Tag Archives: Tips

General Microsoft SQL Server tips

#0410 – SQL Server – Dividing a TimeSpan by an Integer to find average time per execution


I recently encountered an interesting question on the forums the other day. The question was how to determine the average time taken by a single execution of the report provided we know how many times the report ran and the total time taken for all those executions.

The challenge is that the total time taken for all the report executions is a timespan value (datatype TIME in SQL Server). A TIME value cannot be divided by an INTEGER. If we try to do that, we run into an error – an operand clash.

USE [tempdb];
GO
DECLARE @timeSpan TIME = '03:18:20';
DECLARE @numberOfExecutions INT = 99;

SELECT @timeSpan/@numberOfExecutions;
GO
Msg 206, Level 16, State 2, Line 6
Operand type clash: time is incompatible with int

The solution is to realize that a timespan/TIME value is ultimately the number of seconds passed from a given instant. Once the timespan is converted to the appropriate unit (number of seconds), dividing by the number of executions should be quite simple.

Here’s the working example:

USE [tempdb];
GO
DECLARE @timeSpan TIME = '03:18:20';
DECLARE @numberOfExecutions INT = 99;

SELECT @timeSpan AS TotalActiveTime,
       DATEDIFF(SECOND,'1900-01-01 00:00:00.000',CAST(@timeSpan AS DATETIME)) AS TotalExecutionTimeInSeconds,
       DATEDIFF(SECOND,'1900-01-01 00:00:00.000',CAST(@timeSpan AS DATETIME))/(@numberOfExecutions * 1.0) AS TimePerExecution;
GO

/* RESULTS
TotalActiveTime  TotalExecutionTimeInSeconds TimePerExecution   
---------------- --------------------------- -------------------
03:18:20.0000000 11900                       120.20202020202020
*/

I trust this simple thought will help in resolving a business problem someday.

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.

Collapsed Regions using BEGIN_END

#0409 – SQL Server – Code Blocks – Equivalent of #region…#endregion


I was recently participating in a forum and came across an interesting question. What attracted my attention was that the person was trying to keep their T-SQL code clean and readable (which in itself is a rare sight).

The person was trying to group their T-SQL code into regions. In the world of application development technologies (e.g. C#) we would typically use the #region….#endregion combination. However, it does not work with T-SQL because the hash (#) is used to define temporary tables.

In T-SQL, the basic control-of-flow statements  that allow you to group the code are the BEGIN…END keywords. The BEGIN…END keywords can be used to logically group code so that they can be collapsed or expanded as required.

Collapsed Regions using BEGIN_END

Collapsed Regions using BEGIN_END

Expanded Regions using BEGIN_END

Expanded Regions using BEGIN_END

Summarizing,

The BEGIN…END keywords are therefore the functional equivalents of the #region…#endregion statements.

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.

#0407 – SQL Server – Clearing out the list of servers in SSMS


Today, I will talk about a very common question that I see in the forums. When you  work with a lot of SQL Server instances, the list of servers seen on the login screen in the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) becomes quite long, raising the question:

How to clear out the list of SQL Server instance names in SSMS?

SQL Server 2014 and above

Clearing out servers that no longer exist or to which you no longer need to connect to is quite simple in SQL Server 2014 and above. All you need to do is:

  1. Open SSMS
  2. In the login window,  expand the list of available SQL Server instances
  3. Use the keyboard’s down arrow or use the mouse to scroll down to the instance that needs to be deleted
  4. Once the required instance is selected in the list, just press “Delete” on the keyboard
SSMS_LoginWindow

Just select the appropriate SQL Server instance and press “Delete” to remove it from the SSMS login history

If you are still using an older version of SSMS due to various reasons, there is a manual workaround to this as shown below.

SSMS for SQL Server 2012 and below

  1. Close all open instances of SSMS on your workstation
  2. Depending upon your version of the SSMS client tools, navigate to and delete the files as shown in the table below:
  3. Launch SSMS
  4. It might take a little while to launch, as it recreates the “SqlStudio.bin”/”mru.dat
    • Once launched, you will see that the entire SSMS history is gone
SSMS Client Tools Version Path File to Delete
SQL 2012 %USERPROFILE%AppDataRoamingMicrosoftSQL Server Management Studio11.0 SqlStudio.bin
SQL 2008 %USERPROFILE%AppDataRoamingMicrosoftMicrosoft SQL Server100ToolsShell SqlStudio.bin
SQL 2005 %USERPROFILE%AppDataRoamingMicrosoftMicrosoft SQL Server90ToolsShell mru.dat

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.

#0406 – SQL Server – Remember that spaces and blank strings are the same


It was recently brought to my attention that a particular script was passing spaces when it should not. Here’s an example:

DECLARE @spaceCharacter NVARCHAR(1) = N' ';
DECLARE @blankCharacter NVARCHAR(1) = N'';

--Confirm that we are looking at different values
--The ASCII codes are different!
SELECT ASCII(@spaceCharacter) AS ASCIICodeForSpace,
       ASCII(@blankCharacter) AS ASCIICodeForBlankString;

--Compare a blank string with spaces
IF (@spaceCharacter = @blankCharacter)
    SELECT 'Yes' AS IsSpaceSameAsBlankString;
ELSE 
    SELECT 'No' AS IsSpaceSameAsBlankString;
GO

/* RESULTS
ASCIICodeForSpace ASCIICodeForBlankString
----------------- -----------------------
32                NULL

IsSpaceSameAsBlankString
------------------------
Yes
*/

01_Symptom

We then checked the LENGTH and DATALENGTH of both strings and noticed something interesting – the check on the LENGTH was trimming out trailing spaces whereas the check on the DATALENGTH was not.

DECLARE @spaceCharacter NVARCHAR(1) = N' ';
DECLARE @blankCharacter NVARCHAR(1) = N'';

--Check the length
SELECT LEN(@spaceCharacter) AS LengthOfSpace, 
       LEN(@blankCharacter) AS LengthOfBlankCharacter,
       DATALENGTH(@spaceCharacter) AS DataLengthOfSpace, 
       DATALENGTH(@blankCharacter) AS DataLengthOfBlankCharacter;
GO

/* RESULTS
LengthOfSpace LengthOfBlankCharacter DataLengthOfSpace DataLengthOfBlankCharacter
------------- ---------------------- ----------------- --------------------------
0             0                      2                 0
*/

02_LengthAndDataLength

Often, we loose sight of the most basic concepts – they hide in our subconscious. This behaviour of SQL Server is enforced by the SQL Standard (specifically SQL ’92) based on which most RDBMS systems are made of.

The ideal solution for an accurate string comparison was therefore to also compare the data length in addition to a normal string comparison.

DECLARE @spaceCharacter NVARCHAR(1) = N' ';
DECLARE @blankCharacter NVARCHAR(1) = N'';

--The Solution
IF (@spaceCharacter = @blankCharacter) 
   AND (DATALENGTH(@spaceCharacter) = DATALENGTH(@blankCharacter))
    SELECT 'Yes' AS IsSpaceSameAsBlankString;
ELSE 
    SELECT 'No' AS IsSpaceSameAsBlankString;
GO

/* RESULTS
IsSpaceSameAsBlankString
------------------------
No
*/

03_Solution

Further Reading

  • How SQL Server Compares Strings with Trailing Spaces [KB316626]

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.

#0405 – SQL Server – Msg 5133 – Backup/Restore Errors – Directory lookup for file failed – Operating System Error 5(Access is denied.).


We got a new server recently and one of my colleagues ran into an error when restoring a database. The error was a quite generic (reformatted below for readability):

Msg 5133, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
Directory lookup for the file 
"C:\Users\SQLTwins\Documents\AdventureWorks2014\AdventureWorks2014_Data.mdf" 
failed with the operating system error 5(Access is denied.).

Msg 3156, Level 16, State 3, Line 1
File 'AdventureWorks2014_Data' cannot be restored to 
'C:\Users\SQLTwins\Documents\AdventureWorks2014\AdventureWorks2014_Data.mdf'. 
Use WITH MOVE to identify a valid location for the file.

My immediate reaction was to  review the restore script.

USE [master];
GO
RESTORE DATABASE [AdventureWorks2014]
FROM DISK = 'C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL13.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\Backup\AdventureWorks2014.bak'
WITH
MOVE 'AdventureWorks2014_Data' TO 'C:\Users\SQLTwins\Documents\AdventureWorks2014\AdventureWorks2014_Data.mdf',
MOVE 'AdventureWorks2014_Log' TO 'C:\Users\SQLTwins\Documents\AdventureWorks2014\AdventureWorks2014_Log.ldf';
GO

All looked well, I subsequently moved to the environmental aspect of troubleshooting. It was a new server and we had just created the target folders to which the database was to be restored.

We attempted to restore to the default database locations configured during SQL Server installation and the restore worked. So, one thing that became clear: the SQL Server service did not have appropriate security rights on the destination folder.

The Solution

Once we determined that it was the security rights on the destination folder, the only thing remaining was to grant the rights. Here’s how we do it.

  1. Cross-check the user set as the service user for Microsoft SQL Server database engine (use the SQL Server Configuration Manager for interacting with the SQL Server service – here’s why).
  2. Under Folder properties, ensure that this user has full security rights (or at least equivalent to the rights assigned on the default database folders specified at the time of installation)

Here’s are detailed screenshots showing the above process.

01_SQLServerConfigurationManager

Identifying the user running the SQL Server Database Engine service

02_GrantingPermissions_01

Navigating into file system folder security options to grant access to the SQL Server service

02_GrantingPermissions_02

Choosing the appropriate account running the SQL Server service

02_GrantingPermissions_03

Applying appropriate rights to folder

By the way: If you encounter similar issues in accessing your backup files, the root cause and solution are the same. Check the permissions on the folders housing your backups and you should  see that the database engine does not have the necessary security rights.

Further Reading

Maintaining permissions on data folders and appropriate registry entries is something that is handled by the SQL Server Configuration Manager when you change the service account under which  the database engine is running. If you use services.msc (the old way), this is not done and your SQL Server may stop working.

  • Changing SQL Server Service Account or Password – Avoid restarting SQL Server [Blog Link]
  • Blog Post #0344 – SQL Server – Missing Configuration Manager on Windows 8 [Blog Link]

Until we meet next time,

Be courteous. Drive responsibly.