MariaDB Update Magic: Using SELECT for Dynamic Data Manipulation

sql update mariadb

Understanding the Concept

In MariaDB, you can leverage the power of UPDATE statements in conjunction with SELECT queries to dynamically modify your database tables. This technique is particularly useful when the new values for updating a table depend on calculations, aggregations, or data retrieved from other tables.

Structure of the Update Query

The general syntax for this approach is:

UPDATE table_name
SET column1 = new_value1,
     column2 = new_value2,
FROM table_name AS alias
WHERE join_condition (optional);

Breakdown of the Components:

  • UPDATE table_name: Specifies the table you want to update.
  • SET column1 = new_value1, column2 = new_value2, ...: Defines the columns to be updated and their corresponding new values. New values can be:
    • Literal values (e.g., numbers, strings)
    • Expressions involving calculations or functions
    • Results from a subquery (which is where the SELECT comes in)
  • FROM table_name AS alias: Identifies the table from which data is retrieved for updates. An alias (optional) can be used for clarity.
  • WHERE join_condition (optional): Filters the rows to be updated based on a specific condition. This is crucial to ensure you're updating the correct data.

Key Points and Considerations

  • Subquery Power: The SELECT subquery within the FROM clause provides the flexibility to dynamically determine the new values for updates. It can perform calculations, aggregations, or even retrieve data from other tables.
  • Data Correlation: Ensure there's a clear correlation between the rows in the UPDATE table and the results of the SELECT subquery. Usually, the join condition (using ON or implicit joins) establishes this relationship.
  • Performance: If you're updating a large number of rows or working with complex subqueries, consider using temporary tables or optimizing the subquery itself for better performance.
  • Testing: Thoroughly test your update query with a limited dataset before applying it to your entire table to avoid unintended modifications.

Example Scenario

Let's say you have a table products with columns id, price, and discount (percentage). You want to update the price column by applying the discount to the original price. Here's the query:

UPDATE products
SET price = price * (1 - discount / 100)
FROM products AS p;

This query accomplishes the following:

  • Updates the price column.
  • The new value is calculated using the existing price multiplied by (1 minus the discount divided by 100). This effectively applies the discount as a percentage.
  • Data for the update is retrieved from the products table itself (aliased as p).

Remember: Always test your update queries on a test dataset before applying them to your production database.

By effectively combining UPDATE and SELECT statements, you can streamline your MariaDB data manipulation tasks and achieve more sophisticated database operations!

Example 1: Applying Discount (Building on the Previous Scenario)

UPDATE products
SET price = price * (1 - discount / 100)
FROM products AS p;

This query updates the price column in the products table by applying the discount (percentage) to the original price.

Example 2: Updating Inventory Based on Sales

Imagine you have tables products (with id, quantity) and sales (with product_id, quantity_sold). You want to update the quantity in products based on recent sales:

UPDATE products p
SET p.quantity = p.quantity - s.quantity_sold
FROM products AS p
INNER JOIN sales AS s ON p.id = s.product_id;

Here's a breakdown:

  • UPDATE products p: Updates the products table, aliased as p.
  • SET p.quantity = p.quantity - s.quantity_sold: Reduces the quantity in products by the quantity_sold from sales.
  • FROM products AS p: Retrieves data from products (aliased as p).
  • INNER JOIN sales AS s ON p.id = s.product_id: Joins products and sales tables based on matching product IDs, ensuring the update only affects products with corresponding sales.

Example 3: Updating User Login Status with Last Login Time

Suppose you have a users table with id, username, and last_login columns. You want to update the last_login based on a successful login and set the user's is_logged_in status to 1:

UPDATE users u
SET u.last_login = NOW(), u.is_logged_in = 1
WHERE u.username = ? AND u.password = ?;


  • UPDATE users u: Updates the users table, aliased as u.
  • SET u.last_login = NOW(), u.is_logged_in = 1: Sets the last_login to the current timestamp (NOW()) and is_logged_in to 1.
  • WHERE u.username = ? AND u.password = ?: Filters the rows to be updated based on matching username and password (placeholders ? represent actual values you'll provide). This ensures only the authenticated user's status is updated.


  • Replace ? with actual values in the WHERE clause for secure updates based on specific criteria.
  • Adapt these examples to your specific table structures and update requirements.
  • Test your queries thoroughly before applying them to your production database.

Simple Updates with Literal Values:

  • If you're simply updating a column with a fixed value across all rows, a standalone UPDATE statement is more concise:
UPDATE products SET discount = 10;  // Sets discount to 10% for all products

Updates Based on Calculations:

  • For updates involving calculations that don't require data from other tables, a direct expression in the SET clause can be more efficient:
UPDATE products SET price = price * 1.1;  // Increases price by 10% for all products

Updates with Temporary Tables:

  • If your update logic involves complex calculations or aggregations on a large dataset, consider creating a temporary table to store the intermediate results before joining it with the target table for updates. This can improve performance by separating the data preparation and update steps.

Stored Procedures:

  • For frequently used, complex update logic, creating a stored procedure can encapsulate the logic and improve code reusability and maintainability.

Choosing the Right Method:

The best method depends on the complexity of your update logic, performance considerations, and personal preference. Here's a general guideline:

  • For simple updates with literal values, use a standalone UPDATE statement.
  • If calculations are involved, consider direct expressions in the SET clause or temporary tables for complex scenarios.
  • For reusable, complex update logic, stored procedures can be beneficial.

Remember, the key is to choose the method that provides the right balance of clarity, efficiency, and maintainability for your specific use case.

sql-update mariadb

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