Understanding ACID Properties in SQL: Ensuring Data Integrity and Consistency

Dive into SQL's ACID properties for robust data integrity. Explore how Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability ensure a reliable database environment.

Kaibarta Sa

1/6/20243 min read

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pink and green bokeh lights

When it comes to managing and manipulating data, SQL (Structured Query Language) is the go-to language for most database systems. One of the key aspects of SQL is its support for ACID properties, which are crucial for ensuring data integrity and consistency. In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of ACID properties and explore their significance in SQL, along with practical examples to help users understand their implementation.

What are ACID Properties?

ACID is an acronym that stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. These properties are fundamental to guaranteeing the reliability and correctness of data transactions in a database system.

1. Atomicity

Atomicity refers to the concept of a transaction being treated as a single, indivisible unit of work. It ensures that either all the changes made within a transaction are successfully committed, or none of them are. In other words, if any part of a transaction fails, the entire transaction is rolled back, and the database remains unchanged.

Let's consider an example to illustrate atomicity. Suppose we have a banking system where a user transfers money from one account to another. The transaction involves deducting the amount from the sender's account and adding it to the receiver's account. If, for any reason, the transaction fails after deducting the amount from the sender's account but before adding it to the receiver's account, atomicity ensures that the deducted amount is rolled back, and the sender's account remains unchanged.

2. Consistency

Consistency ensures that a transaction brings the database from one valid state to another. It defines a set of rules or constraints that the data must adhere to, and any transaction violating these rules is aborted.

For example, let's consider a scenario where a database enforces a constraint that all email addresses must be unique. If a transaction attempts to insert a new record with a duplicate email address, consistency ensures that the transaction is aborted, and the database remains unchanged.

3. Isolation

Isolation refers to the concept of concurrent transactions being executed in isolation from each other. It ensures that each transaction is unaware of the existence of other concurrent transactions and operates as if it is the only transaction being executed.

Isolation prevents interference between transactions, which could lead to data inconsistencies. It ensures that the intermediate states of a transaction are not visible to other transactions until the transaction is completed.

For instance, consider a scenario where two users simultaneously update the same record in a database. Isolation ensures that each user sees the record as if they were the only ones accessing it. This prevents conflicts and maintains the integrity of the data.

4. Durability

Durability guarantees that once a transaction is committed, its changes are permanent and will survive any subsequent failures, such as power outages or system crashes. The changes made by a committed transaction are stored in non-volatile memory, ensuring their persistence.

For example, if a transaction successfully updates a record in a database and the system crashes immediately after the commit, durability ensures that the changes made by the transaction are not lost. When the system recovers, the changes will still be present in the database.

ACID Properties in Practice

Let's explore how ACID properties are implemented in SQL using an example of a banking system.

Suppose we have two tables: accounts and transactions. The accounts table stores information about each account, such as the account number and balance, while the transactions table keeps track of all the transactions made between accounts.

Consider the following SQL query:

START TRANSACTION; UPDATE accounts SET balance = balance - 100 WHERE account_number = '123456'; UPDATE accounts SET balance = balance + 100 WHERE account_number = '654321'; INSERT INTO transactions (sender, receiver, amount) VALUES ('123456', '654321', 100); COMMIT;

In this example, we are transferring $100 from account number '123456' to account number '654321'.

Let's see how the ACID properties come into play:

  • Atomicity: If any of the three statements within the transaction fail, the entire transaction will be rolled back, and the changes made by the failed statements will be undone.

  • Consistency: The database enforces constraints, such as ensuring that the sender's account has sufficient balance before deducting the amount. If any violation occurs, the transaction will be aborted, and the database will remain unchanged.

  • Isolation: Concurrent transactions executing similar queries will not interfere with each other. Each transaction will operate as if it is the only one being executed, ensuring data consistency.

  • Durability: Once the transaction is committed, the changes made to the accounts and transactions tables will be permanently stored in the database, even in the event of a system failure.

By adhering to the ACID properties, SQL ensures that the banking system maintains the integrity and consistency of its data, even in the presence of concurrent transactions and system failures.


Understanding the ACID properties is essential for developers and database administrators working with SQL. These properties provide a solid foundation for ensuring data integrity, consistency, isolation, and durability in database transactions.

In this blog post, we explored the four ACID properties: atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability, and their significance in SQL. We also provided a practical example to illustrate how these properties are implemented in a banking system.

By leveraging the power of ACID properties, developers can build robust and reliable database systems that guarantee the accuracy and reliability of data.