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Difference between schema and database

The schema and instance are the essential terms relating to databases. The main difference between schema and instance lies within their definition where Schema describes the formal description of the database structure while Instance is the set of information currently stored in a database at a specific time.

The instance changes very frequently while the schema captures the changes rarely.

Comparative chart

Basis for comparison Scheme Example
Basic Description of the database. Snapshot of a database at a specific time.
Change event Rare Frequent
Initial state Empty Always have some data

Definition of the scheme

One scheme complete database design, also known as intension . the collection of named objects. The names of tables, columns of each table, data type, triggers, function view packages and other objects are included in the schema. Changes made to a schema are not applied so frequently, but occasionally changes must be applied as requirements for application changes. The modification or modification of the scheme known as revolution of the scheme .

Let's take an example of the student database. The student database schema diagram may contain a table of student information such as name, course details, academic performance and other information. In the diagram below, we are building two records named as students and courses with their attributes.

The database system has various separate schemes based on the abstraction levels such as physical, logical and external / subschema. Generally, the DBMS assists in one physical and multiple logical sub-schemes.

  • The physical scheme the lowest level of a scheme that describes how data stored on disk or physical memory.
  • The logical scheme the intermediate level of a schema that describes the structure of the database for database designers. It also specifies what relationship exists between the data.
  • The scheme or the subschema external the highest level of a scheme that defines views for end users.

Definition of instance

An instance the information collected in a database at a specific time, and also known as state or extension . a snapshot in which the current state or occurrence of a database framed at that time. Whenever data is inserted or deleted from the database, the state of the database changes due to the reason why a database instance changes very often.

The database schema is specified in the DBMS when a new database is defined, at that moment the corresponding empty database, so it has an empty instance. The initial state of the database is acquired when the database is first loaded with initial data. From then on, every time the data is updated, we get a new database instance. At any time, there is a current state associated with a database. The DBMS partially responsible for confirming the valid instance of a database in which the instance ensures the structure and constraints specified in the schema.

Let's take the similar example in the instance. Here the student's construct will contain their individual entities in the attributes.

Key differences between schema and instance

  1. A schematic represents the design representation of a database while instantiating the snapshot of a database at a given time.
  2. The instance changes very frequently, each time the data is removed or added to the database. By contrast, changes in the pattern rarely occur.
  3. For example, scheme and instance can be easily perceived by analogy with a program. At the time of writing a program in a programming language, the variables of that program are declared at the beginning, this analogous to the definition of the schema. Furthermore, each variable in a program must have some associated values ??at a given time; this similar to an instance.


Schema and instance are somehow related, a schema to the initial state of the database in which the database was initially designed. On the other hand, an instance of a state in which data is loaded into the database or when a change is acquired from the corresponding database. The schematic describes the detailed structure of the database while the information stored at a specific time in a database is known as an instance.