How do I get the value of a persistent variable with variable_get()? Does the function save the value on a database table or somewhere else?


To get the value use:

$valueVar = variable_get('myvar');

It is saved on a generic database table called [prefix]_variable, if you are not using prefix, the name of the table is variable. Look at: https://www.drupal.org/forum/support/module-development-and-code-questions/2009-05-14/help-which-table-is-the-variable

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You can use variable_set() to set the value and that will store it in the database. e.g.


Then to retreive it:

$myvar = variable_get('myvar');

You could create a page with a form to allow CMS users to change the values of your variables. See this for examples: https://api.drupal.org/api/drupal/modules%21system%21system.module/function/system_settings_form/7.x

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variable_get() only retrieves the value of a persistent variable; it doesn't save its value as that is the task for variable_set().

Actually, variable_get() gets the persistent variable value from the global $conf which is initialized from the following code in _drupal_bootstrap_variables().

  global $conf;

  // Initialize the lock system.
  require_once DRUPAL_ROOT . '/' . variable_get('lock_inc', 'includes/lock.inc');

  // Load variables from the database, but do not overwrite variables set in settings.php.
  $conf = variable_initialize(isset($conf) ? $conf : array());

The code in variable_initialize() first tries to load the persistent variable values from the cache, and then load the values from the database (the variable database table).

  if ($cached = cache_get('variables', 'cache_bootstrap')) {
    $variables = $cached->data;
  else {
    // Cache miss. Avoid a stampede.
    $name = 'variable_init';
    if (!lock_acquire($name, 1)) {

      // Another request is building the variable cache.
      // Wait, then re-run this function.
      return variable_initialize($conf);
    else {
      // Proceed with variable rebuild.
      $variables = array_map('unserialize', db_query('SELECT name, value FROM {variable}')
      cache_set('variables', $variables, 'cache_bootstrap');
  foreach ($conf as $name => $value) {
    $variables[$name] = $value;
  return $variables;

To answer the values of persistent variables can be stored:

  • In the global $conf initialized in the settings.php file (which means in memory)
  • In the cache, which isn't necessarily stored in the database, especially if there are third-party modules that change the cache functions
  • In the variable database table, when saved using variable_set()
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