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How to export database and table schemas in MySQL

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In relational databases, the database schema defines the structure of the database and its component parts like tables, fields, and indexes. Extracting and exporting this information is useful in many scenarios, including backups, migrating to new environments, visualizing data structures, and managing these structures within a codebase.

In this short guide, we'll discuss how to export MySQL database schemas using the mysqldump command. While this utility can export many types of data from MySQL, we'll focus on extracting the data structures themselves in this guide.

Basic usage

The basic command needed to export the database schema from MySQL looks like this:

mysqldump --user=USERNAME --host=HOSTNAME --password --no-data DATABASE > schema.sql

The options here can be divided into two separate categories.

The first category defines the generic basic connection information that you need to provide in order to connect with any MySQL utility:

  • --user= / -u: The database username that you want to authenticate with
  • --password / -p: Force mysqldump to prompt for a password to authenticate
  • --host= / -h: The hostname or IP address of where MySQL is located
  • --port= / -p: The port number where MySQL is listening

If you are connecting to a local MySQL instance running in the default configuration, you can typically omit the host and port options.

The second category tells mysqldump what to export:

  • --no-data / -d: This tells the utility to only export the structure itself, not the records they contain

Additionally, the first non-option argument (represented here by the word "DATABASE") indicates the exact database to export.

Using this information, you could export the schema of a database called SALES using a limited user called sales_reporter with a command like this:

mysqldump --user=sales_reporter --password --no-data SALES > sales_database_schema.sql

Modifying the export behavior

The basic usage discussed above will output every structure related to the database in question. We can modify this behavior with a number of additional options.

Targeting more than one database

You can modify how many databases the export will target with one of the following options:

  • --databases / -B: Treat all name arguments as database names. This allows you to export the schema from multiple databases at the same time.
  • --all-databases / -A: Export all databases within MySQL (with the exception of the performance_schema database that is used internally)

So to dump all databases, you could use:

mysqldump --user=USERNAME --password --no-data --all-databases > all_schemas.sql

Or to dump the structure from three different databases, you could use:

mysqldump --user=USERNAME --password --no-data --databases FIRST SECOND THIRD > three_db_schemas.sql

Exporting only certain structures

You can also reduce the structures exported by naming specific tables to export as additional arguments after the database name.

For example, if three of the tables in your SALES database are called EMPLOYEE, STORE, and INVENTORY, you can export only those structures by typing:

mysqldump --user=USERNAME --password --no-data SALES EMPLOYEE STORE INVENTORY > some_sales_tables.sql

In this construction, the first argument is always assumed to the be database name and all additional named arguments are taken to be tables within that database. Because of this, this usage is incompatible with the --databases option which modifies how mysqldump interprets additional arguments.

Exporting additional structures

In addition to databases and tables, you can also explicitly export event and routine definitions by including these options:

  • --routines / -R: Include stored procedures and functions within the exported schema dump
  • --events / -E: Include the definition of Event Scheduler events in the output

For example, to include a dump of the database SALES that includes these extra definitions, you could type:

mysqldump --user=USERNAME --password --no-data --routines --events SALES > all_sales_schemas.sql

Other relevant options

Some additional options that can be useful depending on your goals include:

  • --add-drop-database: Add a DROP DATABASE statement to the dump file prior to each CREATE DATABASE statement. This ensures that any previously defined structure for a given database is removed first to avoid conflicts.
  • --single-transaction: Sets the transaction isolation level to "repeatable read" to help ensure a more consistent database state with storage engines like InnoDB. This dumps a snapshot of the database at the point-in-time when the dump is initialized.

These options can be added to your schema dump commands without altering the basic semantics or meaning of the other components.


Being able to export your schemas allows you to save your database structures outside of the database itself. This is helpful when setting up new environments, evolving your schema as your needs change, and visualizing the structure of the information you are storing.

About the Author(s)
Justin Ellingwood

Justin Ellingwood

Justin has been writing about databases, Linux, infrastructure, and developer tools since 2013. He currently lives in Berlin with his wife and two rabbits. He doesn't usually have to write in the third person, which is a relief for all parties involved.