Diagnosing and Fixing MySQL Error 1097 – SQLSTATE: HY000 (ER_TOO_BIG_SET)

When working with MySQL, encountering an error can halt your database operations. Error 1097 – SQLSTATE: HY000 (ER_TOO_BIG_SET) is one such issue that indicates you’ve exceeded the maximum number of strings for a column when using a SET type. This error typically arises when you try to insert or update more strings into a SET column than it’s configured to handle.

Understanding the Error

A SET column in MySQL is a string object that can hold zero or more values, each of which must be chosen from a list of permitted values specified when the table is created. The error message “Too many strings for column %s and SET” suggests that the operation you’re trying to perform is violating this constraint.

According to the MySQL 8.0 Error Message Reference, this error occurs when the number of strings specified for a SET column exceeds its limit. The maximum number of distinct elements in a SET list is 64.

Diagnosing the Problem

To diagnose the issue, first, check the column definition to understand how many values are allowed in the SET. You can retrieve this information using the DESCRIBE or SHOW COLUMNS command:

DESCRIBE your_table_name;


SHOW COLUMNS FROM your_table_name LIKE 'your_set_column_name';

This will show you the type of the column and the permitted values.

Fixing the Error

To resolve the error, you have a few options:

Option 1: Modify the Data

Ensure that the data you’re inserting or updating in the SET column does not exceed the predefined set of values. For example, if your SET column is defined as SET('value1', 'value2', 'value3'), you can only include these values.

UPDATE your_table_name SET your_set_column_name = 'value1,value2' WHERE your_condition;

Option 2: Change the Column Definition

If you need to store more values, consider altering the column to increase the number of permitted values, keeping in mind the 64-value limit:

ALTER TABLE your_table_name MODIFY COLUMN your_set_column_name SET('value1', 'value2', 'value3', ..., 'valueN');

Option 3: Normalize Your Data

If the 64-value limit is too restrictive for your use case, it might be time to normalize your data by creating a separate table to store the multiple values and then linking it with a foreign key.

CREATE TABLE new_values_table (
    your_table_id INT,
    value VARCHAR(255),
    FOREIGN KEY (your_table_id) REFERENCES your_table_name (id)

Then, instead of using a SET column, you can insert the multiple values into this new table.

Option 4: Use a Different Data Type

For a large number of distinct values, consider using a different data type, such as VARCHAR or TEXT, and manage the multiple values at the application level.


The MySQL Error 1097 is an indication that the data you are trying to work with does not comply with the SET column’s constraints. By following the diagnostic steps and applying one of the fixes provided, you can resolve the issue and continue with your database operations. Remember to always back up your data before making structural changes to your database.

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