Data conversion parameters - Amazon Redshift
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Data conversion parameters

As it loads the table, COPY attempts to implicitly convert the strings in the source data to the data type of the target column. If you need to specify a conversion that is different from the default behavior, or if the default conversion results in errors, you can manage data conversions by specifying the following parameters. For more information on the syntax of these parameters, see COPY syntax.

Data conversion parameters

Allows any date format, including invalid formats such as 00/00/00 00:00:00, to be loaded without generating an error. This parameter applies only to TIMESTAMP and DATE columns. Always use ACCEPTANYDATE with the DATEFORMAT parameter. If the date format for the data doesn't match the DATEFORMAT specification, Amazon Redshift inserts a NULL value into that field.

ACCEPTINVCHARS [AS] ['replacement_char']

Enables loading of data into VARCHAR columns even if the data contains invalid UTF-8 characters. When ACCEPTINVCHARS is specified, COPY replaces each invalid UTF-8 character with a string of equal length consisting of the character specified by replacement_char. For example, if the replacement character is '^', an invalid three-byte character will be replaced with '^^^'.

The replacement character can be any ASCII character except NULL. The default is a question mark ( ? ). For information about invalid UTF-8 characters, see Multibyte character load errors.

COPY returns the number of rows that contained invalid UTF-8 characters, and it adds an entry to the STL_REPLACEMENTS system table for each affected row, up to a maximum of 100 rows for each node slice. Additional invalid UTF-8 characters are also replaced, but those replacement events aren't recorded.

If ACCEPTINVCHARS isn't specified, COPY returns an error whenever it encounters an invalid UTF-8 character.

ACCEPTINVCHARS is valid only for VARCHAR columns.


Loads blank fields, which consist of only white space characters, as NULL. This option applies only to CHAR and VARCHAR columns. Blank fields for other data types, such as INT, are always loaded with NULL. For example, a string that contains three space characters in succession (and no other characters) is loaded as a NULL. The default behavior, without this option, is to load the space characters as is.

DATEFORMAT [AS] {'dateformat_string' | 'auto' }

If no DATEFORMAT is specified, the default format is 'YYYY-MM-DD'. For example, an alternative valid format is 'MM-DD-YYYY'.

If the COPY command doesn't recognize the format of your date or time values, or if your date or time values use different formats, use the 'auto' argument with the DATEFORMAT or TIMEFORMAT parameter. The 'auto' argument recognizes several formats that aren't supported when using a DATEFORMAT and TIMEFORMAT string. The 'auto'' keyword is case-sensitive. For more information, see Using automatic recognition with DATEFORMAT and TIMEFORMAT.

The date format can include time information (hour, minutes, seconds), but this information is ignored. The AS keyword is optional. For more information, see DATEFORMAT and TIMEFORMAT strings.


Indicates that Amazon Redshift should load empty CHAR and VARCHAR fields as NULL. Empty fields for other data types, such as INT, are always loaded with NULL. Empty fields occur when data contains two delimiters in succession with no characters between the delimiters. EMPTYASNULL and NULL AS '' (empty string) produce the same behavior.

ENCODING [AS] file_encoding

Specifies the encoding type of the load data. The COPY command converts the data from the specified encoding into UTF-8 during loading.

Valid values for file_encoding are as follows:

  • UTF8

  • UTF16

  • UTF16LE

  • UTF16BE

The default is UTF8.

Source file names must use UTF-8 encoding.

The following files must use UTF-8 encoding, even if a different encoding is specified for the load data:

  • Manifest files

  • JSONPaths files

The argument strings provided with the following parameters must use UTF-8:

  • FIXEDWIDTH 'fixedwidth_spec'

  • ACCEPTINVCHARS 'replacement_char'

  • DATEFORMAT 'dateformat_string'

  • TIMEFORMAT 'timeformat_string'

  • NULL AS 'null_string'

Fixed-width data files must use UTF-8 encoding. The field widths are based on the number of characters, not the number of bytes.

All load data must use the specified encoding. If COPY encounters a different encoding, it skips the file and returns an error.

If you specify UTF16, then your data must have a byte order mark (BOM). If you know whether your UTF-16 data is little-endian (LE) or big-endian (BE), you can use UTF16LE or UTF16BE, regardless of the presence of a BOM.


When this parameter is specified, the backslash character (\) in input data is treated as an escape character. The character that immediately follows the backslash character is loaded into the table as part of the current column value, even if it is a character that normally serves a special purpose. For example, you can use this parameter to escape the delimiter character, a quotation mark, an embedded newline character, or the escape character itself when any of these characters is a legitimate part of a column value.

If you specify the ESCAPE parameter in combination with the REMOVEQUOTES parameter, you can escape and retain quotation marks (' or ") that might otherwise be removed. The default null string, \N, works as is, but it can also be escaped in the input data as \\N. As long as you don't specify an alternative null string with the NULL AS parameter, \N and \\N produce the same results.


The control character 0x00 (NUL) can't be escaped and should be removed from the input data or converted. This character is treated as an end of record (EOR) marker, causing the remainder of the record to be truncated.

You can't use the ESCAPE parameter for FIXEDWIDTH loads, and you can't specify the escape character itself; the escape character is always the backslash character. Also, you must ensure that the input data contains the escape character in the appropriate places.

Here are some examples of input data and the resulting loaded data when the ESCAPE parameter is specified. The result for row 4 assumes that the REMOVEQUOTES parameter is also specified. The input data consists of two pipe-delimited fields:

1|The quick brown fox\[newline] jumped over the lazy dog. 2| A\\B\\C 3| A \| B \| C 4| 'A Midsummer Night\'s Dream'

The data loaded into column 2 looks like this:

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. A\B\C A|B|C A Midsummer Night's Dream

Applying the escape character to the input data for a load is the responsibility of the user. One exception to this requirement is when you reload data that was previously unloaded with the ESCAPE parameter. In this case, the data will already contain the necessary escape characters.

The ESCAPE parameter doesn't interpret octal, hex, Unicode, or other escape sequence notation. For example, if your source data contains the octal line feed value (\012) and you try to load this data with the ESCAPE parameter, Amazon Redshift loads the value 012 into the table and doesn't interpret this value as a line feed that is being escaped.

In order to escape newline characters in data that originates from Microsoft Windows platforms, you might need to use two escape characters: one for the carriage return and one for the line feed. Alternatively, you can remove the carriage returns before loading the file (for example, by using the dos2unix utility).


Use EXPLICIT_IDS with tables that have IDENTITY columns if you want to override the autogenerated values with explicit values from the source data files for the tables. If the command includes a column list, that list must include the IDENTITY columns to use this parameter. The data format for EXPLICIT_IDS values must match the IDENTITY format specified by the CREATE TABLE definition.

When you run a COPY command against a table with the EXPLICIT_IDS option, Amazon Redshift does not check the uniqueness of IDENTITY columns in the table.

If a column is defined with GENERATED BY DEFAULT AS IDENTITY, then it can be copied. Values are generated or updated with values that you supply. The EXPLICIT_IDS option isn't required. COPY doesn't update the identity high watermark.

For an example of a COPY command using EXPLICIT_IDS, see Load VENUE with explicit values for an IDENTITY column.


Allows data files to be loaded when contiguous columns are missing at the end of some of the records. The missing columns are loaded as NULLs. For text and CSV formats, if the missing column is a VARCHAR column, zero-length strings are loaded instead of NULLs. To load NULLs to VARCHAR columns from text and CSV, specify the EMPTYASNULL keyword. NULL substitution only works if the column definition allows NULLs.

For example, if the table definition contains four nullable CHAR columns, and a record contains the values apple, orange, banana, mango, the COPY command could load and fill in a record that contains only the values apple, orange. The missing CHAR values would be loaded as NULL values.


Ignores blank lines that only contain a line feed in a data file and does not try to load them.

IGNOREHEADER [ AS ] number_rows

Treats the specified number_rows as a file header and doesn't load them. Use IGNOREHEADER to skip file headers in all files in a parallel load.

NULL AS 'null_string'

Loads fields that match null_string as NULL, where null_string can be any string. If your data includes a null terminator, also referred to as NUL (UTF-8 0000) or binary zero (0x000), COPY treats it as any other character. For example, a record containing '1' || NUL || '2' is copied as string of length 3 bytes. If a field contains only NUL, you can use NULL AS to replace the null terminator with NULL by specifying '\0' or '\000'—for example, NULL AS '\0' or NULL AS '\000'. If a field contains a string that ends with NUL and NULL AS is specified, the string is inserted with NUL at the end. Do not use '\n' (newline) for the null_string value. Amazon Redshift reserves '\n' for use as a line delimiter. The default null_string is '\N'.


If you attempt to load nulls into a column defined as NOT NULL, the COPY command will fail.


Removes surrounding quotation marks from strings in the incoming data. All characters within the quotation marks, including delimiters, are retained. If a string has a beginning single or double quotation mark but no corresponding ending mark, the COPY command fails to load that row and returns an error. The following table shows some simple examples of strings that contain quotation marks and the resulting loaded values.

Input String Loaded Value with REMOVEQUOTES Option
"The delimiter is a pipe (|) character" The delimiter is a pipe (|) character
'Black' Black
"White" White
Blue' Blue'
'Blue Value not loaded: error condition
"Blue Value not loaded: error condition
' ' 'Black' ' ' ' 'Black' '
' ' <white space>

Rounds up numeric values when the scale of the input value is greater than the scale of the column. By default, COPY truncates values when necessary to fit the scale of the column. For example, if a value of 20.259 is loaded into a DECIMAL(8,2) column, COPY truncates the value to 20.25 by default. If ROUNDEC is specified, COPY rounds the value to 20.26. The INSERT command always rounds values when necessary to match the column's scale, so a COPY command with the ROUNDEC parameter behaves the same as an INSERT command.

TIMEFORMAT [AS] {'timeformat_string' | 'auto' | 'epochsecs' | 'epochmillisecs' }

Specifies the time format. If no TIMEFORMAT is specified, the default format is YYYY-MM-DD HH:MI:SS for TIMESTAMP columns or YYYY-MM-DD HH:MI:SSOF for TIMESTAMPTZ columns, where OF is the offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). You can't include a time zone specifier in the timeformat_string. To load TIMESTAMPTZ data that is in a format different from the default format, specify 'auto'; for more information, see Using automatic recognition with DATEFORMAT and TIMEFORMAT. For more information about timeformat_string, see DATEFORMAT and TIMEFORMAT strings.

The 'auto' argument recognizes several formats that aren't supported when using a DATEFORMAT and TIMEFORMAT string. If the COPY command doesn't recognize the format of your date or time values, or if your date and time values use formats different from each other, use the 'auto' argument with the DATEFORMAT or TIMEFORMAT parameter. For more information, see Using automatic recognition with DATEFORMAT and TIMEFORMAT.

If your source data is represented as epoch time, that is the number of seconds or milliseconds since January 1, 1970, 00:00:00 UTC, specify 'epochsecs' or 'epochmillisecs'.

The 'auto', 'epochsecs', and 'epochmillisecs' keywords are case-sensitive.

The AS keyword is optional.


Removes the trailing white space characters from a VARCHAR string. This parameter applies only to columns with a VARCHAR data type.


Truncates data in columns to the appropriate number of characters so that it fits the column specification. Applies only to columns with a VARCHAR or CHAR data type, and rows 4 MB or less in size.