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How to Search Your Entire MySQL Database for a Phrase

How to Search Your Entire MySQL Database for a Phrase

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Researcher
 Published on December 26th, 2023

Searching through an entire MySQL database for a specific phrase can be important for various reasons, such as debugging, data analysis, or simply locating a piece of information.

In this post, I’ll show you a straightforward method to accomplish this task, tested on an Ubuntu v18.04 virtual private server (VPS).

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  • A MySQL database
  • Access credentials to your MySQL server
  • Basic knowledge of using the terminal on Ubuntu

The Command

Use the following command in your terminal:

Breakdown of the Command

  • sudo: Runs the command with superuser privileges, which may be necessary for accessing certain databases.
  • mysqldump: This is the tool we use to export the database content.
    • -u <username>: Replace <username> with your MySQL username.
    • --no-create-info: This flag tells mysqldump to skip the creation information of tables (like structure), focusing only on the data.
    • --extended-insert=FALSE: It ensures each row of data is on a separate line, making it easier to read the results from grep.
  • <database name>: The name of your MySQL database.
  • | grep -i "<search string>": Pipes the output of mysqldump into grep, a powerful text-search utility. The -i flag makes the search case insensitive.


  • Performance: This command can take significant time and resources for large databases, which involves exporting the entire database content.
  • Security: Be cautious when using sudo and ensure you have the necessary permissions.
  • Data Sensitivity: The command outputs to your terminal, so be mindful if your database contains sensitive information.

Example Output

Explanation of the Output:

  • The output begins with comments indicating the source table. In this example, -- Dumping data for table 'orders'.
  • The INSERT INTO statements are the actual data entries that contain the searched phrase. Each line represents a row in your database where the phrase “customer123” was found.
  • The output is filtered to show only lines containing “customer123” due to the grep -i "customer123" part of the command.


This method provides a quick and effective way to search for a phrase across your entire MySQL database. It’s especially useful when locating specific data without knowing its exact location.

Reference: Stack Overflow article

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional
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