Configure MariaDB server on CentOS

  • Last updated on: 2018-05-30
  • Authored by: Jered Heeschen

The previous article covered a basic MariaDB® server setup on CentOS Linux, including setting the root password, creating a database, and creating a user for the database. Now let’s look at MariaDB in a little more detail to tweak its configuration and be ready in case something goes wrong.

Find the config files

By default, you’ll find MariaDB’s configuration file at the following location:


If it’s not there you can use mysqld to look for the configuration file by running the following command:

/usr/libexec/mysqld --help --verbose

You’ll get a lot of text back. The first part describes the options that you can send to the server when you launch it. The second part is all of the configuration information that was set when the server was compiled.

Near the start of the output, find a couple lines that look similar to the following lines:

Default options are read from the following files in the given order:
/etc/mysql/my.cnf /etc/my.cnf ~/.my.cnf

The server works down the list until it finds a configuration file.


Open the my.cnf file and have a look inside.

Any lines starting with # are comments, and they mostly document what the different settings are for. You’ll find details like the location of log files and where the database files are kept.

Config groups

There are lines in the config file that just contain a word in square brackets, like [client] or [mysqld]. Those are config groups and they tell the programs that read the configuration file which parts they should pay attention to.

MariaDB is technically a collection of tools that includes the server (mysqld), the client (mysql), and some other tools. Programs look in my.cnf to see how they should behave.

Basically, the mysql configuration section controls the client, and the mysqld section controls the server.

Log files

If something goes wrong, the best place to start troubleshooting any program is its logs. By default MariaDB stores its log files in the following directory:


Note: You might need to use sudo to get a listing of the files in that directory.

If you don’t find the logs in the default directory, you need to check MariaDB’s configuration. Look in the my.cnf file and look for a log_error line, as in:

log_error = /var/log/mariadb/mariadb.log

If you don’t see a line like that, create one in the mysqld section so that MariaDB will use its own error log. We recommend using the location in the example and creating the /var/log/mariadb directory if it doesn’t already exist. Apply the change by restarting MariaDB with the following command:

systemctl restart mariadb

Make sure that the log directory you choose can be written to by the user controlling the MariaDB process.

Network settings

There might be a port setting under both the client and server configuration sections. The port under the server section controls the port that the server listens to. By default, it is 3306, but you can change it to anything you’d like.

The port in the client section tells the client the port to connect to by default. You generally want the two port settings to match up.

If you don’t see the port entries in the configuration file, that means the ports are using the default. If you want to change the port, add the lines in the appropriate categories, as shown in the following example:

port = 3306

port = 3306

The other network setting to look for is the bind-address value. It usually is set to the address for localhost, By binding to localhost, the server makes sure no one can connect to it from outside of the local machine.

If you’re running your MariaDB server on a different machine from your application you want to bind to a remotely accessible address instead of localhost. Change the bind-address setting to match your public IP address (or, even better, to a backend IP address on a network that fewer machines can access).

If you don’t see a bind-address entry, you should put one into the mysqld category to help control access to the server, similar to the following example:

bind-address =

Remember to account for the client’s hostname when you set up your database users and to configure your firewall if you’re running iptables.

mysqld and mysqld_safe

Behind the scenes there are actually two versions of the MariaDB server, mysqld and mysqld_safe. Both read the same configuration sections. The main difference is that mysqld_safe launches with a few safety features enabled to make it easier to recover from a crash or other problem.

Both mysqld and mysqld_safe will read config entries in the mysqld section. If you include a mysqld_safe section, then only mysqld_safe reads those values.

By default the mysql service launches mysqld_safe. You should only change this if you are really sure about what you’re doing.


The mysqladmin tool enables you to perform some administrative functions from the command line. This tool is not covered in this article because this article covers the basics to get you up and running. You can look at this tool in more depth later to see what it can do, particularly if you need to build scripts that perform functions like checking the status of the server or creating and dropping databases.


When it comes to making backups of your databases (apart from the approach to back up the entire machine), you have a few options. The main options are copying the database files and using mysqldump.

File copy

By default, MariaDB creates a directory for each database in its data directory that looks similar to the following example:


After you’ve found the data directory, don’t make a copy of it immediately. When the database server is active, it might be writing new values to tables at any time. If it writes to a table halfway through your copy, some files will change and lead to a corrupt backup. If you’re trying to plan for disaster recovery, this is not a good thing.

To make sure the database files are copied cleanly, shut the MariaDB server down entirely before the copy. That’s safe but isn’t always ideal.

Another approach you can take is to lock the database as read-only for the duration of the copy. Then when you’re done, release the lock. This way your applications can still read data while you’re backing up files.

Lock the databases to read-only by running the following command from the command line:

mysql -u root -p -e "FLUSH TABLES WITH READ LOCK;"

To unlock the database when you’re done, run this command:

mysql -u root -p -e "UNLOCK TABLES;"

The options -e with the mysql client tells the client to run the query in quotes as if it were entered in with the mysql shell.

If you’re setting these commands up in a script, you can put the password in quotes right after -p with no space between the two, as in the following example:

mysql -u root -p"password" -e "FLUSH TABLES WITH READ LOCK;"
mysql -u root -p"password" -e "UNLOCK TABLES;"

Note: Make sure that you set the permissions on that file to restrict read access to protect the password.


Another approach to backing up your database is to use the mysqldump tool. Rather than copying the database files directly, mysqldump generates a text file that represents the database. By default, the text file contains a list of SQL statements that you would use to recreate the database, but you can also export the database in another format like CSV or XML. You can read the mysqldump man page to see all its options.

The statements generated by mysqldump go to standard output. You want to specify a file to redirect the output to when you run it. For example:

mysqldump -u root -p demodb > dbbackup.sql

That command tells mysqldump to recreate the demodb database in SQL statements and to write them to the file dbbackup.sql. Note that the username and password options function the same as the mysql client, so you can include the password directly after -p in a script.

Restore from mysqldump

Restoring a database copied with mysqldump looks similar to what was used to create it, but you use mysql instead of mysqldump, as shown in the following command:

mysql -u root -p demodb < dbbackup.sql

You also change from using a greater-than to a less-than sign, which switches the command from redirecting its output to telling it to read its input from the existing file. The input is sent to the mysql command and causes the instructions in the copy made with mysqldump to recreate the database.

By default, the SQL statements that are generated add to existing database tables without overwriting them. If you’re restoring a backup over an existing database, you should drop the database’s tables first, or drop and recreate the database itself. You can change that behavior by using the –add-drop-table option with the command that creates the mysqldump. Doing so causes mysqldump to add a command to the backup files that it writes that drops tables before recreating them.

Database engine

The last concept to cover in this article is the database engine. The engine is the process that’s churning away behind the scenes, writing to and reading from files. You won’t usually need to know anything other than that it’s there, but sometimes you want to run an application that’s been optimized for a particular database engine.

The engine type is set when a table is created. Tables are usually created by the application that’s going to use them.

To see the engine used by your database’s tables, you can run the following command in the MariaDB shell, changing demodb to the name of your database:


Choosing an engine

Ideally you won’t need to choose an engine. If you’re not very familiar with MariaDB, that’s the safest way to go. Let the application handle this, and if you’re writing the application, use the default engine until you’re more comfortable with your options.

The database engines used most often with MariaDB are MyISAM and InnoDB.


Because MyISAM has been the default in MySQL for a while, it’s the most compatible with MariaDB. Certain types of searches perform better on MyISAM than InnoDB. Just because it’s the older of the two doesn’t mean that it can’t be the best for a given application type.


InnoDB is more fault-tolerant than MyISAM and handles crashes and recovery with a much smaller chance of database corruption. This is a good thing.

However, for best performance, InnoDB requires a lot of tweaking for your environment and access patterns. If you have a DBA, this work might not be a problem. But if you’re a developer who wants a database up and running for a test server, you probably won’t want to deal with tuning InnoDB.


At this point, you should have a good understanding of MariaDB. For more information, see the MariaDB documentation site.

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