Read Isolation, Consistency, and Recency

Isolation Guarantees

Read Uncommitted

In MongoDB, clients can see the results of writes before the writes are durable:

Read uncommitted is the default isolation level and applies to mongod standalone instances as well as to replica sets and sharded clusters.

Read Uncommitted And Single Document Atomicity

Write operations are atomic with respect to a single document; i.e. if a write is updating multiple fields in the document, a reader will never see the document with only some of the fields updated.

With a standalone mongod instance, a set of read and write operations to a single document is serializable. With a replica set, a set of read and write operations to a single document is serializable only in the absence of a rollback.

However, although the readers may not see a partially updated document, read uncommitted means that concurrent readers may still see the updated document before the changes are durable.

Read Uncommitted And Multiple Document Write

When a single write operation modifies multiple documents, the modification of each document is atomic, but the operation as a whole is not atomic and other operations may interleave.

Without isolating the multi-document write operations, MongoDB exhibits the following behavior:

  1. Non-point-in-time read operations. Suppose a read operation begins at time t1 and starts reading documents. A write operation then commits an update to one of the documents at some later time t2. The reader may see the updated version of the document, and therefore does not see a point-in-time snapshot of the data.
  2. Non-serializable operations. Suppose a read operation reads a document d1 at time t1 and a write operation updates d1 at some later time t3. This introduces a read-write dependency such that, if the operations were to be serialized, the read operation must precede the write operation. But also suppose that the write operation updates document d2 at time t2 and the read operation subsequently reads d2 at some later time t4. This introduces a write-read dependency which would instead require the read operation to come after the write operation in a serializable schedule. There is a dependency cycle which makes serializability impossible.
  3. Reads may miss matching documents that are updated during the course of the read operation.

Cursor Snapshot

MongoDB cursors can return the same document more than once in some situations. As a cursor returns documents other operations may interleave with the query. If some of these operations are updates that cause the document to move (in the case of MMAPv1, caused by document growth) or that change the indexed field on the index used by the query; then the cursor will return the same document more than once.

If your collection has a field or fields that are never modified, you can use a unique index on this field or these fields so that the query will return each document no more than once. Query with hint() to explicitly force the query to use that index.

Monotonic Writes

MongoDB provides monotonic write guarantees, by default, for standalone mongod instances and replica set.

For monotonic writes and sharded clusters, see Causal Consistency.

Real Time Order

New in version 3.4.

For read and write operations on the primary, issuing read operations with "linearizable" read concern and write operations with "majority" write concern enables multiple threads to perform reads and writes on a single document as if a single thread performed these operations in real time; that is, the corresponding schedule for these reads and writes is considered linearizable.

Causal Consistency

New in version 3.6.

If an operation logically depends on a preceding operation, there is a causal relationship between the operations. For example, a write operation that deletes all documents based on a specified condition and a subsequent read operation that verifies the delete operation have a causal relationship.

With causal consistency, MongoDB executes causal operations in an order that respect their causal relationships, and clients observe results that are consistent with the causal relationships.

Client Sessions


To use client sessions:

The following discussion refers to client sessions, which are separate from server sessions.

To provide causal consistency, MongoDB 3.6 enables causal consistency in client sessions. A causally consistent session denotes that the associated sequence of read and acknowledged write operations have a causal relationship that is reflected by their ordering. Applications must ensure that only one thread at a time executes these operations in a client session.

For causally related operations:

  1. A client starts a client session.

  2. As the client issues a sequence of read and write operations, the client includes the session information with each operation. The client uses a read concern to specify that each operation is causally related to the previous one in the session.

  3. For each read and acknowledged write operation associated with the session, MongoDB returns the operation time and the cluster time, even if the operation errors. The client session keeps track of the operation time and the cluster time.


    MongoDB does not return the operation time and the cluster time for unacknowledged write operations. Unacknowledged writes do not imply any causal relationship.

  4. The associated client session tracks these two time fields.

The following table lists the causal consistency guarantees provided by causally consistent sessions for read and acknowledged write operations. These guarantees hold across all members of the MongoDB deployment.

Guarantees Description
Read your writes Read operations reflect the results of write operations that precede them.
Monotonic reads

Read operation do not return results that corresponds to an earlier state of the data than a preceding read operation.

For example, if in a session:

  • write1 precedes write2,
  • read1 precedes read2, and
  • read1 returns results that reflect write2

then, read2 cannot return results of write1.

Monotonic writes Write operations that must precede other writes are executed before those other writes.
Writes follow reads Write operations that must occur after read operations are executed after those read operations.
These guarantees hold across all members of the MongoDB deployment.

For example, if, for a client session, you issue an acknowledged write followed by a read from a secondary, the read operation will reflect the state of the database after the write operation.


Operations within a client session are not isolated from operations outside the session. If a concurrent write operation interleaves between the session’s write and read operations, the session’s read operation may return results that reflect a write operation that occurred after the session’s write operation.

Operations can be causally consistent across different sessions.
MongoDB drivers and the mongo shell provide the methods to advance the operation time and advance the cluster time for a client session. So, a client can advance the cluster time and the operation time of one client session to be consistent with the operations of another client session.


The following operations that build in-memory structures are not causally consistent:

Operation Notes
$collStats with latencyStats option.  
$currentOp Returns an error if the operation is associated with a causally consistent client session.
getMore Returns an error if the operation is associated with a causally consistent client session.
ping Returns an error if the operation is associated with a causally consistent client session.
serverStatus Returns an error if the operation is associated with a causally consistent client session.
createIndex with background: true option; i.e. background index builds