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Difference between Oracle Coalesce and Index Rebuild

Updated Aug 24, 2023

Oracle, one of the leading database management systems, provides two commonly used methods for index maintenance: the COALESCE statement and the REBUILD statement. Each method has its own benefits and trade-offs, and understanding the differences between them is essential for making informed decisions about index management strategies.

The REBUILD Statement

The REBUILD statement in Oracle is used to reorganize or rebuild an existing index. It creates an entirely new index segment from scratch using the existing index as a source. This process involves taking an exclusive table lock, which can impact concurrent operations on the table. One notable aspect of the REBUILD operation is that the index will temporarily consume twice as much space during the rebuilding process due to the creation of the new index structure.

The primary advantage of using the REBUILD statement is that it can effectively defragment an index and reclaim unused space. However, its exclusive lock requirement and temporary space consumption can make it less suitable for high-transaction environments where minimizing downtime is crucial.

The COALESCE Statement

Unlike the REBUILD statement, the COALESCE statement aims to improve index efficiency without creating a new index structure. Instead, it merges the contents of index blocks where possible to free up blocks for reuse. This process happens online and does not require exclusive table locks, making it an attractive option for environments that prioritize uninterrupted database access.

A key distinction of the COALESCE operation is that it doesn't alter the overall size of the index structure. While it reorganizes index entries and compacts data within existing segments, it doesn't reduce the index's physical size. Consequently, while the index may become more efficient and less fragmented, it may still contain empty blocks that can be reused by future insertions and updates.

Choosing the Right Strategy

Selecting the appropriate index maintenance strategy depends on the specific requirements of your database environment:

  • Use the REBUILD statement when a thorough defragmentation and reorganization of the index is needed. However, be cautious of potential downtime and space utilization during the process.
  • Opt for the COALESCE statement when you seek a more lightweight and online operation. This method can help improve index efficiency without impacting concurrent operations or requiring extra space.
  • Consider combining both strategies based on your database's needs. Regularly using the COALESCE statement to maintain efficiency and occasionally performing a REBUILD operation for comprehensive defragmentation can strike a balance between online performance and index health.


Understanding the differences between the Oracle COALESCE and REBUILD statements is essential for effective index maintenance. Each method has its strengths and limitations, and choosing the right strategy depends on factors such as downtime tolerance, space availability, and the desired level of index optimization. By tailoring your approach to your specific database environment, you can ensure optimal query performance and database efficiency over the long term.