SQLite change column datatype

In SQLite, changing the datatype of a column can be necessary when you need to adapt your database schema to new requirements or correct previous design decisions. The process involves a few steps to ensure data integrity and avoid potential issues. Here’s a guide on how to change the datatype of a column in SQLite:

1. Backup Your Database:
Before making any changes to your database schema, it’s crucial to create a backup. This ensures that you can revert to the previous state if something goes wrong during the datatype change.

2. Use the ALTER TABLE Statement:
To change the datatype of a column, you can use the ALTER TABLE statement. Here’s the basic syntax:

PRAGMA foreign_keys=off;


-- Create a new table with the desired schema
CREATE TABLE new_table (
    column1 datatype1,
    column2 datatype2,
    -- ... other columns ...

-- Copy data from the old table to the new table
INSERT INTO new_table SELECT * FROM old_table;

-- Drop the old table
DROP TABLE old_table;

-- Rename the new table to the original table name
ALTER TABLE new_table RENAME TO old_table;


PRAGMA foreign_keys=on;

Let’s break down the steps:

PRAGMA foreign_keys=off;: This disables foreign key constraints temporarily. It’s essential to avoid issues when dropping and recreating tables.

BEGIN TRANSACTION;: Starts a transaction to group the series of operations together.

CREATE TABLE new_table: Defines a new table with the desired column datatypes.

INSERT INTO new_table SELECT * FROM old_table;: Copies data from the old table to the new one.

DROP TABLE old_table;: Removes the old table.

ALTER TABLE new_table RENAME TO old_table;: Renames the new table to the original table name.

COMMIT;: Commits the transaction.

PRAGMA foreign_keys=on;: Re-enables foreign key constraints.


Suppose you want to change the datatype of the ‘age’ column in the ‘persons’ table from INTEGER to TEXT:

PRAGMA foreign_keys=off;


CREATE TABLE persons_new (
    name TEXT,
    age TEXT,
    -- ... other columns ...

INSERT INTO persons_new SELECT * FROM persons;

DROP TABLE persons;

ALTER TABLE persons_new RENAME TO persons;


PRAGMA foreign_keys=on;

Remember to adapt the example to your specific table and column names.

3. Data conversion:
Be aware that changing the datatype may result in the loss of data if there is a potential for data truncation or conversion errors. Ensure that the new datatype can accommodate the existing data.

4. Index, constraints, and triggers:
If your table has indexes, constraints, or triggers, you may need to update or recreate them after altering the table structure.

5. Validate and Test:
After making changes, thoroughly test your application to ensure that the new schema works as expected and that data integrity is maintained.

6. Considerations:
Changing datatypes may result in data loss or unexpected behavior if not handled correctly.
This approach assumes that the datatype conversion is straightforward. If data transformation is needed, additional steps are required during the INSERT INTO new_table statement.

Always exercise caution when modifying the structure of a database, especially in production environments, and make sure to have proper backups and a thorough understanding of the potential consequences.

Remember that the specific SQL syntax might vary based on your SQLite version, so refer to the documentation corresponding to your SQLite version for the most accurate information.