SQL Server Foreign Keys Don’t Always Improve Query Plans

Short and Lousy


This is one of the most frustrating things I’ve seen from the optimizer in quite a while.

Here are a couple tables, with a foreign key between them:

CREATE TABLE dbo.ct(id int PRIMARY KEY, dt datetime);

CREATE TABLE dbo.ct_fk(id int PRIMARY KEY, dt datetime);

ALTER TABLE dbo.ct ADD CONSTRAINT
    ct_c_fk FOREIGN KEY (id) REFERENCES dbo.ct_fk(id);

When we use the EXISTS clause, join elimination occurs normally:

SELECT COUNT_BIG(*) AS [?]
FROM dbo.ct AS c
WHERE EXISTS
(
    SELECT 1/0
    FROM dbo.ct_fk AS cf
    WHERE cf.id = c.id
);
SQL Server Query Plan
all the chickens

But when we use NOT EXISTS, it… doesn’t.

SELECT COUNT_BIG(*) AS [?]
FROM dbo.ct AS c
WHERE NOT EXISTS
(
    SELECT 1/0
    FROM dbo.ct_fk AS cf
    WHERE cf.id = c.id
);
SQL Server Query Plan
?

Thanks for reading!

Going Further


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