Press "Enter" to skip to content

Foreign Keys and Non-Changing Updates

Brent Ozar has a warning for us:

If you update a row without actually changing its contents, does it still hurt?

Paul White wrote in detail about the impact of non-updating updates, proving that SQL Server works hard to avoid doing extra work where it can. That’s a great post, and you should read it.

But foreign keys add another level of complexity. If you have foreign keys, and you tell SQL Server that you’re updating the contents of those related columns, SQL Server will check ’em even when the data isn’t changing.

Click through for the demonstration. I don’t think I agree with Brent’s dichotomy as laid out at the end of the post—the back-and-forth about removing keys would only make sense if you’re on the edge of the database equivalent of the production possibility frontier and expecting to move well beyond that point very soon. I’m not sure how well that describes the average company, but it’s a side quibble.