Fixing mysqldump character-encoding in Vim

If you find yourself in a position where your mysqldump backup/restore process isn’t working, it’s worth checking for character-encoding issues - and the best way to do this is often to look at the SQL in your backup file.

To tell vim you prefer working in unicode, you may have added some settings to your .vimrc:

set encoding=utf-8 fenc=utf-8

That doesn’t get vim to treat existing files as UTF-8 though! Vim tries to figure-out the encoding itself, and may well get it wrong.

Looking at the mysqldump file, you could see garbage like:

One naïve approach

Something’s horribly wrong there. It looks like an encoding issue, and a quick :set fenc shows you whether vim opened the file in latin1 or utf-8.

You can force vim to re-open the file in utf-8 using:

:e ++enc=utf8 %

Hopefully, you now see:

One naïve approach

Now you know you’ve got unicode in your mysqldump, you can fix the restore process by a bit of search-and-replace on connection settings and table-creation statements. i.e you’re looking for lines like:

/*!40101 SET NAMES latin1 */;



Switch those from latin1 to utf8 and, fingers-crossed, you should be able to restore your db backup, and upgrade all your tables to utf8 in the process.