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Posted Oct 10, 2003

Oracle's Default TEMPORARY Tablespaces

By James Koopmann

While we all know that using the SYSTEM tablespace as a temporary tablespace is to be frowned upon, Oracle still lets us assign it as such. Let's take a look at how Oracle suggests handling the creation and assignment of TEMPORARY tablespaces.

Isn't it funny? We have all been told from early on in our DBA carriers that having the SYSTEM tablespace assigned as a TEMPORARY tablespace for any purpose what so ever is highly frowned upon. Yet, Oracle still allows us to implement the SYSTEM tablespace as TEMPORARY for user in our databases. While they are reluctant to make this a constraint when creating users, they have taken a step forward in the fight against DBAs assigning this precious tablespace as a TEMPORARY tablespace.

The Evolution of the New TEMPORARY Tablespace

In the old days, DBAs would create a normal tablespace and assign this to users to use as a temporary tablespace through the CREATE USER or ALTER USER commands. These tablespaces could hold temporary segments and permanent segments. Oracle's position at that time was to advise everyone not to place permanent segments into these tablespaces that were also being used as TEMPORARY tablespaces for users.

Oracle then implemented the notion of a true TEMPORARY tablespace. These TEMPORARY tablespaces were to be assigned to users at creation time and could only hold temporary segments. This was a great step in the right direction because now we could not place permanent objects into them and users could no longer be assigned permanent tablespaces as their temporary tablespaces. The problem was and still is that when you create a user, you might forget to specify the users' temporary tablespace and thus the users' temporary table space would be defined as the SYSTEM tablespace.

Now Oracle has gone yet another step further and allowed us to create a DEFAULT TEMPORARY tablespace for the entire database. The benefit this gives is if we forget to specify a temporary tablespace for the user, they will inherit the DEFAULT TEMPORARY tablespace as theirs. Let's go a bit further and look at the individual pieces that make this all possible.

The SYSTEM Tablespace

Discussion of TEMPORARY tablespaces would not be complete if we did not talk about the SYSTEM tablespace. After all, this is from where the true problem stems. If we have not setup a DEFAULT TEMPORARY tablespace properly or specify what temporary tablespace a user gets when creating him, he will be assigned the SYSTEM tablespace as his temporary tablespace.

One way to force yourself into using DEFAULT TEMPORARY tablespaces is to create a database that uses a SYSTEM tablespace that is locally managed. When you do this, by definition, the database must have a default temporary tablespace and this default temporary tablespace cannot be the SYSTEM tablespace. If you go this route and do not want to specify the DEFAULT TEMPORARY TABLESPACE clause, Oracle will take care of that for you and create one itself. Just remember if you go this route, the database cannot have any dictionary managed tablespaces in it.

If you already have a database that uses a dictionary managed SYSTEM tablespace, Oracle will allow you to migrate the dictionary managed SYSTEM tablespace to a locally managed tablespace. You can accomplish this by using the DBMS_SPACE_ADMIN PACKAGE. The statement looks like the statement in Listing 1.

Listing 1
Switch SYSTEM tablespace to locally managed


When doing the migration Listing 2 gives you a few items of which you need to be aware.

Listing 2
Items to be aware of when switching SYSTEM to locally managed tablespace

  1. The database will need to have a DEFAULT TEMPORARY tablespace defined.
  2. Rollback segments must also be in either locally managed tablespaces or must be using undo management.
  3. The system is in restricted mode when performing the switch.
  4. You might want to migrate all tablespaces to locally managed before the SYSTEM tablespace.
  5. You might want a cold backup.

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