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TTL Indexes

On this page

  • Compatibility
  • Create a TTL Index
  • Convert a non-TTL single-field Index into a TTL Index
  • Change the expireAfterSeconds value for a TTL Index
  • Behavior
  • Restrictions


If you are removing documents to save on storage costs, consider Online Archive in MongoDB Atlas. Online Archive automatically archives infrequently accessed data to fully-managed S3 buckets for cost-effective data tiering.

TTL indexes are special single-field indexes that MongoDB can use to automatically remove documents from a collection after a certain amount of time or at a specific clock time. Data expiration is useful for certain types of information like machine generated event data, logs, and session information that only need to persist in a database for a finite amount of time.

You can use TTL indexes for deployments hosted in the following environments:

  • MongoDB Atlas: The fully managed service for MongoDB deployments in the cloud

To learn more about managing indexes for deployments hosted in MongoDB Atlas, see Create, View, Drop, and Hide Indexes.


After you create a TTL index, it might have a very large number of qualifying documents to delete at once. This large workload might cause performance issues on the server. To avoid these issues, plan to create the index during off hours, or delete qualifying documents in batches before you create the index for future documents.

To create a TTL index, use createIndex(). Specify an index field that is either a date type or an array that contains date type values. Use the expireAfterSeconds option to specify a TTL value in seconds.

The TTL index expireAfterSeconds value must be within 0 and 2147483647 inclusive.

For example, to create a TTL index on the lastModifiedDate field of the eventlog collection with a TTL value of 3600 seconds, use the following operation in mongosh:

db.eventlog.createIndex( { "lastModifiedDate": 1 }, {
expireAfterSeconds: 3600 } )

Starting in MongoDB 6.3, you can create partial TTL indexes on time series collections. These indexes use the collection timeField as the key field, and require a partial filter expression on the metaField.

Time series collections include an optional expireAfterSeconds field. If you do not set it, a TTL index with a partialFilterExpression lets you set an expiration period for documents that match the filter. If you do set expireAfterSeconds, a partial TTL index lets you set a different, shorter expiration period for matching documents. You can only create a partialFilterExpression on the metaField.


If the expireAfterSeconds value of the collection is lower than the expireAfterSeconds of the partial TTL index, the collection deletes documents after the shorter time, so the TTL index has no effect.

This weather data time series collection deletes documents after 24 hours:

timeseries: {
timeField: "timestamp",
metaField: "sensor",
granularity: "hours"
expireAfterSeconds: 86400})

This TTL index deletes documents from the MongoDB NYC headquarters weather sensor after 1 hour, instead of 24 hours:

{ "timestamp": 1 },
{ partialFilterExpression: { "sensor": { $eq: "40.761873, -73.984287" } } },
{ expireAfterSeconds: 3600 } )

Starting in MongoDB 5.1, you can add the expireAfterSeconds option to an existing single-field index. To change a non-TTL single-field index to a TTL index, use the collMod database command:

"collMod": <collName>,
"index": {
"keyPattern": <keyPattern>,
"expireAfterSeconds": <number>

The following example converts a non-TTL single-field index with the pattern { "lastModifiedDate": 1 } into a TTL index:

"collMod": "tickets",
"index": {
"keyPattern": { "lastModifiedDate": 1 },
"expireAfterSeconds": 100

To change the expireAfterSeconds value for a TTL Index, use the collMod database command:

"collMod": <collName>,
"index": {
"keyPattern": <keyPattern>,
"expireAfterSeconds": <number>

The following example changes the expireAfterSeconds value for an index with the pattern { "lastModifiedDate": 1 } on the tickets collection:

"collMod": "tickets",
"index": {
"keyPattern": { "lastModifiedDate": 1 },
"expireAfterSeconds": 100

TTL indexes expire documents after the specified number of seconds has passed since the indexed field value; i.e. the expiration threshold is the indexed field value plus the specified number of seconds.

If the field is an array, and there are multiple date values in the index, MongoDB uses lowest (i.e. earliest) date value in the array to calculate the expiration threshold.

For time series collections, TTL indexes also remove a bucket of data when all documents inside it expire. This is equal to the upper timestamp limit of the bucket, plus the expireAfterSeconds value. For example, if a bucket covers data up until 2023-03-27T18:29:59Z and expireAfterSeconds is 300, the TTL index expires the bucket after 2023-03-27T18:34:59Z.

If the indexed field in a document is not a date or an array that holds one or more date values, the document will not expire.

If a document does not contain the indexed field, the document will not expire.

A background thread in mongod reads the values in the index and removes expired documents from the collection.

When the TTL thread is active, you will see delete operations in the output of db.currentOp() or in the data collected by the database profiler.

Starting in MongoDB 6.1:

  • To improve efficiency, MongoDB may batch multiple document deletions together.

  • The explain command results contain a new BATCHED_DELETE stage for batched document deletions.

MongoDB begins removing expired documents or time series buckets as soon as the index finishes building on the primary. For more information on the index build process, see Index Builds on Populated Collections.

The TTL index does not guarantee that expired data is deleted immediately upon expiration. There may be a delay between the time that a document expires and the time that MongoDB removes the document from the database.

The background task that removes expired documents runs every 60 seconds. As a result, documents may remain in a collection during the period between the expiration of the document and the running of the background task. MongoDB starts deleting documents 0 to 60 seconds after the index completes.

Because the duration of the removal operation depends on the workload of your mongod instance, expired data may exist for some time beyond the 60 second period between runs of the background task.

The delete operations initiated by the TTL task run in the foreground, like other deletes.

On replica set members, the TTL background thread only deletes documents when a member is in state primary. The TTL background thread is idle when a member is in state secondary. Secondary members replicate deletion operations from the primary.

A TTL index supports queries in the same way non-TTL indexes do.

←  Sparse IndexesExpire Data from Collections by Setting TTL →
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