Version 10.0.0
Checkpoint (Architecture Guide)
Data StructuresSource Location


A checkpoint is a known point in time from which WiredTiger can recover in the event of a crash or unexpected shutdown. WiredTiger checkpoints are created either via the API WT_SESSION::checkpoint, or internally. Internally checkpoints are created on startup, shutdown and during compaction.

A checkpoint is performed within the context of snapshot isolation transaction as such the checkpoint has a consistent view of the database from beginning to end. Typically when running a checkpoint the configuration "use_timestamp=true" is specified. This instructs WiredTiger to set the checkpoint_timestamp to be the current stable_timestamp. As of the latest version of WiredTiger the checkpoint_timestamp timestamp is not used as a read_timestamp for the checkpoint transaction. The checkpoint_timestamp is written out with the metadata information for the checkpoint. On startup WiredTiger will set the stable_timestamp internally to the timestamp contained in the metadata, and rollback updates which are newer to the stable_timestamp see: WT_CONNECTION::rollback_to_stable.

The checkpoint algorithm

A checkpoint can be broken up into 5 main stages:

The prepare stage:

Checkpoint prepare sets up the checkpoint, it begins the checkpoint transaction, updates the global checkpoint state and gathers a list of handles to be checkpointed. A global schema lock wraps checkpoint prepare to avoid any tables being created or dropped during this phase, additionally the global transaction lock is taken during this process as it must modify the global transaction state, and to ensure the stable_timestamp doesn't move ahead of the snapshot taken by the checkpoint transaction. Each handle gathered refers to a specific b-tree. The set of b-trees gathered by the checkpoint varies based off configuration. Additionally clean b-trees, i.e. b-trees without any modifications are excluded from the list, with an exception for specific checkpoint configuration scenarios.

The data files checkpoint:

Data files in this instance refer to all the user created files. The main work of checkpoint is done here, the array of b-tree's collected in the prepare stage are iterated over. For each b-tree, the tree is walked and all the dirty pages are reconciled. Clean pages are skipped to avoid unnecessary work. Pages made clean ahead of the checkpoint by eviction are still skipped regardless of whether the update written by eviction is visible to the checkpoint transaction. The checkpoint guarantees that a clean version of every page in the tree exists and can be written to disk.

The history store checkpoint:

The history store is checkpointed after the data files intentionally as during the reconciliation of the data files additional writes may be created in the history store and its important to include them in the checkpoint.

Flushing the files to disk:

All the b-trees checkpointed and the history are flushed to disk at this stage, WiredTiger will wait until that process has completed to continue with the checkpoint.

The metadata checkpoint:

A new entry into the metadata file is created for every data file checkpointed, including the history store. As such the metadata file is the last file to be checkpointed. As WiredTiger maintains two checkpoints, the location of the most recent checkpoint is written to the turtle file.

Skipping checkpoints

It is possible that a checkpoint will be skipped. If no modifications to the database have been made since the last checkpoint, and the last checkpoint timestamp is equal to the current stable timestamp then a checkpoint will not be taken. This logic can be overridden by forcing a checkpoint via configuration.

Checkpoint generations

The checkpoint generation indicates which iteration of checkpoint a file has undergone, at the start of a checkpoint the generation is incremented. Then after processing any b-tree its checkpoint_gen is set to the latest checkpoint generation. Checkpoint generations impact visibility checks within WiredTiger, essentially if a b-tree is behind a checkpoint, i.e. its checkpoint generation is less than the current checkpoint generation, then the checkpoint transaction id and checkpoint timestamp are included in certain visibility checks. This prevents eviction from evicting updates from a given b-tree ahead of the checkpoint.

Garbage collection

While processing a b-tree, checkpoint can mark pages as obsolete. Any page that has an aggregated stop time pair which is globally visible will no longer be required by any reader and can be marked as deleted. This occurs prior to the page being reconciled, allowing for the page to be removed during the reconciliation. However this does not mean that the deleted page is available for re-use as it may be referenced by older checkpoints, once the older checkpoint is deleted the page is free to be used. Given the freed pages exist at the end of the file the file can be truncated. Otherwise compaction will need to be initiated to shrink the file, see: WT_SESSION::compact.