I have a large table with a primary key (GUID) that is also the clustered index. There is already a integer sequence based field. So I want to leave the GUID as the PK and make the integer column the clustered index.

I can't figure any way to do this except drop the original constraint and create new PK and and new clustered index. But this takes a long time and from what I gather, rebuilds the table twice, once to go from clustered index to heap, and then heap back to clustered index.

I can't do a table rebuild (create new, migrate data, swap names) since I can't have an outage.

Any ideas?

Version: SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 2, Developer/Enterprise.


1 Answer 1


I don't think you can perform this operation online, since you can't just move the clustered index from one column to another, and you can't use DROP_EXISTING to reduce the amount of work that has to be done.

However, you can avoid an outage, if you're willing to perform the work.

  1. Create a new table with the new structure
  2. Rename the original table, and create a view with the original name - the view will be a union of old and new table - performance won't be fantastic but it won't be offline
  3. Create INSTEAD OF triggers on the view to apply DML to old or new table
    • inserts should just go to new table
    • updates should try both
    • deletes should try both
  4. Copy rows, in chunks, from the old table to the new table. Will need SET IDENTITY_INSERT ON and you should perform each "chunk" in its own transaction.
  5. Once the old table contains no rows that don't exist in the new table, in a single transaction:
    • drop the old table
    • drop the view
    • rename the new table
  • Will this work if there are FKs referencing the table? (we can't reference a view and new inserts will not go into the original table. I guess a variation where inserting goes to both might work.) Feb 11, 2015 at 19:27
  • @ypercube Yes, you could insert new rows into both tables and then as part of step 5 you change the FKs to point to the new table. Or you could just drop those constraints for the duration of this operation. Hopefully this is something that takes minutes/hours, not hours/days. Feb 11, 2015 at 19:29
  • Aaron is right, there's no way to do this without some outage. You could minimize the outage by swapping schema, and I think someone even blogged about it Feb 11, 2015 at 21:05
  • Why can't he move the CI online "from one column to another" using DROP_EXISTING, ONLINE? Is there a rule preventing that?
    – usr
    Feb 14, 2015 at 9:52
  • @usr Yes, have you tried it? DROP_EXISTING is not an option for ADD CONSTRAINT, btw, so you can only replace a PK constraint with a unique clustered index. Down in the bowels it's the same thing, but semantics may be important. Anyway, trying this yields Msg 1907 : Cannot recreate index 'pk_whatever'. The new index definition does not match the constraint being enforced by the existing index. Feb 18, 2015 at 20:47

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