I have a PostgreSQL table with the following structure:

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I simply need to change the TYPE of prove_identity_id from bigint to bigserial. I read the docs but wasn't able to understand how to legally achieve the change without the following error: PostgreSQL said: type "bigserial" does not exist

PostgreSQL 10.1 on x86_64-apple-darwin14.5.0, compiled by Apple LLVM version 7.0.0 (clang-700.1.76), 64-bit


2 Answers 2


bigserial is a pseudo-type, a notational convenience that is resolved to type bigint internally - plus a sequence, a column default, a dependency and an ownership.

Basic commands to convert an existing bigint column with existing rows to a bigserial:

CREATE SEQUENCE tbl_tbl_id_seq;
ALTER TABLE tbl ALTER COLUMN tbl_id SET DEFAULT nextval('tbl_tbl_id_seq');
ALTER SEQUENCE tbl_tbl_id_seq OWNED BY tbl.tbl_id;
SELECT setval('tbl_tbl_id_seq', COALESCE(max(tbl_id), 1)) FROM tbl;

setval() to get the SEQUENCE in sync with the currently highest id. Replace tbl with your table name (prove_identity ?).

However, it looks like you have a proper bigserial column already. This might all be a misunderstanding, then.



In Postgres 10 or later, consider an IDENTITY column instead. See:

  • Thank you. Your query ran but the type is still showing as bigint but I guess that's ok after reading some of your answers. I'll try to write my data and see if it works. Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 15:32
  • 4
    @DaveChambers: Some clients (like pgAdmin) display the pseudo-types serial / bigserial, others (like yours? you should declare your client) display the actual data type. It's a purely a matter of representation. Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 15:39
  • 1
    You can't use setval to set the sequence to zero. So where you call setval above, please use coalesce with a default of 1, i.e. SELECT setval('tbl_tbl_id_seq', COALESCE(max(tbl_id), 1)) FROM tbl;
    – balrob
    Commented Feb 26 at 22:42
  • @balrob: Thanks, fixed. Aside: You can set a sequence to 0, if it was created with MINVALUE accordingly. But not with default MINVALUE 1. Commented Feb 26 at 22:52

If you're using PostgreSQL 10, you should be using the IDENTITY PROPERTY on the bigint column, and not using the serial or bigserial macros at all - it's Pg specific syntax that is difficult to understand, and in the event of permission modification: easy to mess up.

ALTER TABLE provide_identity
  ALTER COLUMN prove_identity_id

But instead of messing with that directly, I'd suggest backing up the database and running this script from the 2nd quadrant blog. Run it like this,

SELECT upgrade_serial_to_identity('public.prove_identity', 'prove_identity_id');

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