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I've a set of tables that install with my module, but I worry about mixing them in with Drupal's tables. I shouldn't simply create a separate database for my own tables, should I?

Is there a 'good' approach to this?

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I would create them in the main Drupal database, especially in case you need to JOIN them with other tables.

Personally, I preface custom tables with the module name.

That said, creative use of CCK / fields (depending on Drupal version) often cuts down on the need for custom fields, and integrates nicely with other features (eg, Views).

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Creating tables to go along with a custom module is acceptable and perhaps event "best practice" in the Drupal world. Using a separate database would require an additional connection via PHP which I suspect would be a waste of server memory but an option if you insist on doing so. Often there's no one "right" answer in Drupal. There are of course "best practices" which I encourage you to follow but there's a lot of room for personal style.

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