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Control File Management

What Is a Control File ?

Every Oracle Database has a control file, which is a small binary file that records the physical structure of the database. The control file includes:

  • The database name
  • Names and locations of associated datafiles and redo log files
  • The timestamp of the database creation
  • The current log sequence number
  • Checkpoint information

The control file must be available for writing by the Oracle Database server whenever the database is open. Without the control file, the database cannot be mounted and recovery is difficult.

The control file of an Oracle Database is created at the same time as the database. By default, at least one copy of the control file is created during database creation. On some operating systems the default is to create multiple copies. You should create two or more copies of the control file during database creation. You can also create control files later, if you lose control files or want to change particular settings in the control files.

Creating Control Files

Creating Initial Control Files

The initial control files of an Oracle Database are created when you issue the CREATE DATABASE statement. The names of the control files are specified by the CONTROL_FILES parameter in the initialization parameter file used during database creation. The filenames specified in CONTROL_FILES should be fully specified and are operating system specific. The following is an example of a CONTROL_FILES initialization parameter:

CONTROL_FILES = (/u01/oracle/prod/control01.ctl, /u02/oracle/prod/control02.ctl, /u03/oracle/prod/control03.ctl)

If files with the specified names currently exist at the time of database creation, you must specify the CONTROLFILE REUSE clause in the CREATE DATABASE statement, or else an error occurs. Also, if the size of the old control file differs from the SIZE parameter of the new one, you cannot use the REUSE clause.

The size of the control file changes between some releases of Oracle Database, as well as when the number of files specified in the control file changes. Configuration parameters such as MAXLOGFILES, MAXLOGMEMBERS, MAXLOGHISTORY, MAXDATAFILES, and MAXINSTANCES affect control file size.

You can subsequently change the value of the CONTROL_FILES initialization parameter to add more control files or to change the names or locations of existing control files.

See Also:

Your operating system specific Oracle documentation contains more information about specifying control files.

Creating Additional Copies, Renaming, and Relocating Control Files

You can create an additional control file copy for multiplexing by copying an existing control file to a new location and adding the file name to the list of control files. Similarly, you rename an existing control file by copying the file to its new name or location, and changing the file name in the control file list. In both cases, to guarantee that control files do not change during the procedure, shut down the database before copying the control file.

To add a multiplexed copy of the current control file or to rename a control file:

  1. Shut down the database.
  2. Copy an existing control file to a new location, using operating system commands.
  3. Edit the CONTROL_FILES parameter in the database initialization parameter file to add the new control file name, or to change the existing control filename.
  4. Restart the database.

Creating New Control Files

This section discusses when and how to create new control files.

When to Create New Control Files

It is necessary for you to create new control files in the following situations:

  • All control files for the database have been permanently damaged and you do not have a control file backup.
  • You want to change the database name.
  • For example, you would change a database name if it conflicted with another database name in a distributed environment.
  • Note:
  • You can change the database name and DBID (internal database identifier) using the DBNEWID utility.
      • The compatibility level is set to a value that is earlier than 10.2.0, and you must make a change to an area of database configuration that relates to any of the following parameters from the CREATE DATABASE or CREATE CONTROLFILE commands: MAXLOGFILES, MAXLOGMEMBERS, MAXLOGHISTORY, and MAXINSTANCES. If compatibility is 10.2.0 or later, you do not have to create new control files when you make such a change; the control files automatically expand, if necessary, to accommodate the new configuration information.
      • For example, assume that when you created the database or re-created the control files, you set MAXLOGFILES to 3. Suppose that now you want to add a fourth redo log file group to the database with the ALTER DATABASE command. If compatibility is set to 10.2.0 or later, you can do so and the control files automatically expand to accommodate the new log file information. However, with compatibility set earlier than 10.2.0, your ALTER DATABASE command would generate an error, and you would have to first create new control files.


You can create a new control file for a database using the CREATE CONTROLFILE statement. The following statement creates a new control file for the prod database (a database that formerly used a different database name):



LOGFILE GROUP 1 (‘/u01/oracle/prod/redo01_01.log’, ‘/u01/oracle/prod/redo01_02.log’),
GROUP 2 (‘/u01/oracle/prod/redo02_01.log’,’/u01/oracle,/prod/redo02_02.log’),
GROUP 3 (‘/u01/oracle/prod/redo03_01.log’, ‘/u01/oracle/prod/redo03_02.log’)
DATAFILE ‘/u01/oracle/prod/system01.dbf’ SIZE 3M,
‘/u01/oracle/prod/rbs01.dbs’ SIZE 5M,
‘/u01/oracle/prod/users01.dbs’ SIZE 5M,
‘/u01/oracle/prod/temp01.dbs’ SIZE 5M


      • The CREATE CONTROLFILE statement can potentially damage specified datafiles and redo log files. Omitting a filename can cause loss of the data in that file, or loss of access to the entire database. Use caution when issuing this statement and be sure to follow the instructions in “Steps for Creating New Control Files”.
      • If the database had forced logging enabled before creating the new control file, and you want it to continue to be enabled, then you must specify the FORCE LOGGING clause in the CREATE CONTROLFILE

Steps for Creating New Control Files

Complete the following steps to create a new control file.

  1. Make a list of all datafiles and redo log files of the database.

If you follow recommendations for control file backups as discussed in “Backing Up Control Files” , you will already have a list of datafiles and redo log files that reflect the current structure of the database. However, if you have no such list, executing the following statements will produce one.


If you have no such lists and your control file has been damaged so that the database cannot be opened, try to locate all of the datafiles and redo log files that constitute the database. Any files not specified in step 5 are not recoverable once a new control file has been created. Moreover, if you omit any of the files that comprise the SYSTEM tablespace, you might not be able to recover the database.

  1. Shut down the database.

If the database is open, shut down the database normally if possible. Use the IMMEDIATE or ABORT clauses only as a last resort.

  1. Back up all datafiles and redo log files of the database.
  2. Start up a new instance, but do not mount or open the database:
  4. Create a new control file for the database using the CREATE CONTROLFILE

When creating a new control file, specify the RESETLOGS clause if you have lost any redo log groups in addition to control files. In this case, you will need to recover from the loss of the redo logs (step 8). You must specify the RESETLOGS clause if you have renamed the database. Otherwise, select the NORESETLOGS clause.

  1. Store a backup of the new control file on an offline storage device.
  2. Edit the CONTROL_FILES initialization parameter for the database to indicate all of the control files now part of your database as created in step 5 (not including the backup control file). If you are renaming the database, edit the DB_NAME parameter in your instance parameter file to specify the new name.
  3. Recover the database if necessary. If you are not recovering the database, skip to step 9.

If you are creating the control file as part of recovery, recover the database. If the new control file was created using the NORESETLOGS clause (step 5), you can recover the database with complete, closed database recovery.

If the new control file was created using the RESETLOGS clause, you must specify USING BACKUP CONTROL FILE. If you have lost online or archived redo logs or datafiles, use the procedures for recovering those files.

Open the database using one of the following methods:

  • If you did not perform recovery, or you performed complete, closed database recovery in step 8, open the database normally.
  • If you specified RESETLOGS when creating the control file, use the ALTER DATABASE statement, indicating RESETLOGS.

The database is now open and available for use.

Troubleshooting After Creating Control Files

After issuing the CREATE CONTROLFILE statement, you may encounter some errors. This section describes the most common control file errors:

Checking for Missing or Extra Files

After creating a new control file and using it to open the database, check the alert log to see if the database has detected inconsistencies between the data dictionary and the control file, such as a datafile in the data dictionary includes that the control file does not list.

If a datafile exists in the data dictionary but not in the new control file, the database creates a placeholder entry in the control file under the name MISSINGnnnn, where nnnn is the file number in decimal. MISSINGnnnn is flagged in the control file as being offline and requiring media recovery.

If the actual datafile corresponding to MISSINGnnnn is read-only or offline normal, then you can make the datafile accessible by renaming MISSINGnnnn to the name of the actual datafile. If MISSINGnnnn corresponds to a datafile that was not read-only or offline normal, then you cannot use the rename operation to make the datafile accessible, because the datafile requires media recovery that is precluded by the results of RESETLOGS. In this case, you must drop the tablespace containing the datafile.

Conversely, if a datafile listed in the control file is not present in the data dictionary, then the database removes references to it from the new control file. In both cases, the database includes an explanatory message in the alert log to let you know what was found.

Handling Errors During CREATE CONTROLFILE

If Oracle Database sends you an error (usually error ORA-01173, ORA-01176, ORA-01177, ORA-01215, or ORA-01216) when you attempt to mount and open the database after creating a new control file, the most likely cause is that you omitted a file from the CREATE CONTROLFILE statement or included one that should not have been listed. In this case, you should restore the files you backed up in step 3 and repeat the procedure from step 4, using the correct filenames.

Backing Up Control Files

Use the ALTER DATABASE BACKUP CONTROLFILE statement to back up your control files. You have two options:

  • Back up the control file to a binary file (duplicate of existing control file) using the following statement:
  • ALTER DATABASE BACKUP CONTROLFILE TO ‘/oracle/backup/control.bkp’;
  • Produce SQL statements that can later be used to re-create your control file:

This command writes a SQL script to a trace file where it can be captured and edited to reproduce the control file. View the alert log to determine the name and location of the trace file.

Recovering a Control File Using a Current Copy

This section presents ways that you can recover your control file from a current backup or from a multiplexed copy.

Recovering from Control File Corruption Using a Control File Copy

This procedure assumes that one of the control files specified in the CONTROL_FILES parameter is corrupted, that the control file directory is still accessible, and that you have a multiplexed copy of the control file.

  1. With the instance shut down, use an operating system command to overwrite the bad control file with a good copy
  2. % cp /u03/oracle/prod/control03.ctl /u02/oracle/prod/control02.ctl
  3. Start SQL*Plus and open the database:

Recovering from Permanent Media Failure Using a Control File Copy

This procedure assumes that one of the control files specified in the CONTROL_FILES parameter is inaccessible due to a permanent media failure and that you have a multiplexed copy of the control file.

  • With the instance shut down, use an operating system command to copy the current copy of the control file to a new, accessible location:
  • % cp /u01/oracle/prod/control01.ctl /u04/oracle/prod/control03.ctl
  • Edit the CONTROL_FILES parameter in the initialization parameter file to replace the bad location with the new location:
  • CONTROL_FILES = (/u01/oracle/prod/control01.ctl,
  • /u02/oracle/prod/control02.ctl,
  • /u04/oracle/prod/control03.ctl)
  • Start SQL*Plus and open the database:

If you have multiplexed control files, you can get the database started up quickly by editing the CONTROL_FILES initialization parameter. Remove the bad control file from CONTROL_FILES setting and you can restart the database immediately. Then you can perform the reconstruction of the bad control file and at some later time shut down and restart the database after editing the CONTROL_FILES initialization parameter to include the recovered control file.

Dropping Control Files

You want to drop control files from the database, for example, if the location of a control file is no longer appropriate. Remember that the database should have at least two control files at all times.

  1. Shut down the database.
  2. Edit the CONTROL_FILES parameter in the database initialization parameter file to delete the old control file name.
  3. Restart the database.


How to identify the control files

SYS>select * from v$controlfile;

How to duplex (or) add multiple control file by using pfile


$vi initprd.ora

control_files = /u01/prd/cprd1.ctl , /u01/prd/cprd2.ctl , /u01/prd/cprd3.ctl , /u01/prd/cprd4.ctl


$ cd prd


$cp cprd1.ctl cprd3.ctl

$cp cprd1.ctl cprd4.ctl


SYS>startup force;

SYS>select name from v$control file;

Read More:
Database Startup and Shutdown
Database Creation



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