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UTL_FILE_DIR and 18c

I wrote a blog post called The Death of UTL_FILE which attracted a comment from a reader:

“There is NO chance to stay at UTL_FILE as it is DESUPPORTED starting with database Version 18c”

This is not the case, but since I wanted to clarify what has changed in 18c, it warrants this small but separate blog post. When UTL_FILE first into existence in Oracle 7, the concept of directory object did not apply to UTL_FILE. Clearly we could not just let UTL_FILE to write to any destination, otherwise a malicious person could write a little PL/SQL block like this:

  f utl_file.file_type;
  for i in ( select 
                regexp_substr(name,'(.*)\\(.*)', 1, 1, 'i', 1) path,
                regexp_substr(name,'(.*)\\(.*)', 1, 1, 'i', 2) name
             from v$datafile 
             order by file# desc ) 
    f := utl_file.fopen(i.path,,'W');
  end loop;

and voila! No more database. So an initialization parameter was created to nominate which directories UTL_FILE was allowed to access.  This parameter was called UTL_FILE_DIR, and the above code hopefully is justification enough to show that you should never ever set UTL_FILE_DIR to “*”, meaning it could write to wherever the OS permissions on the Oracle software account would allow it.  Bye Bye datafiles…bye bye database Smile

In more recent versions, UTL_FILE was improved so that the directory parameter could be supplied as a directory object. This is a much tighter implementation because read and write privileges on directory objects can be controlled from within the database.

In 18c, it is not UTL_FILE that has been de-supported, it is the ability to use the older style convention of hard-coded path names for the directory that is no longer allowed. You have to use directory objects. If you set the traditional UTL_FILE_DIR path in the spfile it will be ignored, and you’ll get a warning on startup.

SQL> alter system set utl_file_dir = 'c:\temp' scope=spfile;

System altered.

SQL> startup force
ORA-32004: obsolete or deprecated parameter(s) specified for RDBMS instance
ORACLE instance started.

-- alert log
Obsolete system parameters with specified values:
End of obsolete system parameter listing

But even if you set UTL_FILE_DIR in the spfile, you will not be allowed to use OS directory paths in the UTL_FILE dir calls.

SQL> declare
  2    f utl_file.file_type;
  3  begin
  4    f := utl_file.fopen('c:\temp','demo.dat','W');
  5    utl_file.fclose_all;
  6  end;
  7  /
ERROR at line 1:
ORA-29280: invalid directory object
ORA-06512: at "SYS.UTL_FILE", line 41
ORA-06512: at "SYS.UTL_FILE", line 478
ORA-06512: at line 4

If you prefer a video version of this explanation, I had some fun riding my bike when I talked about this when 18c first came out earlier this year.