Text Types in MySQL - CHAR vs VARCHAR vs TEXT

When designing a database schema, one of the critical decisions is choosing the appropriate data types for storing text. MySQL offers several options for text storage, each with its own advantages and limitations. In this article, we'll explore the differences between CHAR, VARCHAR, and TEXT data types, as well as their variations -- TINYTEXT, MEDIUMTEXT, and LONGTEXT -- to help you make informed decisions in your database designs.

Data TypeMaximum LengthStorageProsCons
CHAR(n)Up to 255FixedFast for searching and sorting due to fixed width.Wastes space for shorter strings, limited to 255 characters.
VARCHAR(n)Up to 65,535VariableEfficient storage for variable-length strings.Slightly slower for sorting and searching, limited to 65,535 characters.
TEXTUp to 65,535VariableVersatile for large text data, suitable for large documents.Slower performance for indexing, sorting, and searching.
TINYTEXTUp to 255VariableEfficient storage for small text data.Limited to 255 characters.
MEDIUMTEXTUp to 16,777,215VariableAllows for larger text data storage.May have performance implications for very large text.
LONGTEXTUp to 4GBVariableIdeal for extremely large text values.Performance considerations for storage and retrieval speed.

1. CHAR(n)

The CHAR data type is used for storing fixed-length character strings. When you define a CHAR column, you specify the maximum number of characters it can hold. If the actual string is shorter than the specified length, MySQL pads it with spaces.

Because strings are always padded to the specified length, CHAR columns have a fixed storage size, which can be beneficial for certain queries, but could waste space in other instances. Additionally, because CHAR columns are always padded with spaces at the end, queries will omit any trailing spaces when retrieving data. So if your strings have trailing spaces that are significant, you may lose that information when using CHAR columns.


  • Fixed-length storage can lead to better performance for certain types of queries, especially when all values are consistently sized.

  • CHAR columns are faster for searching and sorting due to their fixed width.


  • Wastes storage space for strings shorter than the specified length, as MySQL pads them with spaces.

  • Not suitable for storing variable-length strings.

  • Loses any trailing spaces when retrieving data, which may affect certain applications.


VARCHAR is a variable-length character string type. Similar to CHAR, you specify a maximum length for the column, but VARCHAR only consumes as much storage as needed for the actual data. You can store strings of varying lengths in a VARCHAR column, making it more flexible than CHAR. You can specify the maximum length of the VARCHAR column (VARCHAR(max_length)), but the actual storage size will depend on the length of the data you insert.


  • Efficient storage for variable-length strings, as it only uses the necessary space.

  • Suitable for storing data where the length varies significantly between records.


  • Slightly slower than CHAR for sorting and searching, as MySQL needs to account for variable lengths.

  • Limited to a maximum length of 65,535 characters in MySQL.


TEXT is a versatile data type for storing large amounts of text data. It's particularly useful when the length of the text exceeds the limits of VARCHAR.


  • Can store large text data, up to 65,535 characters in MySQL.

  • More flexible than VARCHAR or CHAR, as it can handle large documents or blocks of text.


  • Slower performance compared to VARCHAR or CHAR for indexing, sorting, and searching.

  • Not suitable for small, fixed-length strings due to potential storage overhead.


In addition to the basic TEXT type, MySQL offers variations to accommodate different sizes of text data:

  • TINYTEXT: Stores up to 255 characters.

  • MEDIUMTEXT: Can store up to 16,777,215 characters.

  • LONGTEXT: Provides storage for extremely large text values, up to 4GB in size.

These variations offer flexibility in choosing the appropriate size based on your application's requirements. However, keep in mind that larger text types may have performance implications, especially in terms of storage and retrieval speed.


Choosing the right text type in MySQL depends on various factors such as the expected length of the text data, performance considerations, and storage requirements. While CHAR and VARCHAR are suitable for storing relatively small to medium-sized strings, TEXT types excel in handling large blocks of text. Understanding the trade-offs between these data types will help you design efficient and scalable database schemas for your applications.

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