Can We Change the Data Type of Any Field to Auto Number?


Larry Thompson

Can We Change the Data Type of Any Field to Auto Number?

When working with databases, one common question that arises is whether we can change the data type of any field to auto number. In this article, we will explore this topic in depth and understand the possibilities and limitations.

The Auto Number Data Type

The auto number data type is a unique feature offered by many database management systems. It automatically generates a unique value for each record in a table. This is particularly useful when we need to create a unique identifier for each entry without having to manually assign values.

Limitations of Changing Data Types

While it may be tempting to convert any field to an auto number data type, there are certain limitations that we need to consider:

  • Data Integrity: Changing the data type of an existing field to auto number can lead to data integrity issues. If the field already contains values, converting it may result in unexpected behavior or loss of information.
  • Dependencies: Fields used as foreign keys or referenced by other tables may have dependencies that prevent them from being changed to auto number.
  • Data Type Compatibility: Not all fields can be converted to auto number due to incompatible data types. For example, text or date fields cannot be directly converted.

Alternative Solutions

If changing the data type of a field to auto number is not feasible, there are alternative solutions that can achieve similar results:

  • Create a New Field: Instead of changing an existing field, we can create a new auto number field and use it as the unique identifier going forward. This ensures data integrity and avoids compatibility issues.
  • Use a Combination of Fields: If a unique identifier is required but auto number is not an option, we can use a combination of existing fields to create a composite key. This can be achieved by concatenating multiple fields or using a hash function.


In conclusion, while it may not be possible to change the data type of any field to auto number due to limitations and potential data integrity issues, there are alternative solutions available. It’s crucial to carefully consider the implications and choose the most appropriate approach based on the specific requirements of your database.

By understanding the limitations and exploring alternative solutions, we can effectively handle unique identifiers in our databases and ensure data integrity.

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