We are now recommended to install cumulative updates

Microsoft just released a couple of CUs for SQL Server 2012. What is exiting is how Microsoft phrases their recommendations whether we should install them or not. Below is from the KB of one of those recently released CUs:

  • Microsoft recommends ongoing, proactive installation of CUs as they become available:
  • SQL Server CUs are certified to the same levels as service packs and should be installed at the same level of confidence.
  • Historical data shows that a significant number of support cases involve an issue that has already been addressed in a released CU.
  • CUs may contain added value over and above hotfixes. This includes supportability, manageability, and reliability updates.

Now, that is a pretty significant change from what they used to say. In addition, requiring the CU is much easier. You just go to MS Download, select whether you want 32 or 64 bit and then download the bits immediately.

Check it out yourself, go to for instance https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=50731.

Or check out how the KB for a new SQL Server CU: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3120313 (see the “Notes for the update” section).

Setting max server memory

If there is one server setting that is close to universal to configure, then it is probably the “max server memory” setting. The setting is documented here. There are plenty of articles out there on this subject. The purpose for this article is for me to have somewhere to point when I get the question: “What value should I set this to?”. I usually refer to Jonathan Kehayias’ blog post when I get this question: http://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/jonathan/how-much-memory-does-my-sql-server-actually-need/, another place to look is the MS documentation for memory planing. For starters you want a simple formula to begin with, and then some hints on what to monitor if you want to fine-tune the value. Jonathan’s articles provide both. The simple formula for how much to reserve for the OS is:

1 GB
Plus 1 GB for every 4 GB in the machine, between 4 and 16 GB
Plus 1 GB for every 8 GB in the machine, above 16 GB

And here’s a TSQL script if you don’t want to do the math yourself. Note that you need to specify how much memory you have in the machine.

--Based on Jonathan Kehayias' blog post:

IF OBJECT_ID('tempdb..#mem') IS NOT NULL DROP TABLE #mem

@memInMachine DECIMAL(9,2)
,@memOsBase DECIMAL(9,2)
,@memOs4_16GB DECIMAL(9,2)
,@memOsOver_16GB DECIMAL(9,2)
,@memOsTot DECIMAL(9,2)
,@memForSql DECIMAL(9,2)
,@CurrentMem DECIMAL(9,2)
,@sql VARCHAR(1000)


--Get current mem setting----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SET @CurrentMem = (SELECT CAST(value AS INT)/1024. FROM sys.configurations WHERE name = 'max server memory (MB)')

--Get memory in machine------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SET @sql = 'SELECT physical_memory_in_bytes/(1024*1024*1024.) FROM sys.dm_os_sys_info'
SET @sql = 'SELECT physical_memory_kb/(1024*1024.) FROM sys.dm_os_sys_info'
SET @sql = 'SELECT physical_memory_in_bytes/(1024*1024*1024.) FROM sys.dm_os_sys_info'

SET @sql = 'DECLARE @mem decimal(9,2) SET @mem = (' + @sql + ') INSERT INTO #mem(mem) VALUES(@mem)'
PRINT @sql
SET @memInMachine = (SELECT MAX(mem) FROM #mem)

--Calculate recommended memory setting---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SET @memOsBase = 1

SET @memOs4_16GB =
WHEN @memInMachine <= 4 THEN 0
WHEN @memInMachine > 4 AND @memInMachine <= 16 THEN (@memInMachine - 4) / 4
WHEN @memInMachine >= 16 THEN 3

SET @memOsOver_16GB =
WHEN @memInMachine <= 16 THEN 0
ELSE (@memInMachine - 16) / 8

SET @memOsTot = @memOsBase + @memOs4_16GB + @memOsOver_16GB
SET @memForSql = @memInMachine - @memOsTot

--Output findings------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
@CurrentMem AS CurrentMemConfig
, @memInMachine AS MemInMachine
, @memOsTot AS MemForOS
, @memForSql AS memForSql
,'EXEC sp_configure ''max server memory'', ' + CAST(CAST(@memForSql * 1024 AS INT) AS VARCHAR(10)) + ' RECONFIGURE' AS CommandToExecute
,'Assumes dedicated instance. Only use the value after you verify it is reasonable.' AS Comment

Edit 1 2014-03-06: Got the memory in the machine from sys.dm_os_sys_info, suggested by Ola Hallengren.

Edit 2 2014-03-20: Adjusted script to work on 2008R2 and lower, as suggested by Shanky. Also added current mem config to output. Changed output from PRINT to SELECT (to facilitate multi-server query window).

Edit 3 2014-03-22: Adjusted script to support 2005, as suggested by Steve Meder. Also changed to only one resultset.

Edit 4 2014-05-30: Fixed some bugs for 2005, reported by Lee Linares.


Express Edition revisited, focus on SSMS

(Note: I have re-written parts of this post in the light of the comments that SP1 of 2012 include Complete tools.)

I have decided to revisit the topic of whats included in Express Edition, with focus on the tools. I have a couple of reasons for this:

  • In my 2011 post, I never tried to connect from Express SSMS to a non-Express database engine.
  • I want to check if there are any significant differences in SQL Server 2012 Express Edition, compared to SQL Server 2008R2 Express Edition.

It isn’t uncommon that people want to have SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) on their machines; and instead of searching for the install files for the full product, they download the freely available Express Edition and install SSMS from there. This was the main reason for this update post, and the reason I focus on SSMS and the tools in this post.

It turns out that both 2008R2 and 2012 RTM Express editions of SSMS includes a lot, but not quite everyting that the full version of SSMS has. And they don’t have Profiler or Database Engine Tuning Advisor. 2012 SP1 Express download does indeed have the Complete tool package.

Basic and Complete
The full SSMS (etc.) is referred to as “Management Tools – Complete”. This is only available with the Product you pay for and with 2012 SP1 Express. The only one available with the various free Express downloads (prior to 2012 SP1), is called “Management Tools – Basic”. You can explicitly request to install Basic from an install media that includes Complete, but you have to explicitly request that in the setup program. You don’t want to do that.

One difference between 2008R2 and 2012 is when you install from a pay-media and select that you want to install Express. For 2008R2, you then only have SSMS Basic available. For 2012, you have Complete. In other words, if you use a 2012 pay-media and select Express to install SSMS, you have the option to have the full-blown SSMS – Complete (including other tools, like Profiler).

The downloads
For SQL Server 2008R2, you have “Express Edition” and “Express Edition with Advanced Services”. The former is basically only the database engine, where the later has some Tools (SSMS Basic, primarily). See my earlier blog post for more details about 2008R2.

For 2012, there are bunch of downloads available. Note that if you want Complete tools, you need to download SP1 of the installers. You find SP1 here (and RTM, which you don’t want to use, here). SP1 includes Complete tools, and you will see that those downloads are significantly larger compared to RTM. It isn’t obvious what each exe files stand for, but scroll down and you will find pretty good explanations. I tried several of these (SSMS only, Express with Tools, Express with Advanced Services). They all have in common that for RTM the tool included is Basic, where for SP1 we have Complete.

So what is the difference between Basic and Complete?

In the table below, my focus was on what isn’t in Basic. In general, I don’t bother to list functionality which is available in both Basic and Complete. So, if the functionality isn’t in the table below, it is likely available in Basic. I might have missed something, of course! And my main focus was on SSMS and the database engine.


Component/Functionality 2008R2 2012 RTM 2012 SP1
Functionality in SSMS
Node for Agent Y Y Y
Graphical Execution Plans Y Y Y
Projects and Solutions N Y Y
Maint Plans, Wizard Y Y Y
Maint Plans, New, designer N (1) N (2) Y
Maint Plans, Modify N (1) N (2) Y
Node for SSIS Catalog N/A Y Y
Tools menu, Profiler N N Y
Tools menu, Tuning Advisor N N Y
Connect Object Explorer to:
Analysis Services N N Y
Reporting Services N N Y
Integration Services N N Y
Profiler N N Y
Database Engine Tuning Advisor N N Y

(1): The selections are there, but they were dead – nothing happened when you select them.
(2): The selections are there, but I got an error message when selecting any of them.

Upgrading from Express Edition to Standard Edition

Say you encounter an SQL Server which is Express Edition, and it really should have been some higher edition. Sounds familiar? It is common for me as a consultant to find plenty of SQL Servers at a customer’s site. Many of the databases in these will be moved (typically using backup and restore) to a “real” SQL Server. But in some cases, this might not be desirable. You want to convert the whole instance, from Express to a “real” SQL Server edition.

I’m attending a great SharePoint course for Daniel Bugday this week, and the topic of how SharePoint is installed was discussed. Selecting “Standalone”, SharePoint install will not only install all SharePoint parts on a single server, it will also install SQL Server Express Edition as the database engine. In short, SharePoint is one example where you might have an existing Express Edition which you want to make a “real” (higher) edition. There are other such scenarios, of course.

As of SQL Server 2008, you can let SQL Server’s setup program change from one edition to some other edition by just selecting “Maintenance”, “Edition Upgrade” in setup and specify the product key that came with the install media for the desired edition (which you have acquired first, of course). The cool thing here is that setup basically just registers the different product key and WHAM – you have the higher edition! This is what I wanted to test, and specifically going from Express to a higher edition. Below is my experience:

I have an Express edition which came with the SharePoint installation. It is SQL Server 2008 (not R2), with no tools (SSMS etc) installed. I want to make this a “real” Standard Edition. I have a Standard Edition 2008 installation media, with a product key.

The database engine
I first ran setup from the installed SQL Server (Start, All Programs, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Configuration Tools, SQL Server Installation Center (64-bit)). I selected “Maintenance”, “Edition Upgrade” in setup and specify the product key that came with my standard Edition. This did not allow me to continue. I got an error (which is lost now) and I could not continue.
Next try was to run setup from the installation media (my standard Edition install media) instead. This did allow me to continue. The change was very quick (a couple of minutes). I then verified using SQLCMD that I now have Standard Edition. Great! The database engine done.

You might want to have the tools (a.k.a. Shared Components) as well on the machine. I refer to things such as SQL Server Management Studio, Integration Services etc. So, I just ran setup from the installation media and installed the desired shared components. Nothing strange here. I now have Management Studio, Books Online and whatever more I might want to have.

SQL Server Agent
SQL Server Express doesn’t come with SQL Server Agent, right? Not really. It comes with agent, but the service is disabled and you cannot start it even if you try. But what about after an edition upgrade? I could still not start Agent. However, checking SQLAGENT.OUT revealed the problem. The first thing agent does at startup is to login to SQL Server and verify that it is sysadmin. The SharePoint setup installed Agent service account as Network Service, which was added as a login in SQL Server, but the login isn’t sysadmin. Now, this is in general a good thing (don’t run your services with higher privileges than necessary), but in this case it causes Agent to not start. Some of the SharePoint services are configured to use Network Service, and apparently the server roles securityadmin and dbcreator is enough for SharePoint. So, this needs to be taken care of. I could use some other service account for Agent, and make sure that service account is sysadmin in SQL Server. For my test, though, it is OK to make the login in SQL Server for Network Service as sysadmin. After that was done, Agent started just as expected. And just for fun, I created a Maintennance Plan for all databases, which also worked just fine.

What about the rest?
Obviously, you might want to check other things, such as database options, file size, auto grow settings, maintenance for the databases etc. But that isn’t strictly related to the edition change, it is just general best practices. For my case, for instance, I might want to upgrade the SQL Server from 2008 to 2008 R2, while I’m at it. Specifically for SharePoint, it seems its setup program created the database files in the Hive (a SharePoint term for a folder in Program Files, Common Files), and you probably want to move the SharePoint database files to a more suitable location. But that is outside the scope for this post, and hopefully no sweat for your dba.

In short, my test show that is is easy to change from one edition to a different edition, even if you want to change from Express Edition.

Rebuilding system databases in 2008 R2

UPDATE: Apparently, a workaround is to use SETUP.EXE from install media (and not the locally installed SETUP.EXE). See the connect item mentioned below.

All my attempts so far to rebuild the system databases in 2008 R2 has failed. I first tried to run setup from below path:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Setup Bootstrap\Release

But above turns out to be the 2008 setup program, not 2008R2 setup; even though I have no 2008 instanced installed (I have only R2 instances installed). Apparently, the 2008 setup program does a version check of the instance to be rebuilt and since it is > 10.50.0, the rebuild fails. Books Online for R2 the section about rebuilding system databases, has the above path, which obviously is incorret.

So, this lead me to think that the path to use is infact:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Setup Bootstrap\SQLServer2008R2

Above does indeed contain the R2 version of the setup program. The problem now is that it refuses to rebuild for some other reason. I opened a question in the MSDN forum, and Xiao Min Tan opened a connect entry for this: https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/feedback/details/564905/rebuilding-system-databases-for-sql-server-2008-r2.

Meanwhile, waiting for a resolution for above, I strongly recommend you to do both file-level backup as well as SQL Server backup of your system databases, from a good known clean state of them. Remember to do file-level backup of the database files, in case your instance won’t start.

(Here’s a prior blog post about rebuilding system database, btw: http://sqlblog.com/blogs/tibor_karaszi/archive/2008/08/29/rebuild-master-in-sql-server-2008.aspx

SQL Client config, 32 and 64 bit

Say you want to change the preferred netlib connection order. Or add a server alias.

You can do this using the “SQL Server Configuration Manager” program. But installing this on each client machine where you want to do the modification might not feel that attractive.

Another option is to use a tool like regmon while doing the config on a reference machine, sniff the registry modifications and then shoot these out to the client machines. This might be overkill, though.

Yet another option is to use the cliconfg.exe tool, which ship with Windows. This tool is already available on your machine. However, on a 64 bit machine, you need to consider whether the client app is a 32 or 64 bit app. The processor architectore for that app will determine where in the registry the app (client libraries) will look. Below is my results from working on a x64 XP installation.
64 bit (native): HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\MSSQLServer\Client\SuperSocketNetLib
32 bit (WOW): HKLM\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\MSSQLServer\Client\SuperSocketNetLib

Razvan Socol was kind enough to enlighten me, a while ago, of the fact that runnig the 64 bit version of cliconfg.exe will modify in the “64 bit” registry entry (as per above) and vice versa for the 32 bit version of cliconfg.exe. Razvan mentioned that starting cliconfg.exe from Run will start the 64 bit version, and from a 32 bit app (Explorer for instance – which I couldn’t find how to do, but I’m sure somebody will enlighten me) will start the 32 bit version.

Above made me wonder in what folder each file is. Here are my findings (on the test machine I was using – a pretty clean XP x64 machine):

64 bit version of cliconfg.exe: C:\Windows\System32
32 bit version of cliconfg.exe: C:\Windows\SysWOW64

(And, before you ask, no, above is not a typo. There is some logic behind this. 🙂 )

Do you have Instant File Initialization?

You might ask yourself: What is Instant File Initialization and why does it matter?

What Instant File Initialization is:
Instant File Initialization allow SQL Server to allocate storage (space from disks) very very quickly. As you probably know, when you delete files they are not physically deleted from the disk – they are only marked as deleted in the file system allocation structures. This is why various undelete programs can recover deleted files. So imagine a process requiring disk space. The disk area given to the process from the file system and operating system could potentially contains some secret information from deleted files. This is why the file system/OS insist to zero out the storage before the process can actually see it. (I’m not OS / file system expert so anyone is free to correct me here.) That is, unless the one allocating the storage has some special privileges.

When does the zeroing out of disk space occur?
Whenever SQL Server need disk space, such as:

  • Create database
  • Add file to database
  • Restore (if the restore process includes database creation)
  • File growth (both manual and auto-grow)
  • Backup [edit 2011-08-26: Not sure how this got here, AFAIK shouldn’t be here]

Can we avoid the slow zeroing out space?
Yes, but only if you are on SQL Server 2005 or higher and for some operations: creation and allocation of data database files (mdf and ndf). The SQL Server service account need to have appropriate permissions from the OS. To be more precise, it need to have a privilege called SE_MANAGE_VOLUME_NAME. This is by default granted to Administrators. Do you run your SQL Server as an account being member of Administrators? I hope not. Did you grant this permission to the service account?

How do I grant this privilege?
This is easy. Add the SQL Server service account to the “Perform Volume Maintenance Tasks” security policy.

Does it matter?
You be the judge. Just to give you an idea, I created a database with a data file of various size (I had the log file at 1MB for all tests in order for it to influence the least). I timed it both with and without Instant File Initialization. I ran it on my desktop machine which has a RAID0 of two 7200RPM disks:

Size without IFI with IFI 1GB 10.3 s 0.3 s 10GB 128 s 1.3 s 50GB 663 s 4.5 s

The difference is roughly a factor of 100!

When does it hurt?
Basically every time disk storage is allocated. But let us focus of the occasions where you can do anything about it, i.e., when you can have Instant File Initialization. Such occasions include:

  • Whenever a database is created. Space need to be allocated for the data file(s).
  • Whenever a data file is manually expanded in size.
  • Whenever you have auto-grow for a data file. Note that potentially some poor user will now sit and wait for the auto-grow to complete.
  • When you start SQL Server. Why? Tempdb need to be re-created.
  • When you perform restore, if the destination database not already exists with matching database file structure.

How can I tell if I have Instant File Initialization?
I find it easiest to just create a database and time it, using some reasonable size for your data file, like 5GB. Actually, run two test: One with 5GB data file and really small log file. And then another with very small data file and 5GB log file. Remember that we never have Instant File Initialization for log files. For instance, run below and you will see (adjust the file path for the database files). You need to adapt your code for file path name, possibly database name and the datetime handling if you are lower then SQL Server 2008:

(NAME N'IFI_test_log'FILENAME N'C:\IFI_test\IFI_test_ld.ldf'SIZE 1MB,  FILEGROWTH 10MB)
(NAME N'IFI_test_log'FILENAME N'C:\IFI_test\IFI_test_ll.ldf'SIZE 5GB,  FILEGROWTH 10MB)

Are numbers for above two about the same? If yes, then you don’t have Instant File Initialization. If the one with large data file is much quicker, then you do have Instant File Initialization. And now you also know approx how long it takes to allocate 1 GB with of data and log file for your SQL Server.

John Samson blogged about an alternative way to check, involving trace flags.

I’m curious: Did you have Instant File Initialization?

Rebuild master in SQL Server 2008

You might have read an earlier blog entry about my problems to remove a Data Collector (DC) information in SQL Server 2008. I still haven’t found any info on how to do this, but my questions in the MVP group triggered some activity.

Bob Ward looked into how to rebuild the system databases. This was on my list to try (after removing DC config and if that didn’t work rebuilding msdb). But Books Online had very little information on how to actually do the rebuild. Since there were quite many changes in setup between 2005 and 2008, I didn’t feel like trial and error based on how we did this in 2005.

Bob helped me out with some information on how to do the rebuild and it is very easy! I now have a bat file which does rebuild of three instances – and it only takes 5 minutes. And even better: no installation media is required – and it also remembers the collation for my system databases!

Enough said. Check out Bob’s blog post at: http://blogs.msdn.com/psssql/archive/2008/08/29/how-to-rebuild-system-databases-in-sql-server-2008.aspx

Rebuilding msdb on SQL Server 2008

Because of the problems I had removing Data Collector I decided to rebuild msdb. You probably heard about instmsdb.sql, but it was a long time since I actually used it. I asked about rebuilding in the MVP group and Dan Jones (MS) pointed me to a Blog post from Paul Randal on how to do this on SQL Server 2005. Here’s Paul’s blog post:


Since above is for SQL Server 2005 I realized that it might not work smoothly on 2008. And It didn’t. Below are some of the things I discovered (also posted as a comment on Paul’s blog). Read below in light of Paul’s blog. I should also say that nowhere does Paul states that his instructions work on 2008. It was me taking a chance. 🙂

You need to add startup parameter -s <instancename> if it is a named instance. Now, this I knew, but for the sake of other potential readers…
I initially started the instance from the Windows services applet by adding -T3608. That didn’t allow for detaching msdb. So I started from an OS command prompt and also added -c. This allowed me to detach msdb.
I now ran instmsdb, but that produced a number of errors. Here are a few comments about some of them:
* Complaints on xp_cmdshell. I did try enabling this first and then ran instmsdb again but same result.
* Bunch of errors when creating various Data Collector objects. This wasn’t good, because cleaning up DC was the reason to rebuild msdb in the frist place.
* 3 errors about sp_configure and -1 wasn’t allowed value (two for Agent Xps and one for xp_cmdshell).
Just for the sake of trying, I now tried to connect to the instance using SSMS Object Explorer. But I now got some error regarding Agent Xp’s when connecting. I tried to explicitly enabling Agent XP’s using sp_configure but same error. When connected there’s no node in Objects Explorer for Agent.
I took this as an indication that Agent isn’t healthy. Whether it was me doing something fishy or it isn’t as easy as just running insmsdb.sql for SQL Server 2008 – I don’t know. But I’m in for a rebuild of system databases. This isn’t that bad since it is a just a test machine. But these issues might serve as example why you want to follow Paul’s initial advice: always backup msdb (also on test machines).