SQLite vs MySQL: 5 Critical Differences


Feature Image - SQLite vs MySQL

MySQL and SQLite and two immensely popular Open-Source Database Management tools being used in the community. Both offer different features which make them optimal for different use cases. Understanding the differences between the two platforms can help bring more clarity if you are looking out for deploying your own solution.

In this article, you will learn in detail about SQLite and MySQL along with their key features. You will compare SQLite vs MySQL based on 5 critical parameters. The differences in their features and implementation strategies will be highlighted and the limitations of both the platforms will be presented to enable you to make an informed decision. 

Table of Contents

Introduction to SQLite

SQLite Logo - SQLite vs MySQL

SQLite is an Open-Source Relational Database Management System [RDBMS] designed to work without a Database Administrator. It is self-contained, file-based, and is known for its portability, performance in low memory environments, and reliability. The data transactions carried out in SQLite are ACID compliant [Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability].

Where most Relational Database engines are based on a server architecture that allows the program to run on a host server to communicate with processes to relay requests, SQLite is based on a serverless architecture where any process can access the database reads and write to the database disk files directly. Due to this functionality, all programs that are supposed to work with SQLite do not require additional setup, they just need permission to access the disk which simplifies the setup process.  

Since the software library is Open-Source, it’s free and does not require any licenses to set up. Additional extensions which offer different functionalities can be added by opting for a one-time fee. Other commercial support packages are offered on an annual fee basis. 

Official documentation of SQLite can be found here

Key Features of SQLite

  • Lightweight Installation: The SQLite library is small in size and can take up less than 600KiB of space. 
  • Ease of Use: SQLite does not require additional setup while installing on the system, also called Zero-Configuration database.
  • Portability: The entire database is stored as a single file and can be shared via removable media of FTP [File Transfer Protocol]. 
  • Embedded Applications: Perfect for database applications that require portability without future expansion such as mobile applications or games. 
  • Testing: Offers In-Memory mode to run tests without any overhead of actual Database Applications.

Introduction to MySQL 

MySQL Logo - SQLite vs MySQL

MySQL is an Open-Source Relational Database Management System. It is the most popular Open-Source Database Engine and is designed for speed and reliability at the expense of full adherence to standard SQL. This platform powers the backend of many web platform giants such as Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, and Spotify.

There are various SQL modes and extensions that can be used to improve the functionality and compatibility with the Standard SQL. The support community is exceptionally active and there is exhaustive documentation and abundant MySQL-related resources to help with the setup process and other daily operations. 

Data is accessed in MySQL Database using a separate daemon process in which the server process stands between the database and other applications thus implementing a greater control over the access of data. The popularity and Open-Source nature of the platform have enabled a wide range of options for third-party applications, tools, and integrated libraries such as phpMyAdmin, DBeaver, HeidiSQL, etc.

Official documentation of MySQL can be found here

Key Features of MySQL

  • Ease of Use: There is an abundance of online resources and documentation online, and the support community is very active to help learn the platform and solve issues. 
  • Third-Party Support: Various third-party tools and applications such as phpMyAdmin build upon the platform to improve the functionality. 
  • Secure Implementation: Security is prioritized and the database’s security is improved by configuring the installation’s password security level. The data access is granted on a user-by-user and process-by-process basis. 
  • Improved Performance: The different architecture helps in the implementation of faster databases. 
  • Replication Support: Different forms of Replication are supported to ensure backups, improve reliability, availability, and fault tolerance.
  • Distributed Operations: Functionality is offered to support Distributed Database setups like Primary-Secondary, Primary – Primary architectures, etc. 

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Factors that Drive the SQLite vs MySQL Decision 

1) SQLite vs MySQL: Architecture 

SQLite Architecture

It is an Open-Source project available in the Public domain. The software library is also referred to as an Embedded Database which is a Database Engine that runs as a part of an app. The SQLite solution is server-less and self-contained. More information about SQLite architecture can be found here.

MySQL Architecture

It is an Open-Source project owned by Oracle. This solution requires a server and interaction of client and server architecture over a network. More information about MySQL architecture can be found here.

2) SQLite vs MySQL: Data Types Supported 

MySQL supports significantly more data types than SQLite.

Data Types Supported by SQLite

  • Blob
  • Integer
  • Null 
  • Text 
  • Real

Data Types Supported by MySQL

  • Tinyint
  • Smallint
  • Mediumint
  • Int
  • Bigint
  • Double
  • Float
  • Real
  • Decimal
  • Double precision
  • Numeric
  • Timestamp
  • Date
  • Datetime
  • Char
  • Varchar
  • Year
  • Tinytext
  • Tinyblob
  • Blob
  • Text
  • MediumBlob
  • MediumText
  • Enum
  • Set
  • Longblob
  • Longtext

3) SQLite vs MySQL: Storage and Portability

Storage and Portability for SQLite 

The SQLite software library is around 250 KB in size and can directly store the data into a single file. The single files make it easier to transfer and share the data, as no configuration is required and processes can be carried out with a minimal amount of support. Official recommendations regarding storage size and portability can be found here.

Storage and Portability for MySQL 

MySQL software library is around 600 MB in size. The data needs to be condensed into a single file for sharing, this process can take a lot of time.

Therefore if you require portability with your data storage, SQLite provides better support for this use case.

4) SQLite vs MySQL: Multiple User Access and Scalability

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Multiple User Access and Scalability for SQLite

SQLite’s scalability is limited and only appropriate for smaller databases. Since the platform does not have any user management facility, it is not suitable for multiple user access. 

For larger files, the memory requirement singificantly increases for SQLite DB.  

Multiple User Access and Scalability for MySQL

MySQL on the other hand can handle a larger database size and offers a well-designed user management system. Detailed information about Access Control on the platform can be found here.

5) SQLite vs MySQL: Security and Ease of Setup 

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Security and Ease of Setup for SQLite

There is no inbuilt authentication process offered by SQLite and the data can be accessed by anyone. But the platform is easy to set up not requiring much configuration. 

Security and Ease of Setup for MySQL

MySQL on the other hand offers a lot of security features such as user authentication using passwords, SSH, etc. Though the setup process of MySQL is more complex there are a lot of resources available online to guide the user. 

More information regarding best practices on MySQL can be found here.

Understanding Limitations of SQLite and MySQL

SQLite vs MySQL: Limitations of SQLite

  • Limited Throughput and Size: While SQLite can support database size upto 140 TB, the optimal size of the database recommended for SQLite is only 1 TB
  • Network Requirements: Being a Serverless Database, SQLite does not provide direct access to data, access is rather built into the application. Thus if the deployment is present on a different system a high bandwidth and low latency engine-to-disk connection is required over the network, increasing the deployment costs. 
  • Concurrency Limitations: Only one write application is allowed at a time on the SQLite Database, so it is not appropriate for applications requiring multiple writes. 
  • Lack of User Management: No user management system/functionality is available as the data is directly written and read on an ordinary disk file which requires only one level/type of permission for access. 
  • Lack of Security: Serverless Databases are inherently less secure in their implementation. Other security measures such as access control are not natively available. 

SQLite vs MySQL: Limitations of MySQL 

  • Licensing Fees: While the basic community edition of the software is free; the commercial versions of the software require proprietary licenses. 
  • Limited Basic Feature-set: As there is an option of licensed editions and other third-party tools, the community MySQL edition provides only limited functionality.
  • Delayed Updates: Since the acquisition of MySQL by Oracle in 2009, users have complained that the bug resolution and, software updates and development has been very slow compared to industry standards. 
  • SQL Compliance: MySQL is developed keeping performance in consideration, which has led to incompatibilities with the Full-Standard SQL and its supported functionality. 
  • The Issue with Concurrency: Concurrent read-writes can be problematic if multiple users are trying to access and change the data in the Database. 


In this article, you learned about SQLite and MySQL, key features of both the platforms, comparing SQLite vs MySQL depending upon their implementation based on 5 parameters, and limitations of their implementations. If you are interested in comparing MySQL and Microsoft SQL you can find the guide here.

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Abhishek Duggal
Former Research Analyst, Hevo Data

Abhishek is a data analysis enthusiast with a passion for data, software architecture, and writing technical content. He has experience writing articles on diverse topics such as data integration and infrastructure.

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