Partial dumper for MySQL
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Info:MySQLPartialDump is a tool for MySQL that makes it easier to dump a section of a database in a meaningful way.
Author: Colin Howe (


MySQLPartialDump is a tool for MySQL that makes it easier to dump a section of a database in a meaningful way. For example, if you have a database of users with data for each user, you could use MySQLPartialDump to export the data for just a single user.

A full tutorial and explanation is below.




Imagine you run an online store and you have Customers and Orders. Each customer can have multiple orders. You want to get all the data for a customer as a SQL dump so that you can import it locally and do some testing with real data.

For the example, the customer table has these columns:

  • id - The unique ID for each customer
  • email address - The e-mail address of the customer

The order table has these columns:

  • id - The ID of the order
  • customer_id - A reference back to the customer table for the customer that placed this order

Each order can have multiple items on it. These are represented as OrderLines:

  • id - ID of the line
  • order_id - The owning order
  • product_id - The product for this line
  • quantity - The amount of product

The product table has these columns:

  • id - ID of the product
  • name - Name of the product

Create these tables in your local database with the following SQL:

CREATE DATABASE `dumper_tutorial` CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci;
USE `dumper_tutorial`;
CREATE TABLE `dumper_tutorial`.`Customer`(
    `email` VARCHAR(320),
    PRIMARY KEY(`id`));
CREATE TABLE `dumper_tutorial`.`Order`(
    `customer_id` INT,
    PRIMARY KEY(`id`));
CREATE TABLE `dumper_tutorial`.`OrderLine`(
    `order_id` INT,
    `product_id` INT,
    `quantity` INT,
    PRIMARY KEY(`id`));
CREATE TABLE `dumper_tutorial`.`Product`(
    `name` VARCHAR(200),
    PRIMARY KEY(`id`));

To get you started here is some SQL to populate the database with two customers and some orders orders:

USE `dumper_tutorial`;
INSERT INTO `Customer`(`id`, `email`) VALUES
    (1, ''),
    (2, '');
INSERT INTO `Order`(`id`, `customer_id`) VALUES
    (1, 1),
    (2, 2),
    (3, 2),
    (4, 1),
    (5, 1);
INSERT INTO `OrderLine`(`id`, `order_id`, `product_id`, `quantity`) VALUES
    (1, 1, 1, 2),
    (2, 2, 2, 1),
    (3, 3, 3, 1),
    (4, 3, 2, 2),
    (5, 4, 2, 1),
    (6, 5, 3, 1);
INSERT INTO `Product`(`id`, `name`) VALUES
    (1, 'Peopleware'),
    (2, 'Alice in Wonderland'),
    (3, 'Scrum in Practice');

MySQLPartialDump needs you to tell it how to crawl the database. You do this with a dump schema written in Python.

A simple schema for the above would be:

from mysqlpartialdump import Pk, From

pks = {

relationships = [
    From('Customer', 'id').to('Order', 'customer_id'),
    From('Order', 'id').to('OrderLine', 'order_id'),
    From('OrderLine', 'product_id').to('Product', 'id'),

callbacks = {

end_sql = ""

start_table = 'Customer'
start_where = 'id=%s'
start_args = ['1']

This is in the git repo as

You will need to set your database details at the top of the schema. You can then run a dump like so:

python -u <username> -s <password> -d dumper_tutorial

This will create an SQL dump called dump.sql.0 that contains only the information related to customer 1.

Selecting the start points

The start point for a crawl of the database is controlled by three variables:

  • start_table
  • start_where
  • start_args

These can be used together to get any set of rows from a single table. Try changing them to be:

start_where = '1=1'
start_args = []

This will output all customers in the database.

Specifying relationships

Relationships are all stored in the relationships variable and are written using a simple DSL. By default all relationships go in one direction. Try this:

start_table = 'Product'
start_where = '1=1'
start_args = []

This will give you a table of all the products but won't give you any orders for the products. To make this work you have to make the relationships bidirectional:

relationships = [
    From('Customer', 'id').to('Order', 'customer_id').bidirectional(),
    From('Order', 'id').to('OrderLine', 'order_id').bidirectional(),
    From('OrderLine', 'product_id').to('Product', 'id').bidirectional(),

This schema is saved in Doing a dump with this schema will give the whole database. It is easy to change it to give you all orders (and the customers who placed the order) for a single product.

Cleansing Data

We've just been a little naughty and taken a copy of our customers - complete with e-mail addresses. This is the sort of thing that can lead to disaster!

This is where the callbacks section comes in handy. You can create a callback to make the e-mail addresses safe to distribute. Add the following to your schema (a full copy is in

def clean_email(row):
    row['email'] = "%s%d"%(row['email'][:3], hash(row['email']))
    return row

Then alter callbacks to be:

callbacks = {
    'Customer': clean_email,

This will call clean_email for every single row in the Customer table. This will give us a copy of the database that is safer to distribute as it now has no e-mail addresses in it.

Batch sizes

Some tables can be quite wide and doing bulk inserts to these tables may need fine tuning. To do this you specify a batch size when creating the primary keys:

pks = {
    'Customer': Pk(['id']).in_batches(1),
    'Order': Pk(['id']),
    'OrderLine': Pk(['id']),
    'Product': Pk(['id']),

If you run this ( and look at dump.sql.0 you will see that the Customer table has two inserts instead of one.

Large datasets and cycles

MySQLPartialDump will, by default, keep a record of all the primary keys of rows it has seen. It uses this information to prevent duplicate rows being inserted. This is why the example using bidirectional relationships doesn't loop forever.

You can disable this behaviour when you create the primary keys. However, this can lead to duplicate inserts into the database (which may fail) or, worse, a dump that never ends.

You can create a dump schema ( that won't import by changing the primary keys as follows:

from mysqlpartialdump import NO_KEY_CACHE
pks = {
    'Customer': Pk(['id'], NO_KEY_CACHE),
    'Order': Pk(['id']).in_batches(1),
    'OrderLine': Pk(['id']),
    'Product': Pk(['id']),

Here we have used NO_KEY_CACHE as an option to the primary key. This option turns off the key caching described above. By combining this with batching Order in batches of 1 we will get a single Customer row insert for each Order:

INSERT  INTO Order(`id`,`customer_id`) VALUES(2,2);
INSERT  INTO Customer(`id`,`email`) VALUES(2,'bob-3439811783597610316');
INSERT  INTO Order(`id`,`customer_id`) VALUES(3,2);
INSERT  INTO Customer(`id`,`email`) VALUES(2,'bob-3439811783597610316');

This will fail on the second insert to Customer due to a primary key conflict. To solve this we can specify that duplicates can be ignored (

from mysqlpartialdump import NO_KEY_CACHE, ALLOW_DUPLICATES
pks = {
    'Customer': Pk(['id'], NO_KEY_CACHE, ALLOW_DUPLICATES),
    'Order': Pk(['id']).in_batches(1),
    'OrderLine': Pk(['id']),
    'Product': Pk(['id']),

This generates SQL like the following:

INSERT  INTO Order(`id`,`customer_id`) VALUES(2,2);
INSERT IGNORE INTO Customer(`id`,`email`) VALUES(2,'bob-3439811783597610316');
INSERT  INTO Order(`id`,`customer_id`) VALUES(3,2);
INSERT IGNORE INTO Customer(`id`,`email`) VALUES(2,'bob-3439811783597610316');

The use of INSERT IGNORE instructs MySQL to ignore duplicate rows.

Arbitrary SQL

You may have noticed the end_sql variable in the dump schemas shown so far. This is used to add any arbitrary SQL at the end of a dump - such as recalculating tables that store calculated values for quick lookup.


Importing a big dump can be time consuming. It can be done quicker if the dump is split in to multiple files and each imported simultaneously. This can be achieved with the command line option chunks:

python -u <username> -s <password> -d dumper_tutorial --chunks=2

Each chunk will be output with a number at the end. In this case: dump.sql.0 and dump.sql.1 will be created.

Complex relationships

Some databases have complex relationships where a row may depend on a row from a table that is determined by some value in the row. For example:

  • our Product table could have a type column that is either 'book', 'dvd' or 'other'
  • If the type is 'book' then there is an associated row in the Book table
  • If the type is 'dvd' then there is an associated row in Dvd table
  • If the type is 'other' then there is no associated row in any table

This cannot be modelled with a simple static relationship. Instead you must use a callback:

def get_product_rel(row):
    if row['type'] == 'book':
        return ('Book', ('product_id', row['id']))
    elif row['type'] == 'dvd':
        return ('Dvd', ('product_id', row['id']))
        return None

Then to specify this as a relationship you can use CustomRelationship:

relationships = [
    CustomRelationship('Product', get_product_rel),

Controlling the output prefix

By default all output goes to a set of files starting with 'dump.sql'. This can be changed with the command line option --output.


Foreign keys are disabled

Foreign keys are disabled in the dumps. This is to prevent errors if you have foreign key constrains enabled.

No transactions

The dumps can get very large. For this reason transactions are NOT used in the dumps.

Where to get help

I'm on Twitter @colinhowe and also on github at