Is Datetime and Timestamp Are the Same Data Type?


Larry Thompson

Is Datetime and Timestamp the Same Data Type?

When working with databases, you will often come across data types such as datetime and timestamp. While they may seem similar at first glance, they actually have distinct differences. In this article, we will explore these differences and understand when to use each data type.


Datetime is a data type commonly used to store dates and times in databases. It allows you to represent a specific point in time with precision. The datetime value typically includes both the date and the time components.

Let’s take a look at an example:

    event_id INT PRIMARY KEY,
    event_name VARCHAR(255),
    event_date DATETIME

In this example, we have defined a table called ‘events’ with three columns: ‘event_id’, ‘event_name’, and ‘event_date’. The ‘event_date’ column uses the datetime data type to store the date and time of each event.


Timestamp, on the other hand, is a data type used to track changes to records in a database. It automatically updates whenever a row is inserted or modified. Unlike datetime, it does not require an explicit value to be assigned.

Here’s an example:

    user_id INT PRIMARY KEY,
    username VARCHAR(255),
    last_login TIMESTAMP

In this example, we have created a table called ‘users’ with three columns: ‘user_id’, ‘username’, and ‘last_login’. The ‘last_login’ column uses the timestamp data type to track the last time a user logged in. It will automatically update whenever the corresponding row is modified.

Differences Between Datetime and Timestamp

Now that we understand the basic definitions of datetime and timestamp, let’s dive into their differences:

  • Precision: Datetime allows for a higher level of precision as it includes both date and time components. Timestamp, on the other hand, has lower precision as it only stores the number of seconds since a specific epoch (e.g., January 1, 1970).
  • Default Value: When creating a column with datetime data type, you need to explicitly assign a value.

    Timestamps, however, automatically set themselves to the current date and time if no value is provided.

  • Automatic Updates: Timestamps have an inherent feature of automatically updating whenever a row is modified. This makes them useful for tracking changes in records. Datetime values remain unchanged unless explicitly updated.

Choosing Between Datetime and Timestamp

The choice between using datetime or timestamp depends on your specific use case. Here are some considerations:

  • If you need to store precise dates and times for events or appointments, datetime is the appropriate choice.
  • If you want to track changes to records or log activities such as user logins or updates, timestamp is more suitable.

In conclusion, while datetime and timestamp may seem similar due to their association with dates and times, they serve different purposes in database design. Understanding their differences will help you make informed decisions when choosing the appropriate data type for your database columns.

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