Understanding and Working with ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY in MySQL


ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY: This is a mode in MySQL that enforces stricter rules on how you can use the GROUP BY clause in your queries. It ensures that only columns used in aggregation functions (like COUNT, SUM, AVG) or included in the SELECT clause are also present in the GROUP BY clause.

Disabling: Sometimes, you might have queries that are functionally correct but don't strictly follow these rules. Disabling "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY" allows those queries to run without errors.

Here's how you can disable it:

  1. Check Current Mode: First, you need to see if "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY" is currently enabled. Run the following query in your MySQL client:
SELECT @@sql_mode;

This will show you a list of enabled SQL modes, including "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY" if it's active.

  1. Modification: There are two main ways to disable it:

    • Temporary: This affects the current session only. Use the following query, replacing "current_mode" with the actual retrieved mode from step 1, but removing "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY" from it:
    SET SESSION sql_mode = REPLACE(current_mode, 'ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY', '');
    • Permanent: This disables it for all future sessions. You need to edit the MySQL configuration file. This file location can vary depending on your setup, but it's usually /etc/my.cnf or /etc/mysql/my.cnf. Edit the file (with root privileges) and locate the [mysqld] section. Add a line like this (replacing "current_mode" as mentioned before):

    Save the changes and restart the MySQL server for the modifications to take effect.

  2. Verification: After making changes, run the SELECT @@sql_mode; query again to confirm "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY" is no longer listed.

Important Considerations:

  • Disabling "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY" can lead to unexpected results in your queries if they aren't properly written. It's generally recommended to fix your queries to adhere to stricter group-by rules for better data integrity.
  • Disabling permanently should be done with caution, especially on shared servers.

Checking Current Mode:

SELECT @@sql_mode;

This query retrieves the current SQL mode settings, including whether "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY" is enabled.

Temporary Disabling (Assuming current_mode is the retrieved value):

SET SESSION sql_mode = REPLACE(current_mode, 'ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY', '');

This query modifies the SQL mode for the current session only. It removes "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY" from the existing current_mode string using the REPLACE function.

Permanent Disabling (Modifying my.cnf):

Note: Editing configuration files requires administrative privileges.

a. Locate the my.cnf file.

The location can vary depending on your system. Common locations include:

  • /etc/my.cnf
  • /etc/mysql/my.cnf

b. Edit the file (with root access).

You'll need a text editor with root access to modify the file.

c. Find the [mysqld] section.

Look for a section header like [mysqld] within the file.

d. Add the sql-mode line.

Within the [mysqld] section, add a new line like this (replace current_mode with the actual retrieved value):


This line sets the SQL mode for future sessions, excluding "ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY".

e. Save the changes and restart MySQL server.

Once the changes are saved, you need to restart the MySQL server for the new configuration to take effect. The specific command to restart the server depends on your operating system.

Here's an example of the complete process for permanent disabling:

  1. Connect to your server with root access.
  2. Edit /etc/my.cnf using a text editor with root access.
  3. Locate the [mysqld] section and add the line:
  1. Save the file.
  2. Restart the MySQL server using the appropriate command for your system.

Refactoring your Queries:

This is the preferred approach as it maintains data integrity and avoids potential issues. Here are ways to refactor your queries:

  • Include all necessary columns in GROUP BY: Analyze your query and ensure all columns used in aggregation functions (COUNT, SUM, AVG) or included in the SELECT clause are also present in the GROUP BY clause. This will satisfy the ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY mode without disabling it.
  • Use window functions: In some cases, you can leverage window functions like SUM or AVG over partitions defined by the desired grouping columns. This allows you to achieve the desired results without needing all columns in the GROUP BY clause.

User-Defined Functions (UDFs):

For complex scenarios, you might consider creating custom UDFs (User-Defined Functions) that handle the grouping logic internally. However, UDFs can introduce performance overhead and require additional development effort.


If you have frequently used queries that violate ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY, you can create a view that pre-processes the data and presents the desired grouped results. This way, your main queries can interact with the view without needing to modify the ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY mode.

Here's a table summarizing the methods:

Refactoring QueriesModify queries to adhere to ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY rulesPreferred approach, maintains data integrity
Window FunctionsUtilize window functions for grouping and aggregationConsider for specific scenarios only
User-Defined Functions (UDFs)Create custom functions for complex grouping logicUse with caution due to performance overhead
ViewsPre-process data in a view for simpler main queriesCan be helpful for frequently used complex queries

Remember, disabling ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY is a workaround and should be a last resort. By refactoring your queries or exploring alternative approaches, you can achieve the desired results while maintaining data integrity and adhering to best practices.


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