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MySQL Cookbook by Paul DuBois

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Identifying and Removing Unattached Records

Problem

You have tables that are related (for example, they have a master-detail relationship). But you suspect that some of the records are unattached and can be removed.

Solution

Use a LEFT JOIN to identify unmatched values and delete them by adapting the techniques shown in Recipe 12.21. Or use a table-replacement procedure that selects the matched records into a new table and replaces the original table with it.

Discussion

The previous section shows how to delete related records from multiple tables at once, using the relationship that exists between the tables. Sometimes the opposite problem presents itself, where you want to delete records based on the lack of relationship. Problems of this kind typically occur when you have tables that are supposed to match up, but some of the records are unattached—that is, they are unmatched by any corresponding record in the other table.

This can occur by accident, such as when you delete a parent record but forget to delete the associated child records, or vice versa. It can also occur as an anticipated consequence of a deliberate action. Suppose an online discussion board uses a parent table that lists discussion topics and a child table that records the articles posted for each topic. If you purge the child table of old article records, that may result in any given topic record in the parent table no longer having any children. If so, the lack of recent postings for the topic indicates that it ...

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