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I decided to upgrade my Debian installation, and after some days using MySQL 5.5, I found that mysql prints garbage to the terminal intead of UTF-8 characters.

I had a look at the SQL file that was produced by mysqldump, and noticed it already contained the garbage. Today I dropped the database and got a copy of the old /var/lib/mysql/database_name/* which was working well and, to my surprise, I still get the same results.

The file produced by mysqldump includes the following lines:

/*!40101 SET NAMES utf8 */;
/*!40101 SET character_set_client = utf8 */;

/var/lib/mysql/database_name/db.opt from the old and new databases are the same:


What can I do now? I hope I won't lose the entire database!


show session variables like 'character%';
| Variable_name            | Value                      |
| character_set_client     | utf8                       |
| character_set_connection | utf8                       |
| character_set_database   | latin1                     |
| character_set_filesystem | binary                     |
| character_set_results    | utf8                       |
| character_set_server     | latin1                     |
| character_set_system     | utf8                       |
| character_sets_dir       | /usr/share/mysql/charsets/ |

SELECT charset(name), hex(name), name FROM table WHERE id='123';
| charset(name) | hex(name)                                    | name                       |
| latin1        | 457361C3BA204A6F73C3A92064652053616E74616E61 | Esaú José de Santana     |

The output of name in the last command should be Esaú José de Santana

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Please show the terminal's settings. – CL. Sep 30 '12 at 11:02
Hi, terminal settings have not changed. And the problem is only with MySQL, everything else works: TERM=xterm; LANG=pt_BR.UTF-8 – Teresa e Junior Sep 30 '12 at 12:10
Please show the output of show session variables like 'character%';, and of SELECT charset(mycolumn), hex(mycolumn) FROM mytable WHERE ... for some affected record. – CL. Sep 30 '12 at 12:23
Already updated! – Teresa e Junior Sep 30 '12 at 14:44

The MySQL output and the terminal work correctly; the problem is that the text in the database is labelled as latin1, but actually encoded as utf8.

This can be fixed by

  1. dumping the database into a Latin1 file, then importing that file as UTF-8: Fixing a MySQL Character Encoding Mismatch; or
  2. in MySQL, converting through binary to ignore the wrong encoding:

    UPDATE table SET column=CONVERT(CONVERT(column USING binary) USING utf8) WHERE id=123;

    Fixing column encoding mess in MySQL.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The answer from @CL. helped me a lot with debugging, but it was the other way around: both the database and the backup files were encoded with latin1, but the client expected UTF-8 output.

The solution was to make sure character_set_client was set to latin1 as well:

default-character-set = latin1
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