How does indexes find the main document in MongoDB?

I have a question about indexes in MongoDB in general.

I read somewhere that every MongoDB index stores the _id field inside the index. This allows it to find the current document if the query satisfies the index. Consequently, I assumed that if I have a query that satisfies the index and projects the _id field at the end, it would result in a covered query. This is because the _id field is already present in the index document.

However, during testing, I discovered that this assumption was not true. MongoDB was fetching the document to complete the query. Let me provide you with an example.

I created the following index:

  "ReturnId": 1,
  "Status": 1,
  "IsDeleted": 1,
  "CreationTime": 1

I then used the following query against the collection:

        "$match": {
            "IsDeleted": false,
            "Status": "Unprocessed",
            "ReturnId": UUID("3704f58c-ba38-4edd-9986-f37a0eaf619c")
        "$sort": {
            "CreationTime": 1
            _id: 1

I observed that this query was using the index, but it was also fetching the document from the disk.

Interestingly, when I projected the Status field to test, the query did not fetch the document, resulting in a covered query.

So, my question is: How do indexes find the main document in MongoDB if they are not using the main index _id?

You are correct that the index entry does not include the _id field by default. Indexes that expressly include _id as a key (which includes, of course, the always-present _id index) do have the _id field. Perhaps you are thinking of the recordID, which is an internal field in indexes used to find the actual document(s).

So, my question is: How do indexes find the main document in MongoDB if they are not using the main index _id ?

Indexes, including the always-present _id index, use the internal recordID to find the document(s) that the index entry points to.


Hi Spencer, thanks for your response.
Now I understand. I didnt know about the recordId, I tought that an internal Id would not be needed because of the clustered index structure that mongodb uses to store documents.
Thank you!

Now that you mention clustered indexes, there is a new feature as of MongoDB 5.3/6.0 that allows you to create a “clustered collection”, where the documents in the collection are referenced by _id rather than the internal recordID. See here for details