The INSERT INTO SQL clause is one of the golden standards for any database management system. The SQL query is part of the CRUD process for any DBMS and as its name suggests, it allows developers to add data into their database management systems, or, to be more concrete, it allows database administrators to insert data into their tables. Nothing revolutionary, right? Wrong!

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Read this blog and find out why!


The INSERT clause is part of the CRUD series of SQL commands. These commands help:

  • Create (INSERT) data into our database instances.
  • Read (SELECT) the data we already have existing in our database instances.
  • Update (UPDATE) the data existing in our databases.
  • Delete (DELETE) the data from our databases and tables within them.

The above commands are not news to anyone, but before digging into the INSERT INTO SQL query, we’d like you to be aware of them.

This is what the most basic INSERT query looks like so:

1 INSERT INTO dbvis(col1, col2) VALUES (‘col1, col2’);
An INSERT Query in DbVisualizer
An INSERT Query in DbVisualizer

The clause is split into a couple of parts:

  1. The INSERT INTO clause as a whole – it tells the database we’re inserting data into a table.
  2. The column definitions – we’re telling our database that we’re inserting data into these specific columns.
  3. The values we’re inserting – in this example, we’re inserting a value of “col1” into the column “col1” and a value of “col2” into the column “col2.”

These aspects form the basics of the INSERT clause. Let’s move on!

Optimizing INSERT INTO SQL Clauses

Now that we know how INSERT queries look like, it’s time to start optimizing them. Here’s what you can do to optimize your INSERT queries both now and in the future:

  • Basic profiling tells us that INSERT queries are going through a couple of phases – your DBMS starts, checks for permissions, opens tables, updates data (inserts data in this case), closes the tables, performs a couple of additional operations to free items etc. and cleans up its operations. Keep in mind that queries are tasks that are composed of smaller tasks – to make our INSERT (or any other) queries faster, we make their execution time shorter or make our DBMS avoid executing them altogether.
  • The performance of the INSERT query depends on how the query itself is structured – we also have an ability to construct an INSERT query with multiple values at once – if we construct our queries like that, they will run quicker (if you take backups of your database, the INSERT queries will also look precisely like this):
Bulk INSERT Queries
Bulk INSERT Queries
  • Inserting a lot of data into a locked table will be significantly faster than usual – if you have a lot of data, consider locking your tables (so noone can perform operations on them while the data is inserted) while you insert new data, then unlock it after you’re done:
LOCK and UNLOCK in Action
LOCK and UNLOCK in Action
  • Delaying data updates (commits) until the very last second helps too – see example below:
Delaying Commits
Delaying Commits

Using the example above we delay all commit operations until the very last INSERT INTO operation has been completed. That way we save disk I/O for our database and make INSERT INTO SQL operations faster as a result.

  • Put INSERTs into transactions if necessary – performing a single transaction will usually be quicker than performing 5000 INSERTs one after the other. That means using START TRANSACTION before INSERTs, and COMMIT after them.
  • Look into the I/O capabilities of your engine – if you have 128GB of RAM and you only let your database use 256MB of it, don’t expect satisfactory performance. That’s why it’s wise to look into your database configuration (postgresql.conf for PostgreSQL, my.cnf for MySQL, etc.) and ensure that your storage engine is using the maximum of its capabilities. Here are some basic my.cnf configuration settings for the main MySQL storage engine – InnoDB:
InnoDB configuration settings in my.cnf
InnoDB configuration settings in my.cnf

Always have a read through documentation of your DBMS of choice and adjust parameters accordingly – servers do a lot, but remember that the power of your databases depends on their configuration, too.

  • Keep locking in mind – all databases utilize locking differently and locks can heavily impact INSERT query performance. Always keep in mind that locking can either be row-level or table-level and that means that your database either acquires locks on a row-basis or table-basis meaning that you cannot perform any operations on rows or entire tables, depending on which locking method you use.
  • Use lifehacks – query performance can also be drastically improved by employing lifehacks. Keep reading and we’ll tell you what they are!

These tips should be enough to drastically improve your INSERT query performance. If they don’t help, use lifehacks.

Lifehacks for INSERT Queries

Want to cut corners to insert data? You can! There are a couple of methods that help you do that:

Consider using INSERTs together with SELECTs – always try combining INSERTs with SELECTs if nothing else helps:

INSERTs and SELECTs in Conjunction
INSERTs and SELECTs in Conjunction

We can’t guarantee that your INSERT INTO SQL clause will become 250% faster because of this, but if nothing helps (or if you simply don’t have enough time to wait), try this as well.

Use the DEFAULT clause – if you’re inserting data into some columns and need one value to be in some of the other columns, using the DEFAULT clause can help immensely because after using this clause, your database will pre-fill the values needed. Come back and read that again – pre-fill the values.

Creating a table like so will mean that the value of the dbvis column will be DbVisualizer without needing to insert anything into it in the first place:

Using the DEFAULT Clause in Place of INSERTs
Using the DEFAULT Clause in Place of INSERTs

Use LOAD DATA INFILE – LOAD DATA INFILE is designed for bulk data importing. It is significantly faster than INSERT because it doesn’t carry any of the overhead that INSERT queries do. Here’s an example:


Make sure that the data you’re loading into your table is residing in the directory defined in the secure-file-priv privilege inside of your my.cnf file. This clause comes with many parameters we can use to insert our data including the partition parameter (what parameter to insert data into), the IGNORE option to ignore errors, the FIELDS TERMINATED BY option to define what character the fields will be terminated by, etc. LOAD DATA INFILE is described in detail here.

The last thing you should do is ensure that you have sufficient knowledge over the basics of your databases. Reading blogs like this one is a great way to start – keep reading, learning, and you will be an expert in no-time. Make sure to use trusted SQL clients like DbVisualizer to easily edit your data like a spreadsheet, visualize the data you’re editing, protect the data inside of your database with a master password or export your data to a spreadsheet altogether – see all features.

DbVisualizer is used by worldwide companies like Tesla, Twitter, Google, NASA, and others, so you really don’t have anything to lose. Why not try it today?


In this INSERT INTO SQL guide, we have walked you through ways to improve INSERT query performance. Some of the ways we’ve shared are basic, some of the ways are more complex – take from this blog what you will, make sure to keep an eye on your databases at all times, and until next time.

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About the author
Leslie S. Gyamfi.
Leslie S. Gyamfi
Leslie Gyamfi is a mobile/web app developer with a passion for creating innovative solutions. He is dedicated to delivering high-quality products and technical articles. You can connect with him on LinkedIn
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