Tag Archives: Debugging

Articles related to Microsoft SQL Server debugging

#0425 – SQL Server – Backup exists but doesn’t display on the restore window in SSMS. Why? How to fix?


Recently, I ran into a forum post where the ask was to figure out why a perfectly valid backup was not visible when attempting to restore it via the wizard in SSMS. Today, I will reproduce the issue, explain the root cause and provide the solution for the same.

Building the scenario

In one of the my test SQL Servers, I have a copy of the [AdventureWorks2019] sample database, which I have backed up using the following simple script.

USE [master];
GO
BACKUP DATABASE [AdventureWorks2019]
 TO DISK = 'C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL14.SQL2K17\MSSQL\Backup\AdventureWorks2019.bak'
    WITH COMPRESSION;
GO

Now, to simulate the movement of the backup to a different machine, I created a new folder under my default “Documents” folder and placed the backup there.

Screenshot showing the placement of the target folder where the backup is placed
Screenshot showing the placement of the target folder where the backup is placed

Reproducing the symptom

Restoring via SSMS

  1. Connect to the target SQL Server using SSMS
  2. Right-click on the “Databases” folder in the Object Explorer
  3. Choose to Restore a database
  4. Under “Source”, select the radio-option for restoring from a “Device”
  5. Use the ellipsis to open the “Select Backup Devices” window and open the File explorer by choosing “Add”
  6. Navigate to the folder where the backup has been placed
    1. Expected Result: We should be able to see the folder and the backup file
    2. Actual Result: The backup file is not seen (the folder may or may not be seen)
Screenshot showing that the backup exists, but it is not seen in the "Locate Backup File" window
Screenshot showing that the backup exists, but it is not seen in the “Locate Backup File” window

Restoring via T-SQL

While the UI keeps things a bit mysterious, attempting to restore via T-SQL does point us to the right direction.

USE [master];
GO
RESTORE DATABASE [AdventureWorks2019_Copy]
    FROM DISK = 'C:\Users\sqltwins\Documents\AdventureWorksBackup\AdventureWorks2019.bak';
GO

Here’s the error that we run into:

Msg 3201, Level 16, State 2, Line 3
Cannot open backup device 'C:\Users\sqltwins\Documents\AdventureWorksBackup\AdventureWorks2019.bak'. Operating system error 5(Access is denied.).
Msg 3013, Level 16, State 1, Line 3
RESTORE DATABASE is terminating abnormally.

Notice that the error clearly says – “Access is denied.

Root Cause

As highlighted by the results of the T-SQL script, SQL Server is actually running into a security problem. The operation is done under the context of the SQL Server instance service user (i.e. the user under which the SQL Server service runs).

Because the user doesn’t have access to the folder we just created, the service cannot see the files underneath.

Solution

The solution is to use the SQL Server Configuration Manager to figure out the user under which the SQL Server service runs.

Once the user is identified, provide access to the target folder to the user and the files should now be visible – both to SSMS and to T-SQL.

Screenshot showing the backup file is now visible once the SQL Server instance service has been granted to the folder
Screenshot showing the backup file is now visible once the SQL Server instance service has been granted to the folder

Further Reading/References:

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.

#0424 – SQL Server – Null value is eliminated by an aggregate or other SET operation. – Why? How to fix?


I recently ran into a forum post where the poster wanted to know why they were getting the following warning during query execution:

"Null value is eliminated by an aggregate or other SET operation."

Having been asked this question a few times by a few of my office colleagues as well, I thought to write up a quick post on the reason behind this warning.

A quick test

The test below is simple – I am creating a sample test table which allows NULL values to be inserted. I am then trying to perform a simple aggregate function (SUM) over the NULL-able column. Upon checking the “Messages” tab, we see that no warning is returned.

USE [tempdb];
GO
SET NOCOUNT ON;

--Safety Check
IF OBJECT_ID('dbo.NULLAggregation','U') IS NOT NULL
BEGIN
    DROP TABLE [dbo].[NULLAggregation];
END
GO

--Create the test table
CREATE TABLE [dbo].[NULLAggregation] 
    ([Id]          INT           NOT NULL IDENTITY (1,1),
     [Value]       INT               NULL,
     [ValueString] VARCHAR(50)   NOT NULL,
     CONSTRAINT [pk_NULLAggregation] PRIMARY KEY ([Id])
    );
GO

--Insert the test data
INSERT INTO [dbo].[NULLAggregation] ([Value], [ValueString])
VALUES ( 1, 'One'),
       (10, 'Ten'),
       (22, 'Twenty-Two');
GO

--Perform the aggregation
--NOTE: No NULL values are in the table at this point
SELECT SUM([na].[Value]) AS [SumOfValues]
FROM [dbo].[NULLAggregation] AS [na];
GO

/****************************************
RESULT
-----------
SumOfValues
-----------
33
****************************************/

Now, I add a single record with a NULL value in the [Value] column and repeat the aggregation. While the result is the same, we have a warning in the “Messages” tab.

INSERT INTO [dbo].[NULLAggregation] ([Value], [ValueString])
VALUES ( NULL, 'One');
GO

SELECT SUM([na].[Value]) AS [SumOfValues]
FROM [dbo].[NULLAggregation] AS [na];
GO

/****************************************
RESULT
-----------
SumOfValues
-----------
33
Warning: Null value is eliminated by an aggregate or other SET operation.
****************************************/
A screenshot showing the warning encountered in SSMS when an aggregation operation is performed on a NULL value.
Warning encountered when aggregating on NULL values

The reason for the warning

To begin – this is just a warning and not an error. If your script/job is failing it is probably failing due to some other data condition OR as an indirect result of operating on NULL values.

The warning simply suggests that an aggregation operation is being done on a NULL value. If no NULL values are present in the dataset being evaluated, then the warning is not encountered.

Solutions

The important thing is to consider what is important for the business/domain.

  • If processing on NULL values are okay for the business/domain, then one of the following two (2) workaround can be applied:
    • The warning can either be ignored OR
    • Use the “SET ANSI_WARNINGS OFF” option for your query/procedure
  • If processing on NULL values is not acceptable for your business/domain, then
    • Either use a simple WHERE clause to remove the records with NULL values from the aggregation
    • Use input validations in the application code and NOT NULL checks in the database to stop the NULL values from being entered by the users

NOTE: If you do decide to use the “SET ANSI_WARNINGS OFF” option, please do so with caution. It can have unintended consequences with string operations as well (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/t-sql/statements/set-ansi-warnings-transact-sql?view=sql-server-ver15)

I trust you found this post useful.

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.

#0421 – SQL Server – SSIS – Wild card search to find if a file exists in a folder or directory


I recently answered a question on a forum which I believe will be useful to many of the readers in the audience.

SSIS packages are widely used for data import from and export to files. One of the main tasks in this situation would be to check if files with certain kinds of names exist in a particular folder or directory, i.e. basically perform a wild-card search in a directory.

The solution

This can be achieved by using the EnumerateFiles() method of the System.IO.Directory class in the SSIS Script task. Here’s the sample package:

In a folder, I have a set of files, some with similar names (which we will search from the SSIS package).

Files existing in the directory to be searched

The SSIS package has two (2) variables:

Variable NameConfiguration on the Script TaskDescription
SearchPathReadOnly, InputThis is the path to be searched
SearchPatternReadOnly, InputPattern to be searched
FileExistsReadWrite, OutputA boolean indicating downstream processes whether files were found or not
Table 1: Variables on the SSIS package
Screenshot showing the variables and their configuration on the script task

The script is a quite simple implementation as below:

public void Main()
{
    // SQLTwins: SSIS: Blog #0421

    string searchPath = Dts.Variables["User::SearchPath"].Value.ToString();
    string searchPattern = Dts.Variables["User::SearchPattern"].Value.ToString();

    System.Collections.Generic.List<string> searchResults = System.IO.Directory.EnumerateFileSystemEntries(searchPath, searchPattern).ToList();

    if (searchResults.Any())
    {
        Dts.Variables["User::FileExists"].Value = true;
    }

    Dts.TaskResult = (int)ScriptResults.Success;
}

Here’s the script in action:

Screenshot showing the script in debug mode indicating that files were found matching the pattern.

As you can see, the script can help perform a wild-card search in a given folder or directory.

Further Reading:

  • File System errors when trying to move and rename a file [Blog Link]
  • Adding Date & Time to file names after processing [Blog Link]
  • VSTA Errors when working with SSIS packages [Blog Link]
  • System.IO.Directory.EnumerateFiles [MSDN Link]

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.

#0419 – 2 things I didn’t know about Notepad


Today’s post is a quick one based on an experience I had recently. In one hour, I learnt two (2) new things that I didn’t know about Windows Notepad.

I was in an Azure training recently and working my way through a lab exercise. As I was building my environment, I had collected a bunch of tokens and connection strings in a Notepad file. And that’s when I ran into the first thing I didn’t know about Notepad.

The maximum length of text allowed in a line is 1024 characters

The following is a simulated text that I generated by replicating the English alphabet and the numbers (0-9) such that the resulting string is 1044 characters in length. In Notepad, the string automatically wraps at 1024 characters.

The workaround was simply to open the file in the Visual Studio IDE (which does not have the same limitations).

Image showing automatic wrapping of strings to 1024 characters in Notepad
Image showing automatic wrapping of strings to 1024 characters in Notepad

Text searches only work for first 128 characters

Immediately after I realized the word wrap limit, I was trying to search a connecting string (which was 133 characters in length) and landed up with multiple hits (which I was not supposed to).

After triple-checking everything, looked at what was being searched and that’s when I realized that the search box only takes 128 characters.

Screengrab showing that the text in the Notepad search box in Notepad stops at 128 characters
Screengrab showing that the text in the Notepad search box stopped at 128 characters (green lines)

If you want to see it for yourself

You can use copies of the following string (37 characters in length) and an instance of Notepad:

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwzyz0123456789

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive Responsibly.

Import Event Viewer Logs into Excel

#0414 – Analyzing Event Viewer Logs in Excel


When troubleshooting issues, the Event Viewer is one of the most handy of all tools. Assuming that appropriate coding practices were used during application development, the Event Viewer contains a log of most problems – in the system, in the configuration or in the application code.

The only problem is analyzing the Event Viewer logs when you have a thousand events. It becomes extremely difficult to try and answer questions like the following while going through events serially:

  1. Events logged by type for each source
  2. Events by severity
  3. Events by category
  4. And many more such analytical questions…

These analytical requirements are best achieved with tools like Microsoft Excel. And so, I went about analyzing Event Viewer logs in Microsoft Excel in just 2 steps.

Step #1: Export the Event Viewer Logs to XML

  1. Once the Event Viewer is launched, navigate to the Event Log to be evaluated
  2. Right-click on the Event Log and choose “Save All Events As” option
  3. In the Save As dialog, choose to save the Events as an XML file
    • If asked to save display information, you can choose not to store any or choose a language of your choice

And that’s it – it completes the 1st step!

Screenshot showing how to Save the Event Viewer Logs
Save the Event Viewer Logs
Screenshot showing how to save the Event Viewer Logs as an XML file
Choose to save the Event Viewer Logs as an XML file

Step #2: Import the XML file into Excel

  1. Launch Microsoft Excel
  2. In the File -> Open dialog, choose to search files of “XML” type
  3. Select the exported Event Viewer Log file
  4. In the Import Options, you can choose to import as an “XML Table”
    • Excel will prompt to create/determine the XML schema automatically. It’s okay to allow Excel to do so

And that’s it – the Event Viewer Logs are now in Excel and you can use all native Excel capabilities (sort, filter, pivot and so on).

Choose to import the Event Viewer Logs into Excel as an XML table
Import the Event Viewer Logs as an XML table
Image showing the successfully imported Event Viewer data into Microsoft Excel
Event Viewer Logs successfully imported into Excel

I do hope you found this tip helpful. If you have more such thoughts and ideas, drop in a line in the Comments section below.

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.