How To Compress Mysqldump Output

if you read my previous writeup on dumping all mysql databases you will recognize some of this information. I wanted to pay some specific attention to some of the different methods for how to compress mysqldump output.

Obviously compressing your mysql databased exports can have some major benefits. The biggest benefit is the smallness of the file size. Mysql databases and really all databases have the tendency to grow to large sizes. Even small websites can quickly find hundreds of megabytes worth of data in their database. Storing large database export files in your backup can eat up disk space pretty rapidly. Compressing your mysql output can reduce the size of your export file by seven or more times.

If you need to keep individual database backups then compression really makes sense. But if you are using something like rdiff-backup then it makes more sense to skip the compression. Rdiff-backup is unable to do a diff on the compressed data, so it won’t save the space you expect.

Basic Mysqldump Compression Commands

Here are a couple different variations of mysqldump piped compression commands which we will breakdown.

1: mysqldump -u dbUser -p DBName > OutputFile.sql
2: mysqldump -u dbUser -p DBName | gzip > OutputFile.sql.gz
3: mysqldump -u dbUser -p DBName | gzip -9 > OutputFile.sql.gz
4: mysqldump -u dbUser -p DBName | zip >
5: mysqldump -u dbUser -p DBName | bzip2 > OutputFile.sql.bz2

In these examples we see the same database being exported in each command. But there are a couple differences, in #1 we are employing no compression. Command #2 is using gzip with its default settings. Then command #3 is utilizing gzip with maximum compression. And finally command #4 is using zip to perform its compression.

Compression Commands Comparison

Testing the commands above on the same database and on the same hardware yielded the following results.

CommandFilesizeOutput Time
#544MB1m 18.701s
Output Mysql Database command results

The table above shows the effectiveness of each compression method on the same dataset. The first command sets the baseline for data export with no compression. Gzip applies basic compression and gives a significant size reduction with a very small speed hit. It comes in just a hair faster than zip with about the same compression results.

Adding the -9 to the Gzip command in #3 doubles the output time, and only provides 2MB of space savings. But then Bzip2 weighs in on command #5 taking an extra minute over Gzip or Zip. That extra minute was required to pack the file small enough to rescue another 13MB of space.

Compress Mysqldump Output Conclusions

If you can compress your database output, then you will see significant space savings in your backup storage. Even if backup speed is essential, gzip or zip offer a major reduction in size for minimal extra time. And if time is not a major issue then going with bzip2 will give you much larger space savings in exchange.

Understanding and utilizing compression as part of your backup methodology is an essential element for storage success. Proper implementation can ensure that you save the needed space and reduce backup transfer time. Especially in the event that you need to transfer your backup over a slow network connection. Compression will come to your aid and save the day. So don’t hesitate to compress mysqldump output, it might be just what the doctor ordered.

Further Reading

For additional details and info check out this post which talks more about Compressing Mysqldump Output

Dump All MySQL Databases into Individual SQL Files

Anyone who is responsible for managing a MySQL database will eventually run into this problem. You either need to dump all your MySQL databases for a backup, or to prepare for an upgrade. Whatever your circumstances are there are several different methods that can be employed to dump your MySQL DBs. Hopefully I can give you the basic tools to get you on your way.

Dump All DBs into a Single SQL File

This first method is what I would call the quick and dirty method. It is straight forward and just dumps all of the databases on a server into a single SQL file. For many individuals this is sufficient, but may not be a good option for larger databases or backup/restore processes. Since all of the DBs are bundled into a single file. Each of the values in brackets “[]” are placeholders for your own values.

mysqldump -u [username] -p --all-databases > allDB.sql

If all you need is to get a quick backup of everything this may be your ticket. The “–all-databases” flag does the magic here, dumping all of the MySQL databases into a single SQL file. More details on this method can be found here. But if you are wanting to be able to easily restore an individual database you may want to use an approach like this.

Dump All MySQL Databases into Individual Files

for I in $(mysql -u [username] -p[mypassword] -h [Hostname/IP] -e 'show databases' -s --skip-column-names); do mysqldump -u [username] -p[mypassword] -h [Hostname/IP] $I > "/home/user/$I.sql"; done

This command first calls “mysql” and gets a list of databases on the server. The command feeds that list of MySQL databases into “mysqldump” to get an individual SQL file for each database on the server. Finally those SQL files are then saved in the location indicated, “/home/user/dbname.sql” in this example.

A few things to note in this command are that first you will notice that I have included the password in the command. The command will complain that using the password on the command line is not safe. However it is required for the command to work. The “-p” is immediately followed by the password, without a space. This is how the option functions, if you add a space it will not work.

The “$I” is a variable and it will have all the database names in it, as it iterates through your listing of DBs. So as you modify the command to fit your specific setup, just make sure to keep that for consistency.

Additional Mysqldump Options

There are a couple of additional mysqldump options that you may want to add depending on your requirements.


This option keeps mysqldump from trying to get a complete lock on the database. It tells mysqldump to just grab a single transaction and dump the DB contents at the time of that transaction. This can be especially helpful when you are dumping a DB that is especially large, or on a very busy server. Without this option mysqldump may timeout while waiting to get a lock on the DB.


If you are working with data that may contain emoticons you will want this flag. This ensures that your dumped sql file has the correct information to recreate the emoticons when the file gets reimported. Without this option, your emoticons will show up as strange/random text characters when you restore your backup.

Adding Compression

I don’t typically use compression on my SQL dumps since I like to use rdiff-backup as my backup mechanism. But for those who would like to compress their mysqldump in one step here is the basic gist of it.

mysqldump -u [username] -p --all-databases | gzip > allDB.sql.gz

You just pipe the output from the mysqldump command into gzip, or bzip2 to compress the contents. That can be easily added to the command above to dump all MySQL databases into individual files like so.

for I in $(mysql -u [username] -p[mypassword] -h [Hostname/IP] -e 'show databases' -s --skip-column-names); do mysqldump -u [username] -p[mypassword] -h [Hostname/IP] $I | gzip > "/home/user/$I.sql.gz"; done

Hopefully these examples help you get the backups you need. Have some fun along the way.