How to resolve ORA-01439 Error Message in Oracle database

Learn the purpose and how to unravel the ORA-01439 error message in Oracle.


When you stumble upon an ORA-01439 error, the following error message will appear:

ORA-01439: column to be modified ought to be empty to trade datatype


You tried to execute a ALTER TABLE MODIFY declaration to exchange the datatype of a column, but the column contained data. You can solely modify the datatype of a column whose values are all NULL.


The option(s) to resolve this Oracle error are:

Option #1

Execute an UPDATE declaration to alternate all values in that column to NULL.

Option #2

Execute a DELETE declaration to get rid of all rows from the table.

For example, if you had a desk referred to as suppliers described as follows:

CREATE TABLE suppliers
( supplier_id number(5),
  supplier_name varchar2(50)

Then executed an INSERT statement as follows:

INSERT into suppliers
(supplier_id, supplier_name)
VALUES (12345, 'IBM');

And you tried to execute the following ALTER TABLE statement:

ALTER TABLE suppliers
 MODIFY supplier_id varchar2(5);

You would receive the following error message:

You could right the error with either of the following solutions:

Solution #1

You can update the supplier_id column to all NULLs. This only works if the supplier_id discipline will be given NULL values.

UPDATE suppliers
SET supplier_id = NULL;

Solution #2

You can get rid of all entries from the suppliers table.

DELETE FROM suppliers;

If you do figure out to delete all entries from your suppliers table, you might desire to make sure that you have a backup of the data.