Changing A Large Table’s Clustered Index

Nate Johnson explains how to change the clustered index on a very large table:

I call this the “setup, dump, & swap”.  Essentially we need to create an empty copy of the table, with the desired index(es), dump all the data into it, and then swap it in.  There are couple ways you can do this, but it boils down to the same basic premise: It’s “better” (probably not in terms of speed, but definitely in terms of efficiency and overhead) to fill this new copy of the table & its indexes, than it is to build the desired index on the existing table.

As Nate notes, “very large” here will depend on your environment, but this is a useful technique because the old table can be live until the moment of the swap.  As Nate writes this, I’m actually in the middle of one of these sorts of swaps—one that will take a week or two to finish due to pacing.

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