What Is Serial Data Type in MySQL?


Heather Bennett

What Is Serial Data Type in MySQL?

In MySQL, the serial data type is a shorthand way of defining an auto-incrementing column. It is commonly used to generate unique, sequential values for primary keys or other columns that require a unique identifier.

Defining a Serial Column

To define a serial column in MySQL, you can use the SERIAL keyword followed by any other required column attributes. For example:

    id SERIAL,
    name VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,
    email VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL

The SERIAL keyword creates an auto-incrementing column named ‘id’ in the ‘users’ table. Each time a new row is inserted, the value of the ‘id’ column will automatically increment by 1.

Behind the Scenes

Under the hood, MySQL uses the AUTO_INCREMENT attribute to implement serial columns. This attribute ensures that each new row inserted into the table will be assigned a unique and incremented value for the serial column.

The starting value for a serial column is 1 by default. However, you can specify a different starting value by using the AUTO_INCREMENT = value syntax when creating or altering a table.


  • The data type of serial columns is always signed BIGINT.
  • If you attempt to insert explicit values into a serial column, MySQL will ignore them and automatically assign the next sequential value instead.
  • You can also explicitly set a serial column to NULL if you don’t want it to auto-increment when inserting a new row.

Example Usage

Let’s consider a practical example to illustrate the usage of serial data type in MySQL:

CREATE TABLE products (
    id SERIAL,
    name VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,
    price DECIMAL(10, 2) NOT NULL

In this example, we created a ‘products’ table with a serial column named ‘id’. This column will automatically generate incremental values for each new product inserted into the table.


The serial data type in MySQL is a convenient way to define auto-incrementing columns. It simplifies the process of generating unique sequential values for primary keys or other identifier columns. By using the serial data type, you can ensure that each row in your table has a unique identifier without having to manually manage the incrementing logic.

Remember to use the SERIAL keyword when defining a serial column and enjoy the benefits of automatic value generation!

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