Resolving MySQL Error 1164: Handling AUTO_INCREMENT Issues

When working with MySQL, encountering error messages is a common part of the database management experience. One such error is Error 1164 – SQLSTATE: 42000 (ER_TABLE_CANT_HANDLE_AUTO_INCREMENT), which indicates that the table type being used does not support AUTO_INCREMENT columns. This error can be a stumbling block, but with the right approach, you can diagnose and resolve it efficiently.

Understanding the Error

The AUTO_INCREMENT attribute can be used to generate a unique identity for new rows. However, not all storage engines in MySQL support this feature. For instance, the MEMORY and NDB (used in MySQL Cluster) storage engines do not support AUTO_INCREMENT columns. If you attempt to create an AUTO_INCREMENT column on a table using an incompatible storage engine, MySQL will return the Error 1164.

Diagnosing the Problem

To diagnose the issue, start by checking the storage engine of the table where you’re trying to add the AUTO_INCREMENT column. You can do this by executing the following SQL command:

SHOW TABLE STATUS LIKE 'your_table_name';

Replace 'your_table_name' with the name of the table you’re working on. Look for the Engine value in the output. If it’s not a storage engine that supports AUTO_INCREMENT (like InnoDB, which does support it), you’ve found the cause of the error.

Fixing the Error

Changing the Storage Engine

If the storage engine does not support AUTO_INCREMENT, you can usually resolve the error by converting the table to a storage engine that does, such as InnoDB. Here’s how you can change the storage engine:

ALTER TABLE your_table_name ENGINE=InnoDB;

Modifying the Table Structure

If changing the storage engine is not an option, you can remove the AUTO_INCREMENT attribute from the column definition. To do this, use the ALTER TABLE command to modify the column:

ALTER TABLE your_table_name MODIFY column_name INT NOT NULL;

Replace column_name with the name of the column that has the AUTO_INCREMENT attribute, and adjust the data type (INT in this example) as needed.

Preventing Future Errors

To avoid such errors in the future, always ensure that the storage engine you’re using for your tables supports all the features you plan to use. You can consult the MySQL documentation on storage engines and their features for guidance.


Error 1164 in MySQL can be a sign that you need to reconsider your table’s storage engine or rethink the use of AUTO_INCREMENT. By understanding which storage engines support this feature and knowing how to modify your tables accordingly, you can overcome this error and ensure your database schema is compatible with your requirements.

Remember, altering database structures and storage engines can have significant effects on your database’s performance and behavior, so always back up your data before making such changes.

For further details on MySQL error messages and troubleshooting, you can refer to the official MySQL Error Message Reference.

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