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Looks like most common distros build their PHP packages without mysqlnd, instead relying on the old libmysql library. Are there any distros that do include the new mysql native driver even as an option in any of their officially supported repositories? If not, is it possible (and if so, how) to rebuild these three (mysql, mysqli, & pdo_mysql) extensions without having to rebuild the entire PHP install?

In my case, there are several PHP functions I need that are available only if these Mysql extenstions are built against mysqlnd. So I'd be fine installing a new OS to get these if the OS offers and supports it.

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In FreeBSD it's as simple as doing

cd /usr/ports/databases/php5-mysqli && make config && make install clean

This will show you a dialog which has Mysqlnd option that you can check/uncheck before compiling.

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