Advanced usage

Performance, compatibility, and behavior options

Turbodbc offers a way to adjust its behavior to tune performance and to achieve compatibility with your database. The basic usage is this:

>>> from turbodbc import connect, make_options
>>> options = make_options()
>>> connect(dsn="my_dsn", turbodbc_options=options)

This will connect with your database using the default options. To use non-default options, supply keyword arguments to make_options():

>>> from turbodbc import Megabytes
>>> options = make_options(read_buffer_size=Megabytes(100),
...                        parameter_sets_to_buffer=1000,
...                        varchar_max_character_limit=10000,
...                        use_async_io=True,
...                        prefer_unicode=True,
...                        autocommit=True,
...                        large_decimals_as_64_bit_types=True,
...                        limit_varchar_results_to_max=True)

Read buffer size

read_buffer_size affects how many result set rows are retrieved per batch of results. Set the attribute to turbodbc.Megabytes(42) to have turbodbc determine the optimal number of rows per batch so that the total buffer amounts to 42 MB. This is recommended for most users and databases. You can also set the attribute to turbodbc.Rows(13) if you would like to fetch results in batches of 13 rows. By default, turbodbc fetches results in batches of 20 MB.

Please note that sometimes a single row of a result set may exceed the specified buffer size. This can happen if large fields such as VARCHAR(8000000) or TEXT are part of the result set. In this case, results are fetched in batches of single rows that exceed the specified size. Buffer sizes for large text fields can be controlled with the VARCHAR(max) character limit and XXX options.

Buffered parameter sets

Similarly, parameter_sets_to_buffer changes the number of parameter sets which are transferred per batch of parameters (e.g., as sent with executemany()). Please note that it is not (yet) possible to use the Megabytes and Rows classes here.

VARCHAR(max) character limit

The varchar_max_character_limit specifies the buffer size for result set columns of types VARCHAR(max), NVARCHAR(max), or similar types your database supports. Small values increase the chance of truncation, large ones require more memory. Depending on your setting of read_buffer_size, this may increase the total memory consumption or reduce the number of rows fetched per batch, thus affecting performance. The default value is 65535 characters.


This value does not affect fields of type VARCHAR(n) with n > 0, unless the option Limit VARCHAR results to MAX is set. Also, this option does not affect parameters that you may pass to the database.

Asynchronous input/output

If you set use_async_io to True, turbodbc will use asynchronous I/O operations (limited to result sets for the time being). Asynchronous I/O means that while the main thread converts result set rows retrieved from the database to Python objects, another thread fetches a new batch of results from the database in the background. This may yield a speedup of 2 if retrieving and converting are similarly fast operations.


Asynchronous I/O is experimental and has to fully prove itself yet. Do not be afraid to give it a try, though.

Prefer unicode

Set prefer_unicode to True if your database does not fully support the UTF-8 encoding turbodbc prefers. With this option you can tell turbodbc to use two-byte character strings with UCS-2/UTF-16 encoding. Use this option if you try to connection to Microsoft SQL server (MSSQL).


Set autocommit to True if you want the database to COMMIT your changes automatically after each query or command. By default, autocommit is disabled and users are required to call cursor.commit() to persist their changes.


Some databases that do not support transactions may even require this option to be set to True in order to establish a connection at all.

Large decimals as 64 bit types

Set large_decimals_as_64_bit_types to True if you want to retrieve Decimal and Numeric types with more than 18 digits as the 64 bit integer and float numbers. The default is to retrieve such fields as strings instead.

Please note that this option may lead to overflows or loss of precision. If, however, your data type is much larger than the data it is supposed to hold, this option is very useful to obtain numeric Python objects and NumPy arrays.

Limit VARCHAR results to MAX

Set limit_varchar_results_to_max to True if you want to limit all string-like fields (VARCHAR(n), NVARCHAR(n), etc. with n > 0) in result sets to a maximum of VARCHAR(max) character limit characters.

Please note that enabling this option can lead to truncation of string-like data when retrieving results. Parameters sent to the database are not affected by this option.

If not set or set to False, string-like result fields with a specific size will always be retrieved with a sufficiently large buffer so that no truncation occurs. String-like fields of indeterminate size (VARCHAR(max), TEXT, etc. on some databases) are still subject to VARCHAR(max) character limit.

Controlling autocommit behavior at runtime

You can enable and disable autocommit mode after you have established a connection, and you can also check whether autocommit is currently enabled:

>>> from turbodbc import connect
>>> connection = connect(dsn="my DSN")
>>> connection.autocommit = True

[... more things happening ...]

>>> if not connection.autocommit:
...     connection.commit()

NumPy support


Turbodbc’s NumPy support requires the numpy package to be installed. For all source builds, Numpy needs to be installed before installing turbodbc. Please check the installation instructions for more details.

Obtaining NumPy result sets all at once

Here is how to use turbodbc to retrieve the full result set in the form of NumPy masked arrays:

>>> cursor.execute("SELECT A, B FROM my_table")
>>> cursor.fetchallnumpy()
OrderedDict([('A', masked_array(data = [42 --],
                                mask = [False True],
                                fill_value = 999999)),
             ('B', masked_array(data = [3.14 2.71],
                                mask = [False False],
                                fill_value = 1e+20))])

Obtaining NumPy result sets in batches

You can also fetch NumPy result sets in batches using an iterable:

>>> cursor.execute("SELECT A, B FROM my_table")
>>> batches = cursor.fetchnumpybatches()
>>> for batch in batches:
...     print(batch)
OrderedDict([('A', masked_array(data = [42 --],
                                mask = [False True],
                                fill_value = 999999)),
             ('B', masked_array(data = [3.14 2.71],
                                mask = [False False],
                                fill_value = 1e+20))])

The size of the batches depends on the read_buffer_size attribute set in the performance options.

Notes regarding NumPy result sets

  • NumPy results are returned as an OrderedDict of column name/value pairs. The column order is the same as in your query.
  • The column values are of type MaskedArray. Any NULL values you have in your database will show up as masked entries (NULL values in string-like columns will shop up as None objects).

The following table shows how the most common data types data scientists are interested in are converted to NumPy columns:

Database type(s) Python type
Integers, DECIMAL(<19,0) int64
DOUBLE, DECIMAL(<19, >0) float64
DECIMAL(>18, 0) object_ or int64 *
DECIMAL(>18, >0) object_ or float64 *
BIT, boolean-like bool_
TIMESTAMP, TIME datetime64[us]
DATE datetime64[D}
VARCHAR, strings object_

*) The conversion depends on turbodbc’s large_decimals_as_64_bit_types option.

Using NumPy arrays as query parameters

Here is how to use turbodbc to use values stored in NumPy arrays as query parameters with executemanycolumns():

>>> from numpy import array
>>> from import MaskedArray
>>> normal_param = array([1, 2, 3], dtype='int64')
>>> masked_param = MaskedArray([3.14, 1.23, 4.56],
...                            mask=[False, True, False],
...                            dtype='float64')

>>> cursor.executemanycolumns("INSERT INTO my_table VALUES (?, ?)",
...                           [normal_param, masked_param])
# functionally equivalent, but much faster than:
# cursor.execute("INSERT INTO my_table VALUES (1, 3.14)")
# cursor.execute("INSERT INTO my_table VALUES (2, NULL)")
# cursor.execute("INSERT INTO my_table VALUES (3, 4.56)")

>>> cursor.execute("SELECT * FROM my_table").fetchall()
[[1L, 3.14], [2L, None], [3L, 4.56]]
  • Columns must either be of type MaskedArray or ndarray.
  • Each column must contain one-dimensional, contiguous data.
  • All columns must have equal size.
  • The dtype of each column must be supported, see the table below.
  • Use MaskedArray``s with and set the ``mask to True for individual elements to use None values.
  • Data is transfered in batches (see Buffered parameter sets)
Supported NumPy type Transferred as
int64 BIGINT (64 bits)
float64 DOUBLE PRECISION (64 bits)
bool_ BIT
datetime64[us] TIMESTAMP
datetime64[ns] TIMESTAMP
datetime64[D] DATE
object_ (only str, unicode, and None objects supported) VARCHAR (automatic sizing)

Apache Arrow support


Turbodbc’s Apache Arrow support requires the pyarrow package to be installed. For all source builds, Apache Arrow needs to be installed before installing turbodbc. Please check the installation instructions for more details.

Apache Arrow is a high-performance data layer that is built for cross-system columnar in-memory analytics using a data model designed to make the most of the CPU cache and vector operations.


Apache Arrow support in turbodbc is still experimental and may not be as efficient as possible yet. Also, Apache Arrow support is not yet available for Windows and has some issues with Unicode fields. Stay tuned for upcoming improvements.

Obtaining Apache Arrow result sets

Here is how to use turbodbc to retrieve the full result set in the form of an Apache Arrow table:

>>> cursor.execute("SELECT A, B FROM my_table")
>>> table = cursor.fetchallarrow()
>>> table
A: int64
B: string
>>> table[0].to_pylist()
>>> table[1].to_pylist()

Looking at the data like this is not particularly useful. However, there is some really useful stuff you can do with an Apache Arrow table, for example, convert it to a Pandas dataframe like this:

>>> table.to_pandas()
    A      B
0  42  hello

As a performance optimisation for string columns, you can specify the parameter strings_as_dictionary. This will retrieve all string columns as Arrow DictionaryArray. The data will here be split into two arrays, one that stores all unique string values and one integer array that stores for each row the index in the dictionary. On converions to Pandas, these columns will be turned into pandas.Categorical.

>>> cursor.execute("SELECT a, b FROM my_other_table")
>>> table = cursor.fetchallarrow(strings_as_dictionary=True)
>>> table
a: int64
b: dictionary<values=binary, indices=int8, ordered=0>
  dictionary: [61, 62]
>>> table.to_pandas()
   a  b
0  1  a
1  2  b
2  3  b
>>> table.to_pandas().info()
<class 'pandas.core.frame.DataFrame'>
Int64Index: 3 entries, 0 to 2
Data columns (total 2 columns):
a    3 non-null int64
b    3 non-null category
dtypes: category(1), int64(1)
memory usage: 147.0 bytes