Working with BQ Load Command Line Tool: 4 Critical Steps

Nicholas Samuel • Last Modified: December 29th, 2022

BQ Load FI

BigQuery is a low-cost database provided by Google. In BigQuery, you only pay for the resources that you use rather than paying through a subscription-based model. This helps enterprises to save on storage and compute resources. BigQuery allows you to store up to petabytes of data and query it without infrastructure or a database administrator. These features have seen BigQuery adopted by many enterprises for data storage and analytics. 

When using BigQuery, you will need to load data from different sources. The sources can be other database management systems, CSV files, Excel files, and more. This should be done with a high degree of accuracy. Luckily, BigQuery provides the bq load command-line tool that can assist you in this. You can use this command-line tool to load data from different sources and in different formats. In this article, we will be discussing the bq load command-line tool. 

Table of Contents


This is what you need for this article:

  • A Google Account. 

What is Google BigQuery?

BQ Load: BigQuery Logo
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Google BigQuery is a highly scalable, serverless data warehouse with a built-in query engine. It was developed by Google, hence, it uses the processing power of Google’s infrastructure. . The query engine can run SQL queries on terabytes of data within seconds, and petabytes within minutes. BigQuery gives you this performance without the need to maintain the infrastructure or rebuild or create indexes. 

BigQuery’s speed and scalability make it suitable for use in processing huge datasets. It also comes with built-in machine learning capabilities that can help you to understand your data better. 

With BigQuery, you can achieve the following:

  • Democratize insights with a scalable and secure platform that comes with machine learning features. 
  • Improve business decision-making from data using a multi-cloud and flexible analytics solution. 
  • Adapt to data of any size, from bytes to petabytes, with no operational overhead. 
  • Run large-scale analytics.  

BigQuery also allows you to create dashboards and reports that you can use to analyze your data and gain meaningful insights from it. 

It is also a powerful tool for real-time data analytics. 

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Understanding the BQ Command Line Tool Setup

You can use the bq load command to load data into BigQuery via the command line. The tool expects you to specify the values of various parameters and it will load the data into BigQuery tables. In this section, we will be discussing how to load a local data file into BigQuery using the bq load command-line tool. 

Step 1: Setting Up BQ Command Line Tool

You should enable BigQuery before doing anything else. You will need a Google account for this. Do the following:

Step 1: Sign in to Google cloud console and open BigQuery. You can also paste the following URL on your web browser:

BQ Load: Resources
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Step 2: Accept their terms of service. 

Step 3: Create a new project by following the on-screen prompts. Note that the name of the project should be unique across all Google Cloud projects. 

Next, we should activate the cloud shell, a command-line environment that runs in the Google cloud. Follow the steps given below:

Step 1: Click the “Activate Cloud Shell” icon from the cloud console. 

BQ Load: Activate Cloud Shell
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Step 2: If you have never opened it before, you will be presented with an intermediate screen describing what it is. In that case, click the “Continue” button. 

BQ Load: Cloud Shell Window
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It will connect to the cloud shell after some moments. 

Step 3: Run the following command on the cloud shell to check whether you are authenticated:

gcloud auth list

The command will return the details of the active account. If prompted to authorize, click the “Authorize” button. 

Step 4: Use the following command to check whether the gcloud command is aware of your project:

gcloud config list project

The command will return the list of the available projects. If you don’t see your target project, set it using the following command:

gcloud config set project <PROJECT_ID>

Step 2: Creating a Dataset for BQ Load

A dataset contains tables. Use the bq mk command to create a new dataset named “bq_load_dataset”:

bq mk bq_load_dataset

We will load data from a CSV file using the bq load command into the dataset. 

You can confirm whether the dataset was created successfully by viewing its properties. Use the bq show command as shown below:

bq show bq_load_dataset

Step 3: Creating the Data File for BQ Load

Although the bq load command can load data from different data formats, we will be loading data from a CSV file. Let’s use the touch command to create the CSV file:

touch data.csv

Let’s open the file in an editor window:

cloudshell edit data.csv

The file will be opened in a code editor window. Enter your data values into the code editor window and separate them by commas:

4,69,150000,Car Accessories

Step 5: Click “File” and then “Edit” to save the file. 

Step 4: Loading the Data for BQ Load

We want to load the data from the CSV file into a BigQuery table. We will use the bq load command for this as shown below:

bq load 

The “source_format” parameter helped us to specify the type of data format, which is CSV (Comma Separated Values).

The “skip_leading_rows” parameter helped us to skip the first row which is a header row. 

We have then specified the file from which the data should be loaded and the data types of the various columns in the file. 

Now that the data has been loaded into the table, let us view the table details:

bq show bq_load_dataset.customer_data

The command will return the details of the table including when it was last modified, schema, total rows, and total bytes. 

You will have successfully loaded your CSV file into the BigQuery table using the bq load command. 


In this article, you’ve learned more about Google BigQuery and the steps required to load data from a CSV file into a BigQuery table using the bq load command-line tool.

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