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A Deep Dive into Covering and Non-Covering Indexes

Etienne Lopes goes deeper than I thought:

A few days ago a client brought me a question, he had two tables with the same data, one in each database (same SQL version and compatibility level in different environments with similar infrastructure and configurations). Both tables had an extremely selective column and both had indexes in that column. The thing is that when running a particular query on one Database, let’s call it DB1 here, it was really fast whereas running the same query on the other database (DB2) it was a lot slower. The subset of rows that matched the WHERE clause was the same and it was really small in both cases (since the tables had the same data).

“Ok, let’s have a look at that”, I said, and when doing so, the query running on DB1 was doing a Clustered Index Seek whereas the same query in DB2 was doing a Table Scan. Didn’t I say that both tables had indexes in that column?

Read on for the post. Etienne warns that it’s a big boy of a post, and it covers a lot, including “seek” operations that are scans in disguise, index levels, and more.

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