I added a custom field for authenticated users to add a bio on their profile page (and if there's an existing field I should use for this, please let me know). Not knowing how long I should make this field, and temporarily forgetting that mysql probably uses fixed-width for this, I set the field length to 32767.

It took a long time to create the field, but the page wait dialog finally completed and the field shows up in the Custom Fields list. But having seen the long wait, I decided to re-do the field at 4095 or 8191, and tried to delete the Bio field. THAT progress window has been a spinning blue circle for nearly an hour, and Bio is still showing up in the Custom Fields list in a different tab.

EDIT: perhaps worth noting that the page where I created the field also had a spinning wait cursor nearly 90 minutes after I did so, but I could see the Bio field as expected in the Custom Field list, so that process seems to have completed without letting the page know.

Did I break something, or will this get to my desired state after I wait long enough? This is running on a Linode at $20 a month, so the CPU/RAM is not particularly powerful.

  • A $20 Linode should have sufficient grunt
    – petednz - fuzion
    Nov 3, 2019 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


You haven't said what field type you were using, but I think you should probably be using a note field rather than an alphanumeric. My understanding is that the note field isn't stored as fixed length.

  • Yes, when I redid this with a new field, I spotted the Note option and used that. No problems there. Just didn't equate that with "variable length field" the first time around. Nov 4, 2019 at 4:00

Agree with Mick Kahn about using a note. As to the spinning cursor and deleting the field if you're unable to do it in the UI, the spinning cursor usually means a fatal error occurred somewhere, so check the web server logs or CiviCRM ConfigAndLog. To delete the custom field manually:

  1. Make a database backup.
  2. In the list of custom fields if you hover over or click the edit link for the field the url will have id=something in it. Let's say it's id=4.
  3. Do select custom_group_id,column_name from civicrm_custom_field where id=4;
  4. Let's say it shows 7 and bio_4.
  5. Do select table_name from civicrm_custom_group where id=7;
  6. Let's say it shows civicrm_value_something_7.
  7. Do alter table civicrm_value_something_7 drop column bio_4; NOTE: I think the field was never actually created in the physical table, so this may say "not found" or something. The original create likely had a fatal error Column length too big for column which is why you see the spinning cursor. So if it says not found just keep going.
  8. Do delete from civicrm_custom_field where id=4;

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