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.

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