
INSERT INTO table1 (foo, bar) VALUES (1, 4); -- Fails!
Duplicate entry '1' for key 'ux_table1_foo'
The last insert fails because it violates the unique index on column foo when it tries to insert the value 1 into this column for a second time.
In MySQL a unique constraint allows multiple NULLs.
It is possible to make a unique index on mutiple columns.
Primary key versus unique index
Things that are the same:
- A primary key implies a unique index.
Things that are different:
- A primary key also implies NOT NULL, but a unique index can be nullable.
- There can be only one primary key, but there can be multiple unique indexes.
- If there is no clustered index defined then the primary key will be the clustered index.