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Clustered Index in SQL Server


What is a clustered index?

The clustered index is a unique index which sorts and stores the data in the table or view based on their key values. There can be only one clustered index per table because the data rows themselves can be stored in only one order. If we talk in term of B-Tree design, the leaf nodes of the index store the data for the rest of the columns in the table so when a lookup is performed on this type of index, there are no other structures that need to be referenced.

Why create clustered indexes?

Having clustered index in the table is beneficial; first, when querying the table, there is only required IO operations occurred except extra lookup to get any/all of the non-key column data. Second, it gives us a way to recognize the table data. If there is no clustered index on the table, then data stored disorganized in a heap structure. When our data becomes defragmented due to DML operations, then the only way to fix this fragmentation is to reload all the data into a new table. With a clustered index in the table, we can run index reorganized or rebuild to address the fragmentation.

When clustered indexes should be created?

Generally, we use an index on those columns which heavily used in WHERE clause portion in the query. As we know query performs huge range scans on those columns in the WHERE clause can be beneficial from having a clustered index on these columns. In both cases, we will use fewer disk IO and in some cases (depending on the ORDER BY clause) we can save ourselves memory and CPU by not having to perform a sort since data is already ordered.

How to create a clustered index

A clustered index can be created on the table either through a primary key constraint or simply using the create index statement. In both cases, we have to add the CLUSTERED keyword to either the ALTER TABLE or CREATE INDEX statement as shown in the below TSQL examples.


-- When we create a primary key
ALTER TABLE Sales.BookInventory ADD CONSTRAINT PK_BookInventory_BookID
PRIMARY KEY CLUSTERED (BookID ASC);

-- Without constraints
CREATE CLUSTERED INDEX IX_BookInventory_BookID ON Sales.BookInventory (BookID ASC);


Here I will highlight some important thing on the clustered index and will analysis of myth about the clustered index.

1-    It is essential to know; only one clustered index can be defined on each table in your database.
2-    Changing the clustered index from one column to another column may be a bit complicated and does require some downtime. Since all non-clustered indexes on table reference the row data in the clustered index if we drop the current clustered index and create a new one, then all of the non-clustered indexes will end up being updated twice.
3-    When clustered index will be dropped, all data of the columns will move into heap it will be updating seconds time when new the new clustered index is created, and all the column data move into the structure.
4-    Dropped and create new index may probably increase the fragmentation, which is poison for index. So we have to rebuild all the indexes.
5-    Many people or new DBA think, we can create clustered index only on primary key column(s), this is not true, you can create clustered index on another column too which probably used more in WHERE clause. Suppose you have created a table and create an index on the primary key which rarely used in WHERE clause while DateTime columns use mostly in the query, so it would be better if you create clustered index on DATETIME column.
6-    Remember, it would be better if the clustered index column has unique data and sort in length.

Query to change the clustered index

I above points I mentioned, changing the clustered index in tables is may be dangerous but the following query may help you.

Suggestion: If you are not DBA then don’t take the risk, contact to your DBA he will help you.



DROP INDEX AK_BookOrder_rowguid ON Sales.BookOrder;
DROP INDEX IX_BookOrder_ProductID ON Sales.BookOrder;
ALTER TABLE Sales.BookOrder
   DROP CONSTRAINT PK_BookOrder_BookOrderID_BookOrderID;
CREATE CLUSTERED INDEX IX_BookOrder_ProductID
   ON Sales.BookOrder (ProductID ASC);
ALTER TABLE Sales.BookOrder
   ADD CONSTRAINT PK_BookOrder_BookOrderID_BookOrderID
   PRIMARY KEY NONCLUSTERED (BookOrderID ASC, BookOrderID ASC);
CREATE UNIQUE NONCLUSTERED INDEX AK_BookOrder_rowguid
   ON Sales.BookOrder (rowguid ASC);