Char vs Varchar: Difference and Comparison

The need for new and different programming and computer languages followed the invention of the computer. Computer languages have several codes and various data types to fit the users’ requirements.

The most widely used and taught programming language is SQL. Programmers use this to store different strings of data with various lengths. Two such data types that are commonly used are ‘char’ and ‘varchar.’

Key Takeaways

  1. Char and varchar are both datatypes used in databases to store character strings; char is a fixed-length datatype, while varchar is a variable-length datatype.
  2. Char fields reserve a specific amount of storage space for each field, regardless of the actual length of the data entered; varchar fields only allocate enough storage space to accommodate the data entered.
  3. Char fields are faster to search and sort, as they have a fixed length; varchar fields allow for greater flexibility and conserve storage space by only using the necessary amount of space.

Char vs. Varchar

The difference between Char and Varchar is that Char stores only fixed-length single-string data types, whereas Varchar stores variable characters of different strings, and the length depends on the string.

Char vs Varchar

Char is the SQL data type that helps store characters and is short for ‘characters.’ It stores only non-Unicode data, i.e., only one string type per cell. It has a fixed length and can vary from 1-255 characters.

Varchar is another SQL data type that helps store variable characters of varying lengths. It stands for ‘variable character.’ It stores alphanumeric data, and the size depends on the specific stored string.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonCharVarchar
MeaningIt is a SQL code that helps in storing charactersIt is a SQL code that helps in storing variable character
Abbreviation forcharacterVariable character
Storage sizeThey store values of fixed length and is equal to the maximum of the column They store alphanumeric data of variable data and depend on the specific string that is stored
Memory allocationStatic memory allocationDynamic memory allocation
Bytes used1 byte per character1 byte per character plus 1 or 2 extra bytes for storing varying length information.
Character limit255 characters65535 characters
UsageProgrammers can use this when the length of the characters is concise and known.Programmers can use this when the data entries length is varying
ContentsHas only charactersIt has various strings like characters and variables

What is Char?

Char is the data type that stores non-Unicode data values of fixed values. It stands for ‘char.’ They are used by programmers only when the length of the data storage is known.

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Since they have only one type of string in storage, they have a maximum character limit of 255 characters, and the storage size is the same as the storage size for the column. Also, they use 1 byte per character for storage.

They use static memory allocation, i.e., the storage of the variable is permanent, and the memory is already allocated before the codes can be entered and executed. They have better performance than Varchar.

What is Varchar?

Varchar is the data type that stores variable characters. It stands for ‘variable character.’ They are used by programmers when the data length varies and needs more than one data type.

Since they have different strings, their maximum character limit is 65,535 characters, as it depends on the limit of different string characters. They use 1 byte per character, similar to char. But they also use 1 or 2 bytes extra for storing length information.

They use dynamic memory allocation. This is used when the length or amount of the data to be stored is unknown or variable. It also allows storing data without having an upper limit. They are used for storing data like addresses that require.

Main Differences Between Char and Varchar

  1. Though both are SQL codes, they are very different because ‘char’ helps store characters of fixed length, whereas ‘varchar’ stores variable characters of variable lengths.
  2. ‘char’ stands for character, and ‘varchar’ stands for variable character. Therefore by their abbreviations, we can guess what they are used for.
  3. The storage size for char is equal to the storage size of the column and stores values of only fixed length, like phone numbers. The storage size of varchar depends on the stored string as it stores diff alphanumeric strings like an address.
  4. Char uses static memory allocation, whereas Varchar uses dynamic memory allocation.
  5. Char uses 1 byte per character for storage of the characters. Similar to char, varchar also uses 1 byte per character for storage. The difference is that varchar also uses 1 or 2 bytes extra for storing length information, which is unnecessary for char.
  6. Since char is used only for fixed values, it has a maximum character limit of 255 characters. They use only one string type of data. But varchar has a character limit of 65535 characters as it can store different data strings, and the limit depends on the limit of each string.
  7. The usage of the two codes is also different. Char is used by programmers when the length of the data value is known, and varchar is used when the length of data values keeps varying for each cell.
  8. As the name suggests, char stores only specific string characters. But varchar can store various string characters like alphabets, numbers, and variables. This is why they are both used for different purposes.
References
  1. http://www.cs.nott.ac.uk/~psznza/G51DBS/dbs5-6.pdf
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4842-3576-8_1
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Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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23 thoughts on “Char vs Varchar: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The article is very instructional in demonstrating the practical applications of Char and Varchar in real-world programming scenarios.

    Reply
  2. The static vs dynamic memory allocation contrast is particularly intriguing. This is a well-constructed and organized piece.

    Reply
  3. The comparison table is very clear and makes it easy to understand the differences between Char and Varchar.

    Reply
  4. The breakdown of the main differences between Char and Varchar is very helpful and will be invaluable to aspiring programmers.

    Reply
  5. This article is a great resource for those looking to deepen their understanding of SQL’s Char and Varchar data types.

    Reply

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