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Migration Troubleshooting

In some cases, applying a migration may fail. This document aims to provide general support for troubleshooting migration failures.

Retrieve Migration Status

Atlas provides the atlas migrate status command to retrieve information about the migration status of a database. You can either use this command or have a look at the atlas migrate apply output to gather knowledge about the issue that caused the migration failure. An example output can be seen below.


Note, that atlas migrate status does not show information about migration attempts that were rolled back. As long as a migration failure is wrapped with a transaction by a database with transactional DDL support, Atlas will rollback entries to the revision table within the transaction.

$ atlas --env local migrate apply 1 --tx-mode none
Migrating to version 2 from 1 (1 migrations in total):

-- migrating version 2
-> INSERT INTO `users` (`id`, `name`) VALUES (1, 'masseelch'), (2, 'rotemtam'), (3, 'a8m');
-> INSERT INTO `groups` (`id`, `name`) VALUES (1, 'Founders'), (2, 'Senior Engineers'), (3, 'Junior Engineers');
-> INSERT INTO `user_groups` (`user_id`, `group_id`) VALUES
-- Founders
(2, 1), (3, 1),
-- Seniors
(1, 2), (2, 2), (3, 2),
-- Constraint error (adding masseelch twice to seniors)
(1, 2);
Error 1062: Duplicate entry '1-2' for key 'user_groups.PRIMARY'

-- 2.521007ms
-- 0 migrations ok (1 with errors)
-- 2 sql statements ok (1 with errors)

Error: Execution had errors:
Error 1062: Duplicate entry '1-2' for key 'user_groups.PRIMARY'

Fixing Migration Failures

In our experience, failures are commonly caused by one of the following issues:

  • Syntax Error: A SQL statement contained a syntax error. Since Atlas provides a way to lint a migration directory, this type of failure can be automatically prevented by running the linter before applying the migration against the correct type of database (e.g. lint against a MySQL database if your migrations were written for MySQL)
  • Schema Dependent Change: A SQL statement was incorrect in schema context, e.g. adding a table that already exists. This might happen, for example, in cases where someone manipulated the database schema manually.
  • Data-dependent Change: A SQL statement contained a data-dependent change. For example, in cases where your migration adds a constraint like NOT NULL and the target column contains NULL values, the migration will throw an error. Although Atlas' linter will warn the user if such a change is detected, this is still a possible scenario that could break migration execution.
  • Connection Loss: The connection to the database could be interrupted for a number of reasons, e.g. due to a network failure or database crash.

Handling the different types of failures

Connection Loss Failures

Retry migration execution. Atlas stores information about applied statements alongside the revision information, and therefore knows where to proceed execution, even for partially applied / not rolled back migration files. For very rare cases, where when working without a transaction (or after an implicit commit) a connection loss occurs between a SQL statement and the entry in Atlas schema history table, you might need to manually revert the last applied statement because in those cases Atlas will continue applying one statement early.

Syntax Errors

Fix the migration file and retry migration execution. Atlas will continue the execution starting with the statement following the last successfully applied one.

DDL Semantics

Creating or editing schema resources can result in migration failure, e.g. if you are trying to create a table that already exists or to modify a table that does not exist. The cause for this is either an incorrect migration file or a schema drift, e.g. if someone dropped, created or modified a resource.

Option 1: Incorrect Migration File

In case the migration script is incorrect, simply fix the migration file and re-apply the migration. Do not forget to update the migration directory checksum afterwards by running:

atlas migrate hash

For cases with multiple deployments or no (fast) editorial access to the migration file you have to fix the database state to match whatever the migration file is expecting. You can either do this by hand or use one of the atlas schema commands. See Option 2 for more information.

Once the migration/database is fixed, you can retry migration execution.

Option 2: Schema Drift

In case of a schema drift, we still consider the migration files the source of truth. Editing their contents to match the managed database will most likely break other deployments or the local dev. The solution is to fix the database schema. This can be done manually or with the help of the atlas schema apply / atlas schema diff commands. Both commands can read a database state from a migration directory and compare it with the current state of the target database. The only difference is that atlas schema apply can automatically apply the changes to the database, while atlas schema diff will print the SQL for you to check and run manually. You can utilize the atlas schema status command to get information about the currently applied migration version.

atlas schema diff

Compare the state of the from database (the one with the schema drift), to the desired state given in the migration directory. Note the query parameter version in the connection string to the migration directory, specifying the version to consider the current state of the schema.

atlas schema diff \
--from "driver://user:pass@host:port/db" \
--to "file:///path/to/migrations/dir?version=myTargetVersion" \
--dev-url "driver://user:pass@host:port/dev_db"

Once you apply the SQL shown by atlas migrate diff onto your database, the schema drift should have vanished, and you can retry migration applying.

atlas schema apply

Instead of only showing the SQL on the screen, you can immediately let Atlas apply it (Atlas will prompt for confirmation first).

Migrate the state of the url database (the one with the schema drift), to the desired state given in the migration directory. Note the query parameter version in the connection string to the migration directory, specifying the version to consider the current state of the schema.

atlas schema apply \
--url "driver://user:pass@host:port/db" \
--to "file:///path/to/migrations/dir?format=atlas&version=myTargetVersion" \
--dev-url "driver://user:pass@host:port/dev_db"

Data Dependent Failures

If the issue is caused by adding or changing a constraint, it may result in a migration failure if the existing data is not valid for the new constraint. For example, changing a column from formerly int NULL to int NOT NULL on a column that contains NULL values will cause the migration to fail. This can be fixed by "fixing" the data and retrying the migration applying.

In any case, we advise to add the executed statements to fix the data to the migration file to not run into this issue again for other deployments.

A Word on Transactions

At Ariga, we advise to favor correctness over performance when it comes to database changes. Wrapping migration execution in a transaction ensures the changes made to the database are rolled back if an error occurs along the way and even in cases where the connection is lost, the changes are not committed. However, some databases (most notably MySQL and MariaDB) do not support transactional DDL. If you are working with a database that does not support transactional DDL, a rollback will not restore the state previous to the migration execution, and you end up with a "broken" database state. However, since Atlas stores its own information about applied statements within the same transaction, it will start execution with the next statement in the migration file on a following migration attempt.

Manipulating the Schema Revisions Table

Atlas stores information about applied migrations in the managed database. Sometimes, you want to notify Atlas that you manually applied or rolled back a migration file. Atlas provides the atlas migrate set command for such cases.


Please refrain from manually making changes to the Atlas revision table. Atlas' behavior after such a change is undefined, and it can possibly break your database to a point you cannot recover from.