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SQL Server 2008 R2 : Database Backup and Restore (part 8) - Scenarios

11/20/2012 6:22:20 PM
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Restore scenarios are as varied as the backup scenarios that drive them. The number of scenarios is directly related to the types of backups taken and frequency of those backups. If a database is in simple recovery mode and full database backups are taken each night, your restore options are limited. Conversely, full recovery databases that have multiple filegroups and take a variety of different types of backups have a greater number of options that can be used to restore the database.

The following sections describe a number of restore scenarios to give you a taste of the types of restores you may encounter. The scenarios include some restores performed with T-SQL and others performed with SSMS.

Restoring to a Different Database

You can restore a database backup to a different database. The database you’re restoring to can be on the same server or a different server, and the database can be restored to a different name, if needed. These types of restores are common in development environments where a production backup is recovered on a development server or multiple copies of the same development database are restored to different database names for use by different groups.

Listing 7 shows the T-SQL RESTORE command you can use to create a new database named AdventureWorks2008_COPY from the backup of the AdventureWorks2008 database. Take note of the MOVE options that specify where the database files for the new AdventureWorks2008_COPY database will exist. Each MOVE option must refer to the logical name for the file and include a physical file location that is a valid location on the server. In addition, the referenced file cannot be used by another database. The only exception is when you are restoring to the database that is using the files and the REPLACE option is used.

Listing 7. Restore to a Different Database
RESTORE DATABASE [AdventureWorks2008_COPY]
 FROM  DISK = N'C:\mssql2008\backup\AdventureWorks2008.bak'
 WITH  FILE = 1,
 MOVE N'AdventureWorks2008_Data' TO
 MOVE N'AdventureWorks2008_Log' TO


A restore of a database backup taken from another server can cause problems after the restore completes. The problems are caused by broken relationships between the database users captured in the backup file and the associated logins on the server to which the backup is restored. The relationships are broken because each login receives a unique ID assigned to it when it is added. These unique IDs can and will be different across servers, even though the logins may have the same name. The unique ID from the login is stored with each database user in order to identify the login that the user is associated with. When the unique ID for the login is different or not found, you get spurious errors when trying to connect to the database with these users or when trying to administer these users in SSMS.

The sp_change_users_login system stored procedure is designed to correct these broken relationships. You can run this procedure with the "report" option in the database in question to help identify any problems (that is, sp_change_users_login "report"). The stored procedure also has options to fix the broken relationships. For example, sp_change_users_login "autofix", "myuser" fixes the relationship for the "myuser" database user.

Another quick-and-dirty means for fixing orphaned database users is to delete the users from the database and then re-create them. Of course, the login must exist on the server, and all the permissions associated with the database user must be reestablished. Permissions can be overlooked or missed with this method, so it is safer to stick with the sp_change_users_login procedure.

Restoring a Snapshot

Database snapshots, which were introduced in SQL Server 2005, provide a fast method for capturing a transactionally consistent view of a database. The snapshot is created as another read-only database linked to the original database from which the snapshot was taken. As changes are made to the original database, the database engine uses a copy-on-write method to keep the snapshot consistent.

After a snapshot is taken, you can revert back to the snapshot at a later time and restore the original database to the state it was in when the snapshot was taken. You do not create the snapshot by backing up a database, but you can restore it using methods similar to restoring a backup. The following examples shows the syntax to revert a database back to a database snapshot:

RESTORE DATABASE { database_name | @database_name_var }
FROM DATABASE_SNAPSHOT database_snapshot_name

Restoring a Transaction Log

Transaction log restores deserve special attention because of their dependency on other backup types. Typical transaction log restores occur after a full or differential database restore has occurred. After this base is established, the transaction log restores must be done in the same sequential order as the backups that were taken.

Fortunately, SSMS does a good job of presenting the available backups in the order in which they must be applied. You can do the entire restore sequence with SSMS, including a full restore followed by a restore of any other backups, including transaction log backups. To restore transaction log backups (independent of other backups), you can select the Transaction Log option. Figure 9 shows a sample screen for restoring transaction logs in the AdventureWorks2008 database.

Figure 9. Transaction Log Restore.

The transaction logs shown in Figure 9 are listed in the order in which they were taken and the order in which they need to be applied. You can uncheck some of the available backups, but you are not allowed to select backups that are not in the correct sequence. In other words, you can uncheck backups from the bottom of the list, but if you uncheck backups toward the top of the list, all backups found below that item are unchecked as well.

It is important to remember that you can restore transaction log backups only to a database that is in the NORECOVERY or STANDBY state. Make sure that every restore prior to the last one uses one of these options. When you restore the last transaction log, you should use the RECOVERY option so that the database is available for use.

Restoring to the Point of Failure

A disk failure on a drive that houses database files is a reality that some database administrators must deal with. This situation can give pause to the most seasoned administrators, but it is a situation that can be addressed with little or no data loss. Don’t panic! You need to first identify the available backups.


It is hoped the disk that experienced a failure is not the same disk that houses your backups. Database backups should always be stored on separate media. One of the best approaches is to write the backups to a drive that does not contain any other SQL Server files and write the contents of that drive to tape. This minimizes the possibility of losing one of those all-important backups.

The backup components that you need to restore to the point of failure include the following:

  • A backup of the tail of the transaction log

  • A full database backup or file/filegroup backup to establish a base

  • The full sequence of transaction log backups created since the full database backup

The following sections describe the detailed steps for recovery that relate to these backup components.

Backing Up the Tail of the Transaction Log

The first thing you should do in the event of a damaged database is to back up the tail of the transaction log. The tail of the transaction log is found in the active SQL Server transaction log file(s). This tail is available only for databases that are in full or bulk-logged recovery mode. This tail contains transactions not backed up yet. The following example shows how to back up the tail of the log for the AdventureWorks2008 database using T-SQL:

BACKUP LOG [AdventureWorks2008]
 TO  DISK = N'C:\mssql2008\backup\log\AdventureWorks2008_Tail.trn'

NO_TRUNCATE prevents the transactions in the log from being removed and allows the transaction log to be backed up, even if the database is inaccessible. This type of backup is possible only if the transaction log file is accessible and was not on the disk that had the failure.

Recovering the Full Database Recovery

After you back up the tail of the transaction log, you are ready to perform a full database restore. This restore, which is based on a full database backup or a file/filegroup backup, overwrites the existing database. It is imperative that the full database restore be done with the NORECOVERY option so that the transaction log backups and tail of the log can be applied to the database as well. The following example restores a full backup of the AdventureWorks2008 database, using the T-SQL RESTORE command:

RESTORE DATABASE [AdventureWorks2008]
 FROM  DISK = N'C:\mssql2008\backup\AdventureWorks2008.bak'

Upon completion of this type of restore, the database appears in the SSMS Object Explorer with "(Restoring...)" appended to the end of the database name. The database is now ready for transaction log backups to be applied.

Restoring the Transaction Log Backup

The final step in recovery is to apply the transaction log backups. These backups include all the transaction log backups since the last full backup plus the tail of the log you backed up after the media failure. If differential backups were taken since the last full backup, you can apply the last differential backup and apply only those transaction log backups that have occurred since the last differential backup.

You can restore transaction log backups by using T-SQL or SSMS. To restore with SSMS, you can right-click the database in the restoring state and select the Transaction Log Restore option. The Restore Transaction Log screen lists the available transaction log backups, including the backup of the transaction log tail. You need to select all the transaction logs, including the tail. You should make sure to go to the Options tab and select the Recovery option so that your database is available after the restore completes.

Alternatively, you can use T-SQL to perform the transaction log backup restores. The following example shows a series of transaction log restores. The first two restores are done with the NORECOVERY option. The last command restores the tail of the log and uses the RECOVERY option to make the database available for use:

RESTORE LOG [AdventureWorks2008]
RESTORE LOG [AdventureWorks2008]
RESTORE LOG [AdventureWorks2008]

When many transaction log backups are involved, using T-SQL to perform the restores can be challenging. The restores must occur in the proper order and refer to the proper location of the backup file(s). Restores done with SSMS are typically less prone to error.

Restoring to a Point in Time

Databases in the full or bulk-logged recovery models can be restored to a point in time. This type of restore is similar to the point-of-failure scenario covered previously, but it allows for a more precise restore operation. These restores allow the database to be recovered to a time prior to a particular event. Malicious attacks or erroneous updates are some examples of events that would justify a point-in-time restore.


There are some limitations on point-in-time restores of databases set to the bulk-logged recovery model. Point-in-time restores are not possible on transaction log backups that contain bulk load operations. Point-in-time restores can occur using transaction log backups that occurred prior to the bulk load operation, as long as a bulk load did not occur during the time of these backups.

A point-in-time restore can be done using one of the following:

  • A specific date/time within the transaction log backup

  • A specific transaction name inserted in the log

  • An LSN

Point-in-time restores can be done with T-SQL or SSMS. Figure 10 shows the General page that allows you to specify the Point in Time option. The default is to restore to the most recent time possible, but you can click on the ellipsis to display the Point in Time Restore dialog box, which is shown in the middle of Figure 10. You can select the date to restore to by using the date drop-down and enter the time to restore to as well.

Figure 10. A point-in-time restore.

Online Restores

Online restores were new to SQL Server 2005 and continue to be supported in SQL Server 2008. They allow a filegroup, file, or specific page within a file to be restored while the rest of the database is online. The file or filegroup that is being restored to must be offline during the duration of the online restore.


You should take a full backup of a database immediately before taking a read-only file offline. This simplifies the online restore process and eliminates the need to apply a bunch of transaction log backups prior to the online restore. This applies only to databases in full or bulk-logged recovery.

The following example demonstrates how to take a read-only file offline:

ALTER DATABASE AdventureWorks2008
MODIFY FILE (NAME = 'AdventureWorks2008_ReadOnlyData', OFFLINE)

When the file is offline, you can perform a restore to that file without affecting the rest of the database. The following example shows an example of an online restore of a read-only file to the AdventureWorks2008 database:

RESTORE DATABASE [AdventureWorks2008]
 FILE = N'AdventureWorks2008_ReadOnlyData'
 FROM  DISK = N'C:\mssql2008\backup\AdventureWorks2008_ReadOnlyData.bak'

Restoring the System Databases

The SQL Server 2008 system databases that can be restored are the master, msdb, model, and distribution databases. Each of these databases performs an essential role in the operation of SQL Server. If these databases are damaged or lost, they can be restored from database backup files in a similar fashion to user databases.

The master database, which contains information about other databases and is required to start SQL Server, has some special restore considerations. It must be operational before restores of other system databases can be considered. When you are restoring the master database, there are two basic scenarios. The first scenario involves a restore of the master database when the master database currently used by SQL Server is operational. In the second scenario, the master database is unavailable, and SQL Server is unable to start.

The first master database restore scenario is less involved and typically less stressful than the second. In the first scenario, your SQL Server can be up and running until the time you want to do the restore. When you are ready to do the restore, the SQL Server instance must be running in single-user mode. The server can be started in single-user mode via a command prompt window. You stop the currently running SQL Server service, open a command prompt window, navigate to the directory where the sqlservr.exe file exists (typically C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\Binn\), and run the following command:

sqlservr.exe –m

When this command is executed, the SQL Server instance is running in the command prompt window. This window must be kept open for the SQL Server instance to keep running. The service for SQL Server appears as stopped, but the database engine is truly running.

The –m parameter places the server in single-user mode and allows a single administrator connection to the server. You can use that one connection to connect to the server to use the Object Explorer, a database query window in SSMS, SQLCMD, or any other tool that allows you to establish a connection and run commands against the database server. If you use the SSMS Object Explorer connection, you can right-click on the master database and select the Restore option. You need to enter master for the database to restore and select the overwrite option. You can instead run a T-SQL RESTORE command to achieve the same result.

When the restore of the master database is complete, SQL Server is automatically shut down. If you performed the restore using Object Explorer, you can expect to get an error message at the end of the restore process because SQL Server was shut down. You can simply close the command prompt window you used earlier and establish a new connection to the database server. All the databases, logins, and so on that were present prior to the backup are reestablished.

In the second scenario, the master database is damaged or unavailable, and SQL Server cannot start. If SQL Server is unable to start, you must reestablish a base environment like that which existed when SQL Server was initially installed. Using the REBUILDDATABASE option in setup.exe is one way to re-create all the system databases and reestablish this base environment. The REBUILDDATABASE parameter is part of a SQL Server installation that is done from the command prompt. You need the installation media for the edition of SQL Server installed on the machine. After you insert the disk and when you have access to the installation files, you can use the following syntax to launch the Setup program from a command prompt window:

start /wait <CD or DVD Drive>\setup.exe /qn

InstanceName should be set to MSSQLSERVER for a default instance of SQL Server or the name of the instance, if it is not the default. In addition, a new SA password needs to be supplied for the SAPWD parameter. The /qn parameter suppresses all the setup dialog boxes and error messages and causes the installation to run silently. If you want to receive more information during the installation, you can specify the /qb parameter.


If you get a message about a missing Windows Installer, you can find that software on the SQL Server media in the Redist folder. You may also find that the setup.exe file is not found on the root of your installation media. If this is the case, you need to change the directory in the command prompt window to the location of the setup.exe file on the installation media prior to executing the command to launch the setup program. Finally, remember to reinstall any service packs or patches you may have installed. The execution of the command prompt setup reverts the server back to the original software release.

At the end of the installation, all the system database files are installed to their original locations. This includes the original master.mdf, mastlog.ldf, msdbdata.mdf, and msdblog.ldf files, as well as the related database files for the other system databases. Any of the user databases you may have added to the server are no longer known by the master database and in turn are not available in the Object Explorer or other database tools.

If you have a backup of the master database, you can restore it after the command prompt installation is complete. You follow the procedures outlined in the first scenario, earlier in this section, to restore the master database from a backup. At the completion of the restore, any user databases present at the time of the master database backup are now available. You can also run restores for other system databases at this time, including the msdb database, which contains all your scheduled jobs and history.

If you do not have a backup of the master database, this is not the end of the world. You still have the option of manually attaching your user databases or restoring them from backup files. Attaching the database is typically much faster than restores from backup files and is the preferred method. You must also reestablish logins, backup devices, server triggers, and any other server-level objects stored in the master database. Depending on your environment, this can be a lengthy operation, but you can easily avoid it by making those all-important system database backups.

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