10 Differences Between alter and update

ALTER vs UPDATE: Understanding the Differences

Engaging 50-word intro to hook the reader to continue reading until the end of this article.

What is/are ALTER?

ALTER is a statement in SQL (Structured Query Language) used to modify the structure of a database table. It allows you to add, modify, or delete columns in an existing table. ALTER can also be used to add constraints, change data types, and perform other table-level modifications.

Examples of ALTER

Here are a few examples of using ALTER:

  • Adding a new column to a table: ALTER TABLE table_name ADD column_name data_type;
  • Modifying the data type of a column: ALTER TABLE table_name ALTER COLUMN column_name new_data_type;
  • Deleting a column from a table: ALTER TABLE table_name DROP COLUMN column_name;

What is/are UPDATE?

UPDATE is an SQL statement used to modify the data in existing rows of a table. It allows you to change the values of one or more columns based on specified conditions. UPDATE is commonly used to update the values of columns based on certain criteria.

Examples of UPDATE

Here are a few examples of using UPDATE:

  • Updating a single column in all rows: UPDATE table_name SET column_name = new_value;
  • Updating multiple columns in a specific row: UPDATE table_name SET column1 = value1, column2 = value2 WHERE condition;

Differences between ALTER and UPDATE

Difference Area ALTER UPDATE
Operation Modifies the structure of a database table Modifies the data in existing rows of a table
Usage Adding, modifying or deleting columns in a table Updating values of one or more columns
Scope Table-level operation Row-level operation
Conditions N/A Can use conditions to determine which rows to update
Primary Purpose Structural modification of tables Data modification within tables
Constraints Can add or remove constraints on columns Does not add or remove constraints
Effects Changes the structure of the table while preserving existing data Changes the values of columns in specified rows
Rollback Alterations can be rolled back (undone) Updates cannot be rolled back (follow commit/rollback transaction)
Performance Impact Can be resource-intensive for large tables and complex operations Performance impact depends on the number of rows being updated and complexity of conditions
Availability May require table locks during alterations Does not require table locks during updates


In conclusion, ALTER and UPDATE are two distinct SQL statements used for different purposes. ALTER is used to modify the structure of a database table, while UPDATE is used to modify the data within existing rows. ALTER is primarily focused on structural changes, while UPDATE is focused on data manipulation. Understanding the differences between these two statements is crucial for effective database management.

People Also Ask:

Q: Can ALTER be used to update data in a table?
A: No, ALTER is used for structural modifications, not for updating data within rows. For data updates, UPDATE should be used.

Q: Does UPDATE change the structure of a table?
A: No, UPDATE only modifies the values of columns in specific rows. It does not change the structure of the table.

Q: Can ALTER and UPDATE be combined in a single SQL statement?
A: Yes, it is possible to use ALTER and UPDATE statements together in a larger SQL script or transaction to perform both structural and data modifications.

Q: Are there any limitations on using ALTER or UPDATE?
A: The usage of ALTER and UPDATE may be subject to database permissions and security settings. Additionally, certain complex alterations and updates may require extensive planning and considerations for data integrity.

Q: Is it possible to roll back an UPDATE statement?
A: No, once an UPDATE statement is executed and committed, it cannot be rolled back like an ALTER operation. Updating data within tables is considered a permanent modification.

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