How does Snowflake’s UNLOAD command work, and when would you use it?

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How does Snowflake’s UNLOAD command work, and when would you use it?

Daniel Steinhold Answered question August 18, 2023

Snowflake’s “UNLOAD” command is used to export data from Snowflake tables to external locations, such as cloud-based storage platforms (e.g., Amazon S3, Azure Blob Storage) or on-premises locations. The “UNLOAD” command generates data files in various formats and makes them available for further analysis, sharing, or processing outside of the Snowflake environment.

Here’s how the “UNLOAD” command works and when you would use it:


sqlCopy code
[ FILE_FORMAT = () ]
[ SINGLE = ]
[ HEADER = ]
[ PARTITION = ( = ) ]



– **“**: Specifies the destination where the data files will be unloaded. This can be an external stage, cloud storage, or a local file path.
– **“**: Specifies the source Snowflake table from which data will be unloaded.
– **“**: Optional. Specifies the file format to use for the data files. If not specified, the default file format associated with the table is used.
– **`OVERWRITE`**: Optional. Specifies whether to overwrite existing files at the unload location. If set to **`true`**, existing files will be replaced.
– **`SINGLE`**: Optional. Specifies whether to generate a single output file or multiple files. If set to **`true`**, a single file is generated.
– **`HEADER`**: Optional. Specifies whether to include column headers in the output files.
– **`PARTITION`**: Optional. Allows you to specify a partition column and value for partitioned unloads.
– **`MAX_FILE_SIZE`**: Optional. Specifies the maximum size for each output file.

**When to Use the UNLOAD Command:**

1. **Data Export:** Use the “UNLOAD” command when you need to export data from Snowflake for use in other systems, tools, or analytics platforms.
2. **Archiving Data:** When you want to archive historical data, you can use the “UNLOAD” command to export the data and store it in an external location.
3. **Data Backup:** You can use the “UNLOAD” command to create backups of your data by exporting it to an external location.
4. **Data Sharing:** If you want to share data with external parties or other organizations, you can unload the data and provide access to the generated files.
5. **Data Processing:** The exported data can be further processed, transformed, or aggregated using other tools or systems outside of Snowflake.
6. **Ad Hoc Analysis:** Unloading data allows you to perform ad hoc analysis using tools that may not have direct access to your Snowflake instance.
7. **Data Migration:** When migrating data between different systems or environments, you can use the “UNLOAD” command to export data from Snowflake.

It’s important to note that the “UNLOAD” command is typically used in scenarios where you need to extract data from Snowflake for external purposes. If you want to load data into another Snowflake table, you would generally use the “COPY INTO” command instead. Always refer to Snowflake’s official documentation for detailed information on using the “UNLOAD” command and its options.

Daniel Steinhold Answered question August 18, 2023