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Expire Data from Collections by Setting TTL

New in version 2.2.

This document provides an introduction to MongoDB’s “time to live” or “TTL” collection feature. Implemented as a special index type, TTL collections make it possible to store data in MongoDB and have the mongod automatically remove data after a specified period of time. This is ideal for some types of information like machine generated event data, logs, and session information that only need to persist in a database for a limited period of time.


Collections expire by way of a special index of a field with date values in conjunction with a background thread in mongod that regularly removes expired documents from the collection. You can use this feature to expire data from replica sets and sharded clusters.

Use the expireAfterSeconds option to the ensureIndex method in conjunction with a TTL value in seconds to create an expiring collection. TTL collections set the usePowerOf2Sizes collection flag, which means MongoDB must allocate more disk space relative to data size. This approach helps mitigate the possibility of storage fragmentation caused by frequent delete operations and leads to more predictable storage use patterns.


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


Consider the following limitations:

  • the indexed field must be a date BSON type. If the field does not have a date type, the data will not expire.
  • you cannot create this index on the _id field, or a field that already has an index.
  • the TTL index may not be compound (may not have multiple fields).
  • if the field holds an array, and there are multiple date-typed data in the index, the document will expire when the lowest (i.e. earliest) matches the expiration threshold.
  • you cannot use a TTL index on a capped collection, because MongoDB cannot remove documents from a capped collection.


TTL indexes expire data by removing documents in a background task that runs every 60 seconds. As a result, the TTL index provides no guarantees that expired documents will not exist in the collection. Consider that:

  • Documents may remain in a collection after they expire and before the background process runs.
  • The duration of the removal operations depend on the workload of your mongod instance.

Enabling a TTL for a Collection

To set a TTL on the collection “” for one hour use the following command at the mongo shell: { "status": 1 }, { expireAfterSeconds: 3600 } )

The status field must hold date/time information. MongoDB will automatically delete documents from this collection once the value of status is one or more hours old.


The TTL background thread only runs on primary members of replica sets. Secondaries members will replicate deletion operations from the primaries.