MongoDB - Auto Increment Sequence

MongoDB - Auto Increment Sequence

MongoDB - Auto Increment Sequence

When it comes to databases, MongoDB is a popular choice due to its flexibility, scalability, and document-oriented structure. However, if you're accustomed to SQL databases, you might have noticed that MongoDB lacks out-of-the-box auto-increment functionality for primary keys. In MongoDB, the default primary key is a 12-byte ObjectId used to uniquely identify documents. But fear not, there's a way to achieve auto-incremented values for fields like _id. In this article, we'll explore how to programmatically implement auto-increment functionality in MongoDB using a counters collection, as recommended by the MongoDB documentation.

Understanding the Challenge

In SQL databases, auto-incrementing fields are a breeze. You simply define a column as AUTO_INCREMENT, and the database takes care of the rest. MongoDB, however, uses a different approach with its ObjectId primary keys. While these ObjectIds are unique and perform well in distributed environments, there are cases where you might prefer a more traditional auto-incremented value for your _id field.

The Solution: Counters Collection

To overcome this limitation, MongoDB suggests using a counters collection. This collection will store a document that holds the current value of the auto-incremented field. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to implement this solution:

1. Create a Counters Collection

Start by creating a counters collection in your MongoDB database. You can do this using the MongoDB shell or a MongoDB client library in your programming language of choice.


2. Initialize the Counter

Insert an initial document in the counters collection with a field for the auto-incremented value. This document will serve as the starting point for your auto-incremented field.

db.counters.insertOne({ _id: "productId", // Use a unique name for your auto-incremented field sequence_value: 0 // Initial value })

3. Create a Function

Next, create a function in your application code to fetch and increment the counter value whenever you need to insert a new document. Here's a JavaScript example using the Node.js MongoDB driver:

function getNextSequenceValue(sequenceName)
var sequenceDocument = db.counters.findAndModify( { query:{_id: sequenceName }, update: {$inc:{sequence_value:1}}, new:true }); 
return sequenceDocument.sequence_value; 

4. Implement Auto-Increment

Now, whenever you want to insert a new document with an auto-incremented _id, you can call the getNextSequenceValue function to get the next value:

var nextProductId = getNextSequenceValue("productId"); 
db.products.insert({ _id: nextProductId, name: "Product Name", // Other fields })

Benefits of Using Counters

Implementing auto-increment with a counters collection provides several advantages:

  1. Control: You have full control over the auto-increment process, including initialization and naming conventions.
  2. Scalability: This approach is scalable and performs well in distributed environments.
  3. Compatibility: It allows you to maintain compatibility with existing systems that rely on auto-incremented primary keys.


While MongoDB doesn't offer out-of-the-box auto-increment functionality, it provides a robust alternative through the use of counters collections. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily implement auto-incremented fields in your MongoDB documents, giving you the best of both worlds: the power of MongoDB and the familiarity of auto-incremented values.


  1. Is it possible to use auto-increment with other fields, not just _id?

    • Yes, you can implement auto-increment for any field in your documents by following a similar approach with separate counters collections.
  2. Do I need to manually manage the counter values in a production environment?

    • It's recommended to handle counter management within your application code to ensure data integrity and consistency.
  3. Can I use auto-incremented values for existing documents?

    • While you can implement auto-increment for new documents, it may require some data migration efforts to apply it to existing documents.
  4. Are there any performance considerations when using counters collections?

    • MongoDB's performance with counters collections is generally efficient, but it's essential to monitor and optimize your implementation for high traffic scenarios.
  5. Is there an official MongoDB package or library for handling auto-increment?

    • MongoDB does not provide an official auto-increment package, as it encourages developers to implement this feature programmatically to suit their specific use cases.