The Format for Timestamps in MySQL Logs

MySQL changed the timestamp format in the log files in MySQL 5.7. Since then, I have a few times seen questions about the new format, and how to change the time zone that is used. Latest in a comment to my blog about log_slow_extra in 8.0.14, where the question was what T and Z in the timestamp (for example 2019-01-31T07:24:06.100447Z) means. In this blog, I will discuss the timestamp format and show you how you can change the time zone used.

Examples of the timestamps from the MySQL error log when restarting MySQL (click to enlarge).

The MySQL 5.7 Change

In MySQL 5.7 it was decided to make two changes to the timestamps affecting the format and time zone:

  • The format was changed to use the ISO 8601 / RFC 3339 format: YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ss.uuuuuu plus a tail value to signify the time zone.
  • The time zone used for the timestamps defaults to UTC (in 5.6 it defaulted to system time).


A couple of useful free resources, if you want to know more about the ISO 8601 / RFC 3339 format is the RFC specification and Wikipedia. The actual ISO 8601 specification can be purchased.

So there are two slightly different ways the timestamps can be displayed. The following two examples are for the default where the timestamp is in UTC and one where it is in UTC+11:00 (Australian Eastern Daylight Time):

2019-03-02T02:53:39.781592Z 0 [System] [MY-010116] [Server] C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 8.0\bin\mysqld.exe (mysqld 8.0.15) starting as process 1516

2019-03-02T13:54:17.155810+11:00 0 [System] [MY-010116] [Server] C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 8.0\bin\mysqld.exe (mysqld 8.0.15) starting as process 2812


In MySQL 8.0, you can also change the format itself, e.g. to JSON. See the MySQL reference manual on the error log format for for more information.

Changing the Time Zone

How do you change between the UTC and system time zones? You do that using the log_timestamps option which can take one of two values:

  • UTC: Use UTC as the time zone. This is the default.
  • SYSTEM: Use the same time zone as the operating system.

The option affects both the error log, slow query log, and general query log. The the slow and general query logs, though, it is only the case when logging to a file.

From XKCD comic 1179.

That Do T and Z Mean?

Back to the T and Z in the timestamps – what do they mean? The T is simply used as a separator between the data and time part. Think of it as T for Time. The Z means Zulu – another word for using the UTC time zone. That is:

  • T: Separator between the data and time parts.
  • Z: Zulu – the UTC time zone.

Thanks for reading.

I have worked with MySQL databases since 2006 both as an SQL developer, a database administrator, and for more than eight years as part of the Oracle MySQL Support team. I have spoken at MySQL Connect and Oracle OpenWorld on several occasions. I have contributed to the sys schema and four Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) exams for MySQL 5.6 to 8.0. I have written four books, all published at Apress.

2 Comments on “The Format for Timestamps in MySQL Logs

  1. Any pointer for timestamps in older versions of MySQL server logs? (5.5 and 5.6)
    There’s quite a lack of documentation, or it’s poorly indexed for Googling…

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