Dom Dom - 9 months ago 26
SQL Question

What is the difference between a primary key and a surrogate key?

I googled a lot, but I did not find the exact straight forward answer with an example.

Any example for this would be more helpful.


The primary key is a unique key in your table that you choose that best uniquely identifies a record in the table. All tables should have a primary key, because if you ever need to update or delete a record you need to know how to uniquely identify it.

A surrogate key is an artificially generated key. They're useful when your records essentially have no natural key (such as a Person table, since it's possible for two people born on the same date to have the same name, or records in a log, since it's possible for two events to happen such they they carry the same timestamp). Most often you'll see these implemented as integers in an automatically incrementing field, or as GUIDs that are generated automatically for each record. ID numbers are almost always surrogate keys.

Unlike primary keys, not all tables need surrogate keys, however. If you have a table that lists the states in America, you don't really need an ID number for them. You could use the state abbreviation as a primary key code.

The main advantage of the surrogate key is that they're easy to guarantee as unique. The main disadvantage is that they don't have any meaning. There's no meaning that "28" is Wisconsin, for example, but when you see 'WI' in the State column of your Address table, you know what state you're talking about without needing to look up which state is which in your State table.