SQL Server 2005 Express Edition – More than you expect

Many of you have heard about the express edition of SQL Server 2005, and you know its free. But most of the developers I have talked to believe it is just another version of MSDE, or some fairly handicapped SQL Server look alike. SQL Server 2005 Express is neither of these, so please read on and help me spread the word about what SQL Server 2005 Express really is.

Isn’t SQL Server 2005 Express just the next version of MSDE?

No. While SQL Server 2005 Express is intended to supersede MSDE it is not MSDE. SQL Server 2005 Express is the same code as SQL Server 2005 but with some limitations. However the complete core of the engine is intact, stored procedures, triggers, XML, SQLCLR, encryption, etc. This means no more if statements or forked code to deploy to MSDE and SQL, but instead one code base because there is only one database, not two similar ones.

What’s missing from SQL Server 2005 Express thats in SQL Server 2005?

Business Intelligence, Reporting Services, things like that. Fantastic features, but things that most users do not need in small and desktop databases.

What can SQL Server 2005 Express be used for?

Anything you like, however the most common scenarios are:

  • Small companies with minimal storage requirements
  • Local data storage and caching for smart clients
  • Stand alone desktop applications
  • Caching of data (from another SQL Server instance, or even one of those “other” databases) in multi tier and web applications
  • Distributed data processing
  • Web applications with minimal storage requirements

Can SQL Server 2005 Express accept client network connections?


What are the limitations of SQL Server 2005 Express?

Limitations do exist, however they are very reasonable. The basic limitations are as follows:

  • 32 bit only. SQL Server 2005 Express will run on a 64 bit OS, but only in 32 bit mode.
  • 1 GB of RAM. SQL Server 2005 Express will utilize a maximum of 1 GB of RAM, even if more RAM is available.
  • 4 GB per database. Each database can be a maximum of 4 GB in size.
  • 1 CPU. SQL Server 2005 Express will only utilize one CPU, even on a multi processor machine.
  • Basic reporting services

What if I need just a little more than SQL Server 2005 Express? Do I have to buy SQL Server 2005 Enterprise?

No, with SQL Server 2005 we now offer a broad range of editions including Express, Workgroup, Standard, and Enterprise. You do not have to choose between low end and high end. You can choose the size and features you need and is appropriate for your budget.

Can I redistribute SQL Server 2005 Express with my application?

Yes. You just need to register first (it is free too) to obtain a redistribution license.

How can I get SQL Server 2005 Express?

Go here and click download now on the right side.

Are there any management tools available?

Yes. If you already have SQL Server 2005 Express, or are downloading it now do not forget to get the management too. It is free too but it is a separate download. Its available from the same link.



Comments (6)
  1. Irv Wilson says:

    One limitation you should mention that qualifies as completely unnecessary and a "major pain" is the lack of import/export capabilities.  Kind of a rude surprise to install Express and then attempt to go get some data to populate your tables with from an old Access database or even a text file and then finding out importing is not allowed.  Yes, there links out there showing how to do it (the tools are installed but just not visible) but Microsoft needs to rethink this.  

  2. Jan T says:

    How do you install Express Edition on 64 bit? Doesn’t work for me…

  3. Orion Meander says:

    Hi Kudzu,

    Thanks a lot for a good post. I have been trying to figure out what is the maximum number of concurrent connections SQL Server 2005 Express Edition can handle simultaneously. I spent quite some time but still did not got any convincing answer. I came across a post saying that if we run it on XP Home then it can handle 5 connections, on XP Pro or Win2k pro is can handle  10 connections. And these are the limitation of the operating system itself and there is no inherent limitation as far as concurrent connections are concerned.  So is it true that if I am running SQL Server 2005 Express edition on a Windows 2003 Server, then it can handle as many concurrent connection as needed unless  it runs out of resources like RAM etc. So if I know for a fact that my DB is not gonna grow beyond 4GB can I use this in a Production System which is gonna be a ASP.NET based Web Application?

    Thanks in Advance,

    -=> Orion

  4. banhinc says:

    Regarding import/export limitation, can the databases in Express SQL 2005 be backup to disk file and then restore to the Standard and Enterprise Editions?

  5. David says:

    Create an DSN ODBC connection to the SQL Server and it is very easy to import and export from Excel and MA Access and most other data apps that can connect to an ODBC data source.

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