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Shards a collection to distribute its documents across shards. You must run enableSharding on a database before running the shardCollection command. The shardCollection command must be run against the admin database.

To run shardCollection, use the db.runCommand( { <command> } ) method.


In the mongo Shell, this command can also be run through the sh.shardCollection helper method.

Helper methods are convenient for mongo users, but they may not return the same level of information as database commands. In cases where the convenience is not needed or the additional return fields are required, use the database command.

shardCollection has the following form:

   shardCollection: "<database>.<collection>",
   key: <shardkey>,
   unique: <boolean>,
   numInitialChunks: <integer>,
   collation: { locale: "simple" }

shardCollection has the following fields:

Field Type Description
shardCollection string The namespace of the collection to shard in the form <database>.<collection>.
key document

The index specification document to use as the shard key. The shard key determines how MongoDB distributes the documents among the shards.

The key of the index specification document is the field to use as the shard key. The value of the document must be one of the following:

Unless the collection is empty, the index must exist prior to the shardCollection command. If the collection is empty, MongoDB creates the index prior to sharding the collection if the index that can support the shard key does not already exist.

See also Shard Key Indexes

unique boolean When true, the unique option ensures that the underlying index enforces a unique constraint. Hashed shard keys do not support unique constraints. Defaults to false.
numInitialChunks integer

Specifies the initial number of chunks to create across all shards in the cluster when sharding an empty collection with a hashed shard key. MongoDB will then create and balance chunks across the cluster. The numInitialChunks must result in less than 8192 per shard.

Changed in version 4.0.3: The option has no effect if zones and zone ranges have been defined for the empty collection. See Zone Sharding and Initial Chunk Distribution.

Changed in version 3.4: If the collection is not empty or the shard key is not a hashed key, the operation returns an error.

collation document Optional. If the collection specified to shardCollection has a default collation, you must include a collation document with { locale : "simple" }, or the shardCollection command fails. At least one of the indexes whose fields support the shard key pattern must have the simple collation.



You can only shard a collection once.

Do not run more than one shardCollection command on the same collection at the same time.

MongoDB provides no method to deactivate sharding for a collection after calling shardCollection. Additionally, after shardCollection, you cannot change the selection of the shard key. However, starting in MongoDB 4.2, you can update a document’s shard key value (unless the shard key field is the immutable _id field). For details, see Change a Document’s Shard Key Value.

Shard Keys

Choosing the best shard key to effectively distribute load among your shards requires some planning. Review Shard Keys regarding choosing a shard key and restrictions.

Hashed Shard Keys

Hashed shard keys use a hashed index of a single field as the shard key.

Use the form {field: "hashed"} to specify a hashed shard key. Hashed shard keys may not be compound indexes.


If chunk migrations are in progress while creating a hashed shard key collection, the initial chunk distribution may be uneven until the balancer automatically balances the collection.

See also

Hashed Sharding

Zone Sharding and Initial Chunk Distribution

The shard collection operation (i.e. shardCollection command and the sh.shardCollection() helper) can perform initial chunk creation and distribution for an empty or a non-existing collection if zones and zone ranges have been defined for the collection. Initial chunk distribution allows for a faster setup of zoned sharding. After the initial distribution, the balancer manages the chunk distribution going forward per usual.

The numInitialChunks option has no effect if zones and zone ranges have been defined for the empty collection.

See Pre-Define Zones and Zone Ranges for an Empty or Non-Existing Collection for an example.

See also

Initial Chunks


If specifying unique: true:

  • If the collection is empty, shardCollection creates the unique index on the shard key if such an index does not already exist.
  • If the collection is not empty, you must create the index first before using shardCollection.

Although you can have a unique compound index where the shard key is a prefix, if using unique parameter, the collection must have a unique index that is on the shard key.

See also Sharded Collection and Unique Indexes


Changed in version 3.4.

If the collection has a default collation, the shardCollection command must include a collation parameter with the value { locale: "simple" }. For non-empty collections with a default collation, you must have at least one index with the simple collation whose fields support the shard key pattern.

You do not need to specify the collation option for collections without a collation. If you do specify the collation option for a collection with no collation, it will have no effect.

Write Concern

mongos uses "majority" for the write concern of the shardCollection command and its helper sh.shardCollection().


The following operation enables sharding for the people collection in the records database and uses the zipcode field as the shard key:

db.adminCommand( { shardCollection: "records.people", key: { zipcode: 1 } } )

See also