Benjamin Nevarez Rotating Header Image


Rebuilding Indexes vs. Updating Statistics

One of the questions I was asked recently while speaking at the Los Angeles SQL Server Professionals Group and the Orange County SQL Server User Group (*) was regarding the order in which jobs like rebuilding indexes or updating statistics should be executed as part of the database maintenance activities. In general you should consider the following important points, focusing in the fact that there are two kinds of statistics: index and column statistics.

1) By default, the UPDATE STATISTICS statement updates both index and column statistics. Using the COLUMNS option of this statement will update column statistics only. Using the INDEX option will update index statistics only.

2) By default, the UPDATE STATISTICS statement uses only a sample of records of the table. Using UPDATE STATISTICS WITH FULLSCAN will scan the entire table.

3) Rebuilding an index, for example by using the ALTER INDEX … REBUILD statement, will update only index statistics with the equivalent of using WITH FULLSCAN. Rebuilding indexes does not update any column statistics.

4) Reorganizing an index, for example using the ALTER INDEX … REORGANIZE statement, does not update any statistics.

So depending on your maintenance jobs and scripts several scenarios can exist. The simplest scenario is if you want to rebuild all the indexes and update all the statistics. As mentioned before, if you rebuild all your indexes then all the index statistics will also be updated by scanning all the rows on the table. Then you just need to update your column statistics by running an UPDATE STATISTICS WITH FULLSCAN, COLUMNS statement. Since the first job only updates index statistics and the second one only updates column statistics, it does not matter which one you execute first.

Some other more complicated scenarios include when you have jobs which rebuild your indexes based on their fragmentation level. Of course, the worst case scenario would be if you first rebuild your indexes, which also updates the index statistics by scanning the entire table, and later you run UPDATE STATISTICS using the default values, which again updates the index statistics but this time only with a default and smaller sample. Not only you are updating your index statistics twice but you are overwriting the better of the two choices.

Let me show you how these commands work with some examples using the AdventureWorks database. Create a new table dbo.SalesOrderDetail

SELECT * INTO dbo.SalesOrderDetail

FROM sales.SalesOrderDetail

The next query uses the sys.stats catalog view and shows that initially there are no statistics objects for the new table.

SELECT name, auto_created, stats_date(object_id, stats_id) AS update_date FROM sys.stats

WHERE object_id = object_id(‘dbo.SalesOrderDetail’)

Use this query using the sys.stats catalog again when asked to inspect the status of the statistics after each of the following commands. Now run the following query

SELECT * FROM dbo.SalesOrderDetail

WHERE SalesOrderID = 43670 AND OrderQty = 1

Use the previous sys.stats query to verify that two statistics objects were created, one for the SalesOrderID column and another one for the OrderQty column (they both have names starting with _WA_Sys as shown later). Run the following statement to create an index on the ProductID column.

CREATE INDEX ix_ProductID ON dbo.SalesOrderDetail(ProductID)

Run again the query to verify that a new statistics object for the ProductID column has been created. Notice the value of the auto_created column which tells if the statistics were automatically created by the query processor.

name                          auto_created      update_date

_WA_Sys_00000004_7F80E8EA     1                 2010-07-01 23:27:45.953

_WA_Sys_00000001_7F80E8EA     1                 2010-07-01 23:27:46.117

ix_ProductID                  0                 2010-07-01 23:29:41.110

Run the next statement to update the column statistics only. You can validate that only the column statistics were updated by looking at the update_date column which uses the STATS_DATE function to display the last date the statistics were updated.


name                          auto_created      update_date

_WA_Sys_00000004_7F80E8EA     1                 2010-07-01 23:34:13.753

_WA_Sys_00000001_7F80E8EA     1                 2010-07-01 23:34:13.850

ix_ProductID                  0                 2010-07-01 23:29:41.110

This statement will do the same for the index statistics


The next two statements will update both index and column statistics



See how an index rebuild only updates index statistics

ALTER INDEX ix_ProductID ON dbo.SalesOrderDetail REBUILD

Here you can verify that reorganizing an index does not update any statistics

ALTER INDEX ix_ProductID ON dbo.SalesOrderDetail REORGANIZE

Finally, remove the table you have just created

DROP TABLE dbo.SalesOrderDetail

* Updated from an article originally written in October, 2009