Clustered Index / Non-Clustered Index

A clustered index (SQL Server, MySQL/InnoDB) is a table stored in an index B-Tree structure. There is no second data structure (heap-table) for the table.

A non-clustered index is an index that refers to another data structure containing further table columns.

Accessing table data via a secondary index (index on a clustered index) is slower than a similar query on a heap-table.

SQL Server supports clustered index optionally. You have a free choice between clustered indexes and heap-tables. There can be at most one clustered index per table. Dropping a clustered index transforms the table into a heap-table. Adding a clustered index to a heap table actually drops the heap structure. SQL Server supports non-unique clustered indexes on arbitrary columns. Creating an SQL Server table without clustering index requires the use of the NONCLUSTERED clause:


The MySQL InnoDB engine has mandatory clustered indexes. That means there is always a clustered index, often using the primary key. If there is no suitable unique key available, MySQL will use a generated row ID for that purpose. The MyISAM storage engine doesn’t support clustered indexes and uses heap-tables all the time.

The Oracle database has optional clustered indexes called Index-Organized Tables. They work on the primary key only.

About the Author

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Markus Winand tunes developers for high SQL performance. He also published the book SQL Performance Explained and offers in-house training as well as remote coaching at