I recently ran into a problem with the QUOTED_IDENTIFIERS option in SQL Server, and it got me to thinking about these SET options.

I mean the fact that, on tables where there are filtered indexes or computed columns with indexes, QUOTED_IDENTIFIER is required to be on to create any other indexes is just not intuitive. But if you can’t create indexes because of it then I’d argue that it’s pretty damn important! I also found out that this problem is not just limited to QUOTED_IDENTIFIER but to ARITHABORT and ANSI_WARNINGS as well.

Just check out the Microsoft Docs and what it has to say about it:

SET ARITHABORT must be ON when you are creating or changing indexes on computed columns or indexed views. If SET ARITHABORT is OFF, CREATE, UPDATE, INSERT, and DELETE statements on tables with indexes on computed columns or indexed views will fail.

And for ANSI_WARNINGS it says:

SET ANSI_WARNINGS must be ON when you are creating or manipulating indexes on computed columns or indexed views. If SET ANSI_WARNINGS is OFF, CREATE, UPDATE, INSERT, and DELETE statements on tables with indexes on computed columns or indexed views will fail.

It’s not just Indexes

So, like a dog when it sees a squirrel, when I found out about the problems with ARITHABORT and ANSI_WARNINGS I got distracted and started checking out what else I could break with it. Reading through the docs, because I found that it does help even if I have to force myself to do it sometimes, I found a little gem that I wanted to try and replicate. So here’s a reason why you should care about setting ARITHABORT and ANSI_WARNINGS on.

Default to on

At one stage or another if you’re working with SQL Server, you’ve probably encountered the dreaded “Divide By 0” error:

Msg 8134, Level 16, State 1, Line 4
Divide by zero error encountered.

If you want to check this out, then here’s the code below for our table:

USE Pantheon;

-- Create our test table...
CREATE TABLE dbo.ArithAborting (
    id tinyint NULL

And our attempt at inserting that value into the table:

-- Check can we insert a "divide by 0"...
INSERT INTO dbo.ArithAborting (id) SELECT 1/0;

And we get our good, old, dreaded friend:


We check our ArithAborting table and nothing is there, like we expected!

FROM dbo.ArithAborting;
I got nothing…

What about if we were to turn our ARITHABORT and ANSI_WARNINGS off though, what happens then? Well that’s a simple thing to test, we just turn them off and run the script again:

--Turn ARITHABORT off;
-- ...insert into our table...
  INSERT INTO dbo.ArithAborting (id) SELECT 1/0;

Now before I freak out and start thinking that I’ve finally divided by zero, let’s check the table:

I got NULL-ing

What’s going on here? Checking the docs

During expression evaluation when SET ARITHABORT is OFF, if an INSERT, DELETE or UPDATE statement encounters an arithmetic error, overflow, divide-by-zero, or a domain error, SQL Server inserts or updates a NULL value. If the target column is not nullable, the insert or update action fails and the user receives an error.

Do I like this?


If I have a terminating error in my script, I quite like the fact that SQL Server is looking out for me and won’t let me put in bad data, but if you have these options turned off, even if you wrap your code in an TRY...CATCH block, it’s going to bypass it.

Plus if you are trying to divide by 0, please stop trying to break the universe. Thank you.



Multiple Inline Constraints

SQL New Blogger:

Time to investigate: 10 mins 
Time to test: 10 mins
Time to write: 10 mins

While creating a script for some new tables I came across a few columns that were designated to have both CHECK constraints and DEFAULT constraints.

Now this isn’t a problem of itself, it can be easily achieved by using a CREATE TABLE statement and then using 2 ALTER TABLE statements to create the constraints.

Old Style:

The problem that I had with this was that, so far, I was going along and creating these tables & columns with the constraints created in-line and it just galled me to have to break this flow and create these constraints as ALTER statements.

Checking the examples in the new Microsoft Docs didn’t show any examples that I could find of creating both constraints together on the same column so I experimented and found out that you can!

Here’s how…

New Style:

Notice 2 things here:

  1. There is no need to specify a FOR <column name> on the default constraint because SQL Server can tell the constraint is to work on the column it is currently defining.
  2. There is no comma separating the two constraints. This would break the inline property of these statements and SQL Server would think you’ve messed up syntax on a constraint (this got me for a sec).

Great, I can keep my constraints inline!

That’s a wrap

Documentation is useful but they do not cover every situation. Have a test environment; Hypothesize, test, and verify. You never know what you’d find.

Copying New Line Data out of SQL Server


A lot of the time, DBAs are asked to run adhoc reports for various business people and, more often than not, the expected medium for these reports is Excel.

Now for the most part this seems simple enough…

  • Run the T-SQL report
  • Highlight the results
  • Copy the results
  • Paste into an Excel worksheet


How do you deal with carriage returns though? New line feeds? Tabs? Commas when you’re trying to comma delimit?

Try and copy them into an Excel worksheet and what you’re going to get is confusion, alarm, and vexation.

Not exactly the clear reporting that the business people are hoping for.

So what can we do? Panic? Grab another coffee? Roll your “r’s”?

Yes, yes, and not yet…


I have mentioned before that we can use CHAR(10) and CHAR(13) for new lines and carriage returns in SQL Server so I’ll leave it up to an exercise to the reader to create a table with these “troublesome” bits of information in them (plus if you came here from Google, I assume you already have a table with them in it).

For me, I’ve just created a single table dbo.NewLineNotes that has a single entry with a new line in it.

SQL Server is left, Report is right

So a straight-up copy and paste isn’t going to cut it here. If we have more than 1 row, we’re not going to get a 1 entry to 1 row in the report that we are looking for. How do people deal with this?

1 Way:

Well, depending on what tool you have, the answer could be as simple as a right-click and selecting “Open in Excel”

Intact but on 1 line 🙂

Or Another:

Let’s proceed with the impression that you do not have RedGate tools (cough free trial cough) and cannot avail of the right-click righteousness, what do you do then.

Well…have you thought about PowerShell?

Hear me out on this but you probably already have your query but found the new lines are screwing up the report. So let’s throw that query into a variable

$NewLineQuery = 'SELECT Notes FROM dbo.NewLineNotes'

Then what we have to do is somehow connect to the SQL Server instance and database.

Let’s go with the very basics here as that’s all we really need. Invoke-SqlCmd, and yes I know it has problems. I’ve linked and talked about them before. It works for us in this situation though.

Yup, that’s good old VS code!
Now the more code-centered readers among you may have spotted and asked why I used -ExpandProperty and not just -Property , or even why I included it at all.
Well, apart from the thought that code online should be like code in scripts (legible with no aliases), we’re dealing with new lines here!
If we don’t specify ​-expand then what we actually get is…
comma delimited or ellipses delimited?

How does that help us with Reports?

If you work with PowerShell for the smallest amount of time, then I hope you’ve run into the command Export-CSV. See help for details…

help Export-Csv -Full

This will output a delimited file (defaults to comma but we can change that if we want) to wherever we want. We can then open it up in Excel or whatever other tool you use.

Let’s see if that splits our information into a new line!

IT’S ALIVE!!! ugh I mean…IT WORKS!!!

Another another…

There are tons of different ways to do this but this is what I used.

Quick, dirty, and effective.

In the short term, I’m okay with that!


T-SQL Tuesday #92 – Lessons Learned the Hard Way…

That’s T-SQL Tuesday #92, not 92 lessons learned the hard way

T-SQL Tuesday this month is hosted by Raul Gonzalez ( blog | twitter ) and the topic this month is “Lessons learned the hard way”.

I make no effort to hide the fact that I am not the biggest fan of GUIs, and I’ve been fortunate enough to turn that dislike into an admiration of command line tools. I said “an admiration” not that I’m any good at them yet! I have been fortunate enough to provide a function for (have you helped them out yet?) but just goes to show that anyone can help out, regardless of skill level.

In case you ever wondered where this dislike came from, let me tell you a hypothetical story about…my friend that I used to work with.

Now my friend wasn’t a DBA then, he wasn’t even an Accidental DBA, he was more a “that guy is good with databases, ask him” kind of guy. In short, my friend knew just enough to be dangerous without knowing that he could be.

Back in the SQL Server 2012 days…

…which was either today or 5 years ago, depending on what version of SQL Server you’re running but we’ll say 5 years ago, my friend was working as a SQL Support Engineer for a software provider.

The provider didn’t handle backups, that was all taken care of by 3rd parties. In case something went wrong, these 3rd parties provided the backups and either the software provider, or the in-house I.T. would restore them. (FYI, I’m very cautious of 3rd party backup tools as well).

One Friday, we did a release…

…and eventually a bug was discovered in the release that could have potentially had some data impact (no particular reason to say Friday, I just don’t think you should release on one).

So a plan was made to request a 2 week old backup and to compare the current data against the current production database.

GUI Time…

My friend goes to the Object Explorer, opens the “Databases” node, and sees that there is two databases there; Live ([TheEarlyBird]) and a disused copy of Live ([TheEarlyBird2]) that is a day old and can be overwritten.

Not knowing any better, my friend right-clicks the old copy, clicks “Tasks”, then “Restore”, then “Database…”, and a lovely GUI pops up.


Now my friend doesn’t know any better, he thinks that the GUI is here to help him and in most of the cases it is. What my friend failed to realize is that there is a difference between helping him and doing the work for him…

Setting Up…

The 3rd party backup file has not yet been retrieved but that stops my friend not! This is a urgent case so my friend forges ahead, thinking that he can get everything set up and ready then all he would have to do is select the file when it was made available.

Files Page:

  • My friend would be overwriting the disused database so this would not need to be changed.

Options Page:

  • Checked the box “Overwrite the existing database (WITH REPLACE)” as we are overwriting the disused database

File is now available…

So my friend goes back to the General Page, clicks the “Device” radio button, and selects the backup file…

Can you figure out what went wrong here?

…and clicks “OK” to start the restore!

Errors! Errors galore…

My friend encounters errors:

Exclusive access could not be obtained because the database is in use.

This confuses my friend as this is a disused copy of the database, the only person who should be on it is himself.

Does my friend go and maybe check out EXEC sp_Who2; to see who else could be on this database? No, remember that my friend knows just enough to be dangerous. My friend goes back to “Tasks”, “Restores”, “Databases”, goes to the Options Page and checks the box labelled “Close existing connections to destination database”….

If you figured out the above, you know that this is even worse…

With that, my friend clicks the “OK” to restore the database and continues on his merry way…the dumb fool that he is.

SQL Server 2012 GUIs…

…have this little “optimization” technique where it looks at the name on the database backup file and matches up with the database name.

Now what this actually meant was the moment that my friend clicked the “Device” button, all his work was gone and his destination database reverted to the Live Database!

The first time my friend clicked “OK” to restore wasn’t a problem since there were connections and the Live database wasn’t affected.
But then my friend goes back and clicks “Close existing connections to destination database”…just enough knowledge to be dangerous…

So in summary, what my friend had done was kick every single connection off of Live and then effectively wiped 2 weeks worth of data.

Thank goodness for tail-log backups!

GUIs are good for….


They give you the option to script out the configurations you have chosen. If my friend had chosen to script out the restore, rather then clicking “OK” to run it, maybe he would have caught this mistake when reviewing it – rather than overwriting the Live database with 2 week old data and spending a weekend in the office with 3 colleagues fixing it.

Plus if you ever want to ensure that you know something, try and script it out from scratch.

Failures or Learning Experiences?

There is this saying that…

…there is no such thing as failure

I guess it’s a personal experience but I say that it is thanks to “my friend” that I was able to do 2 side-by-side WITH STOPAT database restores today.

Oh and FYI SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Core Mainstream Support ends today.
I’m very upset about that… 😐

Table Column Differences with T-SQL and PowerShell – Part 2

If this was a horror movie, it would be called “The Differencing”…duh duh duh!

The original post for this topic garnered the attention of a commenter who pointed out that the same result could be gathered using a couple of UNION ALLs and those lovely set-based EXCEPT and INTERSECT keywords.

I personally think that both options work and whatever you feel comfortable with, use that.

It did play on my mind though of what the performance differences would be…what would the difference in STATISTICS IO, TIME be? What would the difference in Execution Plans be? Would there even be any difference between the two or are they the same thing? How come it’s always the things I tell myself not to forget that I end up forgetting?

I have no idea about the last one but at least the other things we can check. I did mention to the commentor that I would find this an interesting blog topic if they wanted to give it a go and get back to me. All I can say is – Sorry, your mail must have got lost in transit. I’m sure it is a better blog post that mine anyway.

If you’re going to do it…

For this test, we’re not going to stop at a measely 4 columns per table. Oh no! For this one we’re going to go as wide as we can.

With a recent post by Kenneth Fisher ( blog | twitter ) out about T-SQL FizzBuzz, I’m going to create two tables, both of which will have incrementing column names i.e. col00001, col00002, …, col1024. Table1 will have all columns divisible by 3 removed while Table2 will have all columns divisible by 5 removed.

See, FizzBuzz can be useful!

So our table creation scripts…

    CASE WHEN v.number = 0
      -- Change this to 02 the second run through
THEN N'CREATE TABLE dbo.TableColumnDifference01 ('
    ELSE N' col' + RIGHT(REPLICATE('0', 8) + CAST(v.number AS nvarchar(5)), 4) + N' int,'
FROM master.dbo.spt_values AS v
WHERE v.type = N'P'
-- Change this to '% 5' the second run through
v.number % 3 != 0
OR v.number = 0)
See Note

NOTE: When you copy and paste the results of this query into a new window to open it, it is going to fail. Why? Well the end of the script is going to be along the lines of colN int, and it needs to be colN int). Why is it like this? Well it was taking to damn long to script that out. Feel free to change this to work for you. Hey if you do, let me know!

Now, how I’m going to do test this, is run each method 3 times (PIVOT, UNION, and PowerShell), then measure the third run of each method. This is mainly as I want to get rid of any “cold cache” issues with SQL Server where the plan has to be compiled or the data brought into memory.

…do it Pivot

So first up is the Pivot method from the last blog post. In case you’re playing along at home (and go on, do! Why should kids get all the fun) here is the code that I’m running.

And here is our results:

Yup, those be columns

What we are really after though is the stats, execution plan and time to complete for our 3rd execution. Now as much as I love reading the messages tab for the stats information, I feel with blog posts that aesthetics is king, so I’m going to be using the free tool by Richie Rump ( twitter ) “Statistics Parser


Elapsed time: 00:00:00.136


Execution Plan:

Probably the first plan I’ve seen where the SORT isn’t the most expensive! it UNION

Secondly we have what I dubbed “the UNION method” (no points for figuring out why) and the only change I’ve made to this script is to add in PARSENAME() and that’s only so that the script know…work.

Results be like:

Yep, Yep, Yep, Yep, Nope, Yep…


Elapsed time: 00:00:00.624

hmm…less Scan Counts but 5 times the reads…also 5 times slower than the PIVOT method. Maybe the execution plan will be prettier?

Execution Plan:


Yeah…so…that’s…that’s different from the first plan! I was right in my comment though, there is a concatenation operator (there’s actually 2, you may need to zoom in to find them though)

…do it PowerShell

Finally we have the PowerShell method. No messing about here, let’s get straight to it! I’m going to lump all the code together in one gist and I’ll be wrapping it in Measure-Command to get the speed of the command.


Yeah I’m liking VS Code more and more…


Elapsed time: 00:00:00.249

help *execution*; help *plan*

Would you believe that I couldn’t figure out how to get an execution plan for PowerShell 🙂

If anybody knows, hit me up!

Finishing off

You know at the start of this, I was fully expecting the PowerShell to win out, followed by the UNION method, because it’s use of UNION, EXCEPT, and INTERSECT which are basically made for this kind of problem, and the PIVOT method bringing up a distant last since PIVOTs have this complexity stigma attached to them and what is complex is normally slow.

From a sheer speed point of view, the actual results are:

  1. Pivot
  2. PowerShell
  3. Union

Who knew!?

I don’t think this is the end of my use of PowerShell or Union operators though. I’m not going to replace all the stuff that I can with Pivots. For one I just think that PowerShell and the Union operators are just too cool!

I actually like this result for two reasons.

  1. There are multiple way to do something in SQL, there are good ways and better ways. The main point is whatever option you choose, make sure you know what it entails and can justify it.
    Whatever works for you, works for you!
  2. You don’t know something, test it and find out! What you think the outcome may be, may not be true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to figure out if there’s a way to return execution plans with PowerShell.


Chaos Theory, Compound Effects, and Consequences.

Straight away I want to apologise for the Nicolas Cage memes!

User Groups are great, aren’t they?

I just got back from the Reading User Group and I’m still in that post “User Group Glow”, also known as “Long Day Lethargy”, or “Twelve Hour Tiredness”.

They are great though! A chance to talk to other people in the SQL Server community, – a slight reminder that even if you work alone, people are still experiencing some of the same problems that you are (apparently everyone has to deal with multiple nested views, who knew!) – a chance to hear presentations on different topics, and pizza if you’re lucky (we were).

They’re really great!

I realised during the session that the two presentations given during the User Group had a connection with a small issue with a table change I had been given with a developer.

Here’s what did not happen to me so you can watch out for it.

The Chaos Theory

Nic Chaos


Raul Gonzalez ( blog | twitter ) was first up with this presentation “Database Design Matters, Seriously”, showing us the chaos that can occur from not giving some serious thought into how you design your database.

His session is not yet up on his blog as I’m writing this but it will be soon so keep an eye out for that!

Now he had a lot of good points but, for brevity’s sake, the main chaos theory points here are what happens if you don’t take advantage of CHECK CONSTRAINTS, FOREIGN KEY CONSTRAINTS, and not specifying a columns NULLABILITY (yes, that’s a word!). SQL Server is a powerful program with many performance optimizations provided for you, but it’s not omniscient; it can only use the information that you give it!

His points on NULLABILITY (I mean, I think it’s a word) tied in nicely with the next presentation…

Compound Effects

Compound Effects

David Morrison ( blog | twitter ) followed up with his presentation on “Query Plan Deep Dives” (I had seen this at SQL Bits, but it’s a great session so I had no problems watching it again) and, as an aside, through his presentation he showed us the compound effects that can happen from not specifying a columns NULLABILITY (it’s got letters so it’s word-like…)

Now his slides and scripts are up on his blog and they do a great job of walking you through them so check them out and you’ll see the compound effects they create!

Here’s a little teaser…

-- now I want all people who's email isn't in the email table
SELECT /*C.FirstName ,
    C.LastName ,*/
FROM dbo.Contact AS C
WHERE C.EmailAddress NOT IN (SELECT E.EmailAddress
                             FROM dbo.Emails AS E)

This should be A LOT simpler!!!


Which brings us back around to consequences or as I like to put it “How I Pissed Off A Dev By Refusing A Simple Request”.

To be quite honest, it was a simple request. A requirement came in to expand a column datatype up to varchar(100), so one of devs wrote up a simple script and passed it onto the DBAs to check as part of the change control procedure.

ALTER TABLE tablename
ALTER COLUMN columnname varchar(100)

And I said no.

WHY???!!!“, you may shout at me (he certainly did), but I’m going to say to you what I said to him. “Give me a chance to explain before you take my head off, alright?”

Argue with a DBA, go on!

While there is nothing wrong with the above code syntactically (is that a word?) but I couldn’t approve it since that column was originally NOT NULL and the above script would have stripped the column of that attribute! Business requirements dictated that it should not allow NULLS, and hey, who are we to argue with that 😐

Double checking to see if the column is NULL or NOT NULL allowed me to see a problem with that code, one that many people would consider simple enough to just allow it through at a quick glance. Which could have opened up problems further down the line if it had run…

Thanks to the User Group, I now know that it could have a knock on effect with our query plans as well!

ALTER TABLE tablename
ALTER COLUMN columnname varchar(100) NOT NULL

There, that’s better!

DBAs deal with databases and consequences



DBAs get a lot of stick sometime, the “Default Blame Acceptors” or the “Don’t Bother Asking” but a lot of the time, it’s not that we want to say no, it’s just that we have to take into consideration a thousand little things that could snowball into 1 giant problem.

With the rise of DevOps, check out the latest T-SQL Tuesday, DBAs have gone from going


to somewhere along the lines of

“Not this second, let me check it out and see what we can do”

If pressed further, we may rely on the good, old “it depends” though. Hey, clichés are there for a reason; they work!

It just goes to show that, like the IT profession, DBAs are constantly evolving.
Continuosly learning, checking out new helping technologies, and going to User Groups are going to help us to deal with it.

Just remember, in the end,


P.S. I should probably mention that the Nicolas Cage memes are because of this blog post by Nate Johnson ( blog ) that I enjoyed so much that I had to do something in response. I’m not normally this crazy, I swear!

Problems Creating XML Schema Collection

Ever created an XML Schema collection before? Our developers work with a lot of XML so I wasn’t surprised when eventually a request came in about permissions with XML SCHEMA COLLECTION.

Surprised that they had a permissions issue, yes, but not surprised that they were working with XML.

Why is it “an XML” and not “a XML”?

For information purposes, I’d normally provide a brief description of what an XML SCHEMA COLLECTION is but, being completely honest, I’m still not sure I can vocalize it in an understandable way. It’s kind of like explaining the colour purple without using other colours (and yes, that’s colour with a ‘u’).

I know what it is, I just can’t explain it properly…yet

So what I’m going to do is point you to the link for Microsoft docs for XML Schema Collection (done) and just gloss right over it (nothing to see here).

Permissions Shane, you mentioned permissions.

Right, sorry.

Investigation first. This was on the Development server and they had emailed me the creation code along with the error message they had received, which was this guy:


Msg 2797, Level 16, State 2, Line 20
The default schema does not exist.

However, when I ran the code, I got a different error message, mainly this guy:


Msg 9459, Level 16, State 1, Line 3
XML parsing: line 2, character 34, undeclared prefix

Which meant I had to go back and tell them to fix their darn XML.

Now I’m pretty sure we have a problems though:

That error message did not fill me with confidence. Yeah, sure they had bad XML but I was now fairly sure that there was also a permissions problem. Mainly because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned so far, it’s this:

No good can come from two different people getting two different errors from the same code!

Proper XML:

Proper XML was provided and ran by the developers but the same error message came back…

N'random xml alert...'

Msg 2797, Level 16, State 2, Line 20
The default schema does not exist.

The difference this time was, when I ran the code, I received the following message

Command(s) completed successfully.

…That’s not good.

Developers happy. DBAs not.

At this stage, I’m nearly convinced that it’s a permissions issue.

Checking the permissions required to create an XML Schema Collection doesn’t help, since the Devs were part of the db_dlladmin database role, so that should have been covered.

In my head I’m thinking of all the things that I can do to try and troubleshoot this problem.

  1. Extended Events my session,
  2. Ask my Senior DBA,
  3. Cry

Then I realize that I’m jumping the gun again and I slow down, and check the first error message again. This time without the developers shouting in my ear, about permissions.

The DEFAULT schema

That says “schema”, not “permission”. Maybe the difference between the DBAs and the Devs was to do with default schema and not permissions this time. Let’s check it out!

    IIF(principal_id = 1, 'DBA', 'Dev') AS DBPrincipal,
FROM sys.database_principals
WHERE principal_id IN (1, 14);
Devs don’t even have a default schema!

Wait, so it was a SCHEMA issue?

Have you checked the Examples section of Microsoft Docs? Normally, they are a great source of material for examples but if you check out the examples for XML Schema Collection , not one of them shows the schema name in the examples.

So, I walk over to the original developer and his machine, change his code to…


And it works!

Apparently what had happened was the Senior Dev had gotten sick of developers not specifying the schema when creating objects and had asked the Senior DBA to remove the default schema for Developers. That seems to work (by that I mean, everything error-ed out correctly), they were happy that developers now had to specify the schema, and life moved on.

Yet, later on, when the developer read the docs for XML Schema Collection, and saw that there was no schema in the examples, it didn’t cross their mind that a schema was required. So they didn’t specify it and that, in combination with no default schema, caused this whole mess.

The (fast food) takeaways:

  1. Slow down! Don’t jump the gun,
  2. Developers don’t know everything,
  3. It’s not always permissions,
  4. Schemas are important(!),
  5. Having checklists for investigations are highly useful, and
  6. Documentation, especially on past decisions, are even more useful!

Apologies for the blurb of a blog post but I have to go.
Apparently, there’s a permissions issue with a Stored Procedure now…