#0416 – SQL Server – Msg 8101 – Use column lists when working with IDENTITY columns


I have often written about IDENTITY columns on my blog. Identity columns, most commonly used to implement auto-increment keys, have been around for more than a decade now. Yet, I often see teams run into interesting use cases especially in cases where data is being migrated from one system to another.

Today’s post is based on one such incident that came to my attention.

The team was trying to migrate data from one table to another as part of an exercise to change the database structure for more efficiency. When moving the data from one table to another, they were using the option (SET IDENTITY_INSERT ON) in order to explicitly insert values into the Identity column. However, they were running into an error.

Msg 8101, Level 16, State 1, Line 24
An explicit value for the identity column in table 'dbo.tIdentity' can only be specified when a column list is used and IDENTITY_INSERT is ON.

Here is a simulation of what they were doing:

USE tempdb;
GO
SET NOCOUNT ON;
--Prepare the environment
--   Create a table, and add some test data into it
--Safety Check
IF OBJECT_ID('tIdentity','U') IS NOT NULL
    DROP TABLE dbo.tIdentity;
GO
--Create a table
CREATE TABLE dbo.tIdentity (IdentityId INT IDENTITY(1,1),
                            IdentityValue VARCHAR(10)
                           );
GO
--Turn Explicit IDENTITY_INSERT ON and insert duplicate IDENTITY values
SET IDENTITY_INSERT dbo.tIdentity ON;
GO
--NOTICE: No column list has been supplied in the INSERT
INSERT INTO dbo.tIdentity
VALUES (1, 'One'),
       (2, 'Two');
GO

--RESULTS
--Msg 8101, Level 16, State 1, Line 24
--An explicit value for the identity column in table 'dbo.tIdentity' can only be pecified when a column list is used and IDENTITY_INSERT is ON.

The Solution

Let’s re-read the error. It clearly gives an indication of what the issue is – if we need to insert an explicit value into Identity columns, we need to explicitly use column lists in our insert statements, as shown below.

USE tempdb;
GO
SET NOCOUNT ON;
--Prepare the environment
--Create a table, and add some test data into it
--Safety Check
IF OBJECT_ID('tIdentity','U') IS NOT NULL
    DROP TABLE dbo.tIdentity;
GO

--Create a table
CREATE TABLE dbo.tIdentity (IdentityId INT IDENTITY(1,1),
                            IdentityValue VARCHAR(10)
                           );
GO

--Turn Explicit IDENTITY_INSERT ON and insert duplicate IDENTITY values
SET IDENTITY_INSERT dbo.tIdentity ON;
GO

--NOTE: Column list has been supplied in the INSERT,
--      so, no errors will be encountered    
INSERT INTO dbo.tIdentity ([IdentityId], [IdentityValue])
VALUES (1, 'One'),
       (2, 'Two');
GO

--Confirm that data has been inserted
SELECT IdentityId,
       IdentityValue
FROM dbo.tIdentity;
GO

--Now that data has been inserted, turn OFF IDENTITY_INSERT
SET IDENTITY_INSERT dbo.tIdentity OFF;
GO

-----------------------------------------------------------------
--RESULTS
----------
--IdentityId  IdentityValue
--1           One
--2           Two
 -----------------------------------------------------------------

Hope you will find this helpful.

Untill we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.

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