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Wal2 Mode Notes

Activating/Deactivating Wal2 Mode

"Wal2" mode is very similar to "wal" mode. To change a database to wal2 mode, use the command:

 PRAGMA journal_mode = wal2;

It is not possible to change a database directly from "wal" mode to "wal2" mode. Instead, it must first be changed to rollback mode. So, to change a wal mode database to wal2 mode, the following two commands may be used:

 PRAGMA journal_mode = delete;
 PRAGMA journal_mode = wal2;

A database in wal2 mode may only be accessed by versions of SQLite compiled from this branch. Attempting to use any other version of SQLite results in an SQLITE_NOTADB error. A wal2 mode database may be changed back to rollback mode (making it accessible by all versions of SQLite) using:

 PRAGMA journal_mode = delete;

The Advantage of Wal2 Mode

In legacy wal mode, when a writer writes data to the database, it doesn't modify the database file directly. Instead, it appends new data to the "<database>-wal" file. Readers read data from both the original database file and the "<database>-wal" file. At some point, data is copied from the "<database>-wal" file into the database file, after which the wal file can be deleted or overwritten. Copying data from the wal file into the database file is called a "checkpoint", and may be done explictly (either by "PRAGMA wal_checkpoint" or sqlite3_wal_checkpoint_v2()), or automatically (by configuring "PRAGMA wal_autocheckpoint" - this is the default).

Checkpointers do not block writers, and writers do not block checkpointers. However, if a writer writes to the database while a checkpoint is ongoing, then the new data is appended to the end of the wal file. This means that, even following the checkpoint, the wal file cannot be overwritten or deleted, and so all subsequent transactions must also be appended to the wal file. The work of the checkpointer is not wasted - SQLite remembers which parts of the wal file have already been copied into the db file so that the next checkpoint does not have to do so again - but it does mean that the wal file may grow indefinitely if the checkpointer never gets a chance to finish without a writer appending to the wal file. There are also circumstances in which long-running readers may prevent a checkpointer from checkpointing the entire wal file - also causing the wal file to grow indefinitely in a busy system.

Wal2 mode does not have this problem. In wal2 mode, wal files do not grow indefinitely even if the checkpointer never has a chance to finish uninterrupted.

In wal2 mode, the system uses two wal files instead of one. The files are named "<database>-wal" and "<database>-wal2", where "<database>" is of course the name of the database file. When data is written to the database, the writer begins by appending the new data to the first wal file. Once the first wal file has grown large enough, writers switch to appending data to the second wal file. At this point the first wal file can be checkpointed (after which it can be overwritten). Then, once the second wal file has grown large enough and the first wal file has been checkpointed, writers switch back to the first wal file. And so on.

Application Programming

From the point of view of the user, the main differences between wal and wal2 mode are to do with checkpointing:

Clients are recommended to use the same strategies for checkpointing wal2 mode databases as for wal databases - by registering a wal-hook using sqlite3_wal_hook() and attempting a checkpoint when the parameter exceeds a certain threshold.

However, it should be noted that although the wal-hook is invoked after each transaction is committed to disk and database locks released, it is still invoked from within the sqlite3_step() call used to execute the "COMMIT" command. In BEGIN CONCURRENT systems, where the "COMMIT" is often protected by an application mutex, this may reduce concurrency. In such systems, instead of executing a checkpoint from within the wal-hook, a thread might defer this action until after the application mutex has been released.