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How primary key snapshots work in Oracle

Note: In certain situations, particularly those involving data warehousing, snapshots may be referred to as materialized views. This section retains the term snapshot.

Snapshot Log

The snapshot log in a dump file is imported if the master table already exists for the database to which you are importing and it has a snapshot log. When a ROWID snapshot log is exported, ROWIDs stored in the snapshot log have no meaning upon import. As a result, each ROWID snapshot's first attempt to do a fast refresh fails, generating an error indicating that a complete refresh is required. To avoid the refresh error, do a complete refresh after importing a ROWID snapshot log. After you have done a complete refresh, subsequent fast refreshes will work properly. In contrast, when a primary key snapshot log is exported, the values of the primary keys do retain their meaning upon import. Therefore, primary key snapshots can do a fast refresh after the import.


A snapshot that has been restored from an export file has reverted to a previous state. On import, the time of the last refresh is imported as part of the snapshot table definition. The function that calculates the next refresh time is also imported. Each refresh leaves a signature. A fast refresh uses the log entries that date from the time of that signature to bring the snapshot up to date. When the fast refresh is complete, the signature is deleted and a new signature is created. Any log entries that are not needed to refresh other snapshots are also deleted (all log entries with times before the earliest remaining signature).

Importing a Snapshot

When you restore a snapshot from an export file, you may encounter a problem under certain circumstances. Assume that a snapshot is refreshed at time A, exported at time B, and refreshed again at time C. Then, because of corruption or other problems, the snapshot needs to be restored by dropping the snapshot and importing it again. The newly imported version has the last refresh time recorded as time A. However, log entries needed for a fast refresh may no longer exist. If the log entries do exist (because they are needed for another snapshot that has yet to be refreshed), then they are used, and the fast refresh completes successfully. Otherwise, the fast refresh fails, generating an error that says a complete refresh is required.

The MLOG$CUSTOMER snapshot log is created at snapshot definition time. The snapshot log contains the primary key of any row that was changed since the last time the snapshot was refreshed. In this example, there are three rows that have been changed and two rows that have been left unchanged.

When the refresh interval is reached, Oracle will perform the following three steps:
  1. Read the primary key from the mlog$ table
  2. gather the row from the master table, and
  3. propagate the row to the remote database