Travis Horn
Travis Horn

Travis Horn

Update from Another Table in SQL

Update from Another Table in SQL

Travis Horn's photo
Travis Horn

Published on Oct 26, 2017

2 min read

I’m always finding myself in the same position: I have a table with two or more columns. I need to fill in one of those columns based on another one. However, the data I need is in a separate table.

Here is an example of this scenario. Say we have two tables with two columns each.

Two tables in our databaseTwo tables in our database

Each record in the people table has an id and a name. Each record in the scores table has a personId which is linked and a score.

If we wanted to retrieve data containing names next to scores, we could do this easily with a JOIN:

FROM      people p
JOIN      scores s
ON = s.personId

The query result showing names and scoresThe query result showing names and scores

But what happens when our project calls for a change: names are now required to be stored in the scores table. After adding the new column, how do we insert the data?

All names are nullAll names are null

We need to update one table based on another. This can be solved using an UPDATE with a JOIN.


UPDATE        scores
SET  =
FROM          scores s
INNER JOIN    people p
ON            s.personId =


UPDATE    scores s,
          people p
WHERE     s.personId =

And our scores table is complete!

Scores table with person namesScores table with person names

The commands above work for this specific scenario. For more generic versions of the same command, see below.

Generic MSSQL

UPDATE        targetTable
SET           targetTable.targetColumn = s.sourceColumn
FROM          targetTable t
INNER JOIN    sourceTable s
ON            t.matchingColumn = s.matchingColumn

Generic MySQL

UPDATE    targetTable t,
          sourceTable s
SET       targetTable.targetColumn = sourceTable.sourceColumn
WHERE     t.matchingColumn = s.matchingColumn
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