How To Set Default Values in Snowflake Columns

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May 2, 2024

Understanding how to set default values in Snowflake can significantly streamline your data insertion processes by ensuring columns have predictable data when explicit values are not provided. This tutorial will guide you through the concept of default values in Snowflake, including how to add, modify, and understand the limitations associated with default values.

What are Default Values in Snowflake?

Default values in Snowflake refer to predefined values for a column that are automatically used when no other value is specified during an insert operation. This feature is crucial for maintaining data integrity and consistency across your database tables.


This SQL command sets a default value of 'N/A' for the `status` column in the `orders` table.

1. Adding Default Values to New Columns

To add a default value to a new column in Snowflake, use the `ALTER TABLE` statement combined with the `ADD COLUMN` syntax.

ALTER TABLE table_name ADD COLUMN new_column_name data_type DEFAULT default_value;

This command adds a new column to a table with a specified default value.

2. Modifying Default Values

If you need to change the default value for a column, you can use the `ALTER TABLE ... ALTER COLUMN` syntax, with limitations.


This command changes the default value of the `status` column to 'New Default'. Note that modifying default values is restricted to sequences.

3. Understanding Limitations and Considerations

There are several limitations when working with default values in Snowflake, including restrictions on dropping default values and adding them to existing columns.

Common Challenges and Solutions

Working with default values in Snowflake might present challenges such as data type mismatches and issues with existing data not being updated.

  • Ensure the default value matches the column's data type to prevent errors.
  • Remember that existing rows will not automatically update with the new default value; consider a batch update if necessary.
  • Use special functions like `CURRENT_DATE()` judiciously as default values for date columns.

Best Practices for Using Default Values

Adhering to best practices when setting default values can help maintain data integrity and streamline database operations.

  • Use meaningful default values that reflect the nature of the data and support your application logic.
  • Regularly review and update default values as your application evolves to ensure they remain relevant.
  • Test the impact of default values on your application's behavior to avoid unexpected outcomes.

Further Learning on Snowflake Features

To deepen your understanding of Snowflake, consider exploring additional features and functionalities.

  • Investigate Snowflake's data types and their implications on database design.
  • Learn about Snowflake's support for semi-structured data types like JSON and XML.
  • Explore advanced Snowflake features like data sharing and cloning for efficient data management.

Recap of Setting Default Values in Snowflake

Setting default values in Snowflake columns is a powerful feature that enhances data consistency and simplifies insertion operations. By following this tutorial, you should now be equipped to add, modify, and understand the limitations of default values in your Snowflake database.

  • Adding default values to new or existing columns ensures data integrity.
  • Be mindful of the limitations and data type requirements when working with default values.
  • Adopt best practices and continue learning about Snowflake to leverage its full potential.

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