Overview of data unloading

Similar to data loading, Snowflake supports bulk export (i.e. unload) of data from a database table into flat, delimited text files.

Bulk unloading process

The process for unloading data into files is the same as the loading process, except in reverse:

Step 1:

Use the COPY INTO <location> command to copy the data from the Snowflake database table into one or more files in a Snowflake or external stage.

Step 2:

Download the file from the stage:

  • From a Snowflake stage, use the GET command to download the data file(s).

  • From S3, use the interfaces/tools provided by Amazon S3 to get the data file(s).

  • From Azure, use the interfaces/tools provided by Microsoft Azure to get the data file(s).

Bulk unloading using queries

Snowflake supports specifying a SELECT statement instead of a table in the COPY INTO <location> command. The results of the query are written to one or more files as specified in the command and the file(s) are stored in the specified location (internal or external).

SELECT queries in COPY statements support the full syntax and semantics of Snowflake SQL queries, including JOIN clauses, which enables downloading data from multiple tables.

Bulk unloading into single or multiple files

The COPY INTO <location> command provides a copy option (SINGLE) for unloading data into a single file or multiple files. The default is SINGLE = FALSE (i.e. unload into multiple files).

Snowflake assigns each file a unique name. The location path specified for the command can contain a filename prefix that is assigned to all the data files generated. If a prefix is not specified, Snowflake prefixes the generated filenames with data_.

Snowflake appends a suffix that ensures each file name is unique across parallel execution threads; e.g. data_stats_0_1_0.

When unloading data into multiple files, use the MAX_FILE_SIZE copy option to specify the maximum size of each file created.

Partitioned data unloading

The COPY INTO <location> command includes a PARTITION BY copy option for partitioned unloading of data to stages.

The ability to partition data during the unload operation enables a variety of use cases, such as using Snowflake to transform data for output to a data lake. In addition, partitioning unloaded data into a directory structure in cloud storage can increase the efficiency with which third-party tools consume the data.

The PARTITION BY copy option accepts an expression by which the unload operation partitions table rows into separate files unloaded to the specified stage.

Tasks for unloading data using the COPY command

For more information about the tasks associated with unloading data, see: