Optimizer Hints v10

When you invoke a DELETE, INSERT, SELECT or UPDATE command, the server generates a set of execution plans; after analyzing those execution plans, the server selects a plan that will (generally) return the result set in the least amount of time. The server's choice of plan is dependent upon several factors:

  • The estimated execution cost of data handling operations.
  • Parameter values assigned to parameters in the Query Tuning section of the postgresql.conf file.
  • Column statistics that have been gathered by the ANALYZE command.

As a rule, the query planner will select the least expensive plan. You can use an optimizer hint to influence the server as it selects a query plan. An optimizer hint is a directive (or multiple directives) embedded in a comment-like syntax that immediately follows a DELETE, INSERT, SELECT or UPDATE command. Keywords in the comment instruct the server to employ or avoid a specific plan when producing the result set.


{ DELETE | INSERT | SELECT | UPDATE } /*+ { <hint> [ <comment> ] } [...] */

{ DELETE | INSERT | SELECT | UPDATE } --+ { <hint> [ <comment> ] } [...]

Optimizer hints may be included in either of the forms shown above. Note that in both forms, a plus sign (+) must immediately follow the /* or -- opening comment symbols, with no intervening space, or the server will not interpret the following tokens as hints.

If you are using the first form, the hint and optional comment may span multiple lines. The second form requires all hints and comments to occupy a single line; the remainder of the statement must start on a new line.


Please Note:

  • The database server will always try to use the specified hints if at all possible.
  • If a planner method parameter is set so as to disable a certain plan type, then this plan will not be used even if it is specified in a hint, unless there are no other possible options for the planner. Examples of planner method parameters are enable_indexscan, enable_seqscan, enable_hashjoin, enable_mergejoin, and enable_nestloop. These are all Boolean parameters.
  • Remember that the hint is embedded within a comment. As a consequence, if the hint is misspelled or if any parameter to a hint such as view, table, or column name is misspelled, or non-existent in the SQL command, there will be no indication that any sort of error has occurred. No syntax error will be given and the entire hint is simply ignored.
  • If an alias is used for a table name in the SQL command, then the alias name, not the original table name, must be used in the hint. For example, in the command, SELECT /*+ FULL(acct) */ * FROM accounts acct ..., acct, the alias for accounts, must be specified in the FULL hint, not the table name, accounts.

Use the EXPLAIN command to ensure that the hint is correctly formed and the planner is using the hint. See the Advanced Server documentation set for information on the EXPLAIN command.

In general, optimizer hints should not be used in production applications (where table data changes throughout the life of the application). By ensuring that dynamic columns are ANALYZED frequently, the column statistics will be updated to reflect value changes, and the planner will use such information to produce the least cost plan for any given command execution. Use of optimizer hints defeats the purpose of this process and will result in the same plan regardless of how the table data changes.



An optimizer hint directive.


A string with additional information. Note that there are restrictions as to what characters may be included in the comment. Generally, comment may only consist of alphabetic, numeric, the underscore, dollar sign, number sign and space characters. These must also conform to the syntax of an identifier. Any subsequent hint will be ignored if the comment is not in this form.


The remainder of the DELETE, INSERT, SELECT, or UPDATE command.

The following sections describe the optimizer hint directives in more detail.

default_optimization_modes access_method_hints specifying_a_join_order joining_relations_hints global_hints using_the_append_optimizer_hint parallelism_hints conflicting_hints