Sql server cursor

A SQL cursor is a database object that retrieves data from result sets one row at a time. The cursor in SQL can be used when the data needs to be updated row by row.

A SQL cursor is a database object that is used to retrieve data from a result set one row at a time. A SQL cursor is used when the data needs to be updated row by row. This article explains everything about SQL cursors. In this article, we will learn the following:. In programming, we use a loop like FOR or WHILE to iterate through one item at a time, the cursor follows the same approach and might be preferred because it follows the same logic. A cursor is a memory resident set of pointers -- meaning it occupies memory from your system that may be available for other processes.

Another factor affecting cursor speed is the number of rows and columns brought into the cursor. Time how long it takes to open your cursor and fetch statements.

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Too many columns being dragged around in memory, which are never referenced in the subsequent cursor operations, can slow things down. Suppose we have to retrieve data from two tables simultaneously by comparing primary keys and foreign keys.

In these types of problems, the cursor gives very poor performance as it processes through each and every column. On the other hand using joins in those conditions is feasible because it processes only those columns which meet the condition.

sql server cursor

So here joins are faster than cursors. Suppose, we have two tables, ProductTable and Brand Table. In these situations cursor programs will be as follows. As we can see from the above example, using joins reduces the lines of code and gives faster performance in case huge records need to be processed. View All. Vaidehi Pandere Updated date, Mar 12 Opening Cursor A cursor is opened for storing data retrieved from the result set.

What is Cursor in SQL ?

Fetching Cursor When a cursor is opened, rows can be fetched from the cursor one by one or in a block to do data manipulation. Closing Cursor The cursor should be closed explicitly after data manipulation. Deallocating Cursor Cursors should be deallocated to delete cursor definition and release all the system resources associated with the cursor.

In relational databases, operations are made on a set of rows. Sometimes the application logic needs to work with one row at a time rather than the entire result set at once.Defines the attributes of a Transact-SQL server cursor, such as its scrolling behavior and the query used to build the result set on which the cursor operates.

All requests to the cursor are answered from this temporary table in tempdb ; therefore, modifications made to base tables are not reflected in the data returned by fetches made to this cursor, and this cursor does not allow modifications. This option overrides the default capability of a cursor to be updated. LOCAL Specifies that the scope of the cursor is local to the batch, stored procedure, or trigger in which the cursor was created. The cursor name is only valid within this scope.

The cursor can be referenced by local cursor variables in the batch, stored procedure, or trigger, or a stored procedure OUTPUT parameter. An OUTPUT parameter is used to pass the local cursor back to the calling batch, stored procedure, or trigger, which can assign the parameter to a cursor variable to reference the cursor after the stored procedure terminates.

The cursor is implicitly deallocated when the batch, stored procedure, or trigger terminates, unless the cursor was passed back in an OUTPUT parameter.

sql server cursor

If it is passed back in an OUTPUT parameter, the cursor is deallocated when the last variable referencing it is deallocated or goes out of scope. The cursor name can be referenced in any stored procedure or batch executed by the connection.

The cursor is only implicitly deallocated at disconnect. All insert, update, and delete statements made by the current user or committed by other users that affect rows in the result set are visible as the rows are fetched. Because the cursor cannot be scrolled backward, however, changes made to rows in the database after the row was fetched are not visible through the cursor. Forward-only cursors are dynamic by default, meaning that all changes are detected as the current row is processed.

sql server cursor

This provides faster cursor opening and enables the result set to display updates made to the underlying tables. While forward-only cursors do not support backward scrolling, applications can return to the beginning of the result set by closing and reopening the cursor. STATIC Specifies that the cursor always displays the result set as it was when the cursor was first opened, and makes a temporary copy of the data to be used by the cursor. All requests to the cursor are answered from this temporary table in tempdb.

Therefore inserts, updates, and deletes made to base tables are not reflected in the data returned by fetches made to this cursor, and this cursor does not detect changes made to the membership, order, or values of the result set after the cursor is opened. Static cursors may detect their own updates, deletes, and inserts, although they are not required to do so.

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For example, suppose a static cursor fetches a row, and another application then updates that row. If the application refetches the row from the static cursor, the values it sees are unchanged, despite the changes made by the other application.

All types of scrolling are supported. The set of keys that uniquely identify the rows is built into a table in tempdb known as the keyset. This cursor provides functionality between a static and a dynamic cursor in its ability to detect changes. Like a static cursor, it does not always detect changes to the membership and order of the result set.

Like a dynamic cursor, it does detect changes to the values of rows in the result set. Keyset-driven cursors are controlled by a set of unique identifiers keys known as the keyset. The keys are built from a set of columns that uniquely identify the rows in the result set. The keyset is the set of key values from all the rows returned by the query statement. With keyset-driven cursors, a key is built and saved for each row in the cursor and stored either on the client workstation or on the server.

T-SQL - Cursors

When you access each row, the stored key is used to fetch the current data values from the data source. In a keyset-driven cursor, result set membership is frozen when the keyset is fully populated.

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Thereafter, additions or updates that affect membership are not a part of the result set until it is reopened. Changes to data values made either by the keyset owner or other processes are visible as the user scrolls through the result set:.

If the query references at least one table without a unique index, the keyset cursor is converted to a static cursor. DYNAMIC Defines a cursor that reflects all data changes made to the rows in its result set as you scroll around the cursor and fetch a new record, regardless of whether the changes occur from inside the cursor or by other users outside the cursor.

Therefore all insert, update, and delete statements made by all users are visible through the cursor.A SQL cursor is a set of rows together with a pointer that identifies a current row. It is a database object to retrieve data from a result set one row at a time. It is useful when we want to manipulate the record of a table in a singleton method, in other words one row at a time.

In other words, a cursor can hold more than one row, but can process only one row at a time. The set of rows the cursor holds is called the active set. View All.

sql server cursor

Pankaj Kumar Choudhary Updated date, Mar 06 Cursor in SQL. An explicit cursor contains more than one row, but only one row can be processed at a time. An explicit cursor moves one by one over the records. An explicit cursor uses a pointer that holds the record of a row. After fetching a row, the cursor pointer moves to the next row. Locking is the process by which a DBMS restricts access to a row in a multi-user environment.

When a row or column is exclusively locked, other users are not permitted to access the locked data until the lock is released. It is used for data integrity. This ensures that two users cannot simultaneously update the same column in a row.

The statement has been terminated. When executing this cursor, we will get an error because the static cursor does not allow modifications in data. In this article, we learned about cursors in SQL. Next Recommended Article. Getting Started With. NET 5.You have always heard that you should avoid cursors in your T-SQL code as a SQL Server best practice, because cursors are detrimental to performance and sometimes cause issues.

But sometimes there is a need to loop through the data one row at a time, so in this tip we will look at a comparison of how to do a loop without using cursor. We all know that SQL Server, like every relational database allows the user to perform set based operations. It adds constructs found in procedural languages allowing a more straightforward coding to developers. These constructs were added for a reason and sometimes this is the only approach to the task at hand.

If you have ever worked with cursorsyou may find this title a bit confusing because after all, cursors uses while constructs to iterate between rows. But besides that, I want to show you that in some circumstances when we use a cursor to iterate over a set of rows we can change it to a while loop.

In such cases, the only challenge will be to choose a proper exit condition. Not everything is wrong with cursors, they also have some advantages over other looping techniques. There are also some negative aspects that you should be aware when using cursors instead of other looping options. The idea is to loop trough the table rows ordered by the CursorTestID column and update the RunningTotal column with the sum of the CursorTestID column value and the value of the RunningTotal column of the previous row.

On the script above you will notice that I only used a single insert statement and I took advantage of the batch separator the GO command as a shortcut to execute this insert statement times. In other words, we are instructing SQL Server to use a read only cursor that can only move forward and be scrolled from the first to the last row.

The next image is a screen capture showing the execution of the script above. As you can see, it took three minutes and five seconds to update therows of our test table. Now I will rewrite the previous script avoiding the use of a cursor.

You will notice that it contains a While loop which is almost identical to the one in the cursor script. This is, as I previously said, because even when working with cursors you need to use an iterative control structure.

The next image is a screen capture of the execution of the script above. It took less time to run the while loop than the cursor. A word of advice, in order to run this code, you should follow the steps in the tip to create the test environment. If we dissect this code, we can see that there is one cursor that goes through the table products which I copied below. In our particular case we will use a sequential integer key starting from 1, so we can use it as an iterator.

This key will be associated to a ProductID from the Products table. Additionally a row can be deleted while we are running our code and it could lead to execution errors. I will go into this further on. For this matter I added two new integer variables named Iterator and MaxIterator.Cursor is a database object to retrieve data from a result set one row at a time, instead of the T-SQL commands that operate on all the rows in the result set at one time.

We use a cursor when we need to update records in a database table in singleton fashion means row by row. When the cursor is opened, rows can be fetched from the cursor one by one or in a block to do data manipulation.

Finally, we need to delete the cursor definition and released all the system resources associated with the cursor. Declare Cursor SQL Command is used to define the cursor with many options that impact the scalability and loading behavior of the cursor. The basic syntax is given below. A Cursor can be opened locally or globally.

By default, it is opened locally. The basic syntax to open cursor is given below:. Fetch statement provides the many options to retrieve the rows from the cursor. NEXT is the default option. The basic syntax to fetch cursor is given below:. The close statement closed the cursor explicitly. The basic syntax to close cursor is given below:.

Deallocate statement delete the cursor definition and free all the system resources associated with the cursor. I hope after reading this article you will be able to understand cursors in SQL Server.

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I know cursors exist but I am not sure how to use them. Can you provide some cursor examples? Can you give any guidance on when to use cursors? I assume Microsoft included them in SQL Server for a reason so they must have a place where they can be used in an efficient manner. In some circle's cursors are never used, in others they are a last resort and in other groups they are used regularly. In each of these camps they have different reasons for their stand on cursor usage.

Regardless of your stand on cursors they probably have a place in particular circumstances and not in others. So, it boils down to your understanding of the coding technique then your understanding of the problem at hand to make a decision on whether or not cursor-based processing is appropriate or not.

To get started let's do the following:. Creating a SQL Server cursor is a consistent process, so once you learn the steps you are easily able to duplicate them with various sets of logic to loop through data. Let's walk through the steps:.

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From here, check out the examples below to get started on knowing when to use SQL Server cursors and how to do so. Here is an example cursor from tip Simple script to backup all SQL Server databases where backups are issued in a serial manner:.

In the example above backups are issued via a cursor, check out these other tips that leverage cursor-based logic:. The analysis below is intended to serve as insight into various scenarios where cursor-based logic may or may not be beneficial:. Post a comment or let the author know this tip helped. All comments are reviewed, so stay on subject or we may delete your comment.

SQL Server Cursor Example

Note: your email address is not published. Signup for our newsletter. I have read the privacy statement and understand I may unsubscribe at any time. Microsoft did not invent cursors as you said in this article. We had them because the original relational databases were built on top of existing filesystems. If you have ever worked with an IBM magnetic tape file system, you would immediately recognize that all of the cursor commands that we had in SQL for allocating, deallocating and using a cursor were mapped command for command from the tape files.

Replacing SQL Cursors with Alternatives to Avoid Performance Issues

Microsoft version of cursors was based on the UNIX version of magnetic tape drives. Later, the cursors grew to be much more complicated. I believe it was Mr. David McGovern who said, "a committee never met a feature it didn't like" and he was correct. Jim Grey used to say in the early days of SQL, "we had no idea what the hell we were doing!SQL cursors are primarily used where set-based operations are not applicable and you are required to access data and perform operations one row at a time rather than applying a single set-based operation to an entire object such as a table or a set of tables.

A SQL cursor provides access to data one row at a time, thereby giving you direct row-by-row control over the result set. According to the Microsoft documentation, Microsoft SQL Server statements produce a complete result set, but there are times when it is best to process it one row at a time — which can be done by opening a cursor on the result set. The process of u sing a SQL cursor can be generally described as follows:. Please keep in mind that, according to Vaidehi Pandere, cursors are pointers that occupy your system memory — which would otherwise be reserved for other important processes.

First, w e will look at an example of how a SQL cursor can be used to rename database objects one by one. R un the following script to create and populate the UniversityV3 sample database with two tables:. T he script below will let us do just that :. Running the script shows that table names have been successfully reset :. These were the examples of some scenarios in which it is difficult to avoid using SQL cursors due to the nature of the requirement.

H owever, it is still possible to find an alternative approach. One of the se alternatives are table variable s. Table variables, just like tables, can store multiple results — but with some limitation. According to the Microsoft documentation, a table variable is a special data type used to store a result set for processing at a later time. However, keep in mind that table variables are best use d with small data set s.

Table variables can be very efficient for small-scale queries since they work like local variables and are clean ed up automatically upon get ting out of scope. We will use t able variable s instead of SQL cursors to rename all tables from a database by following these steps:. Run the following SQL script which creates and use s a table variable to rename tables:.

We can also use temporary tables in stead of SQL cursors to iterate the result set one row at a time. Temporary tables have been in use for a long time and provide a n excellent way to replace cursors for large data sets. We will use a temporary table to rename all tables in the sample database by following these steps:.

Run the following SQL script to create and use a temporary table to rename all tables in our database :. Now that you are familiar with alternative s to SQL cursors — such as using table variable s and temporary table s — please try doing the following things to get comfortable with applying this knowledge in practice:. Your Name. I agree to Privacy Policy.

Author Recent Posts. Haroon Ashraf. Haroon's deep interest in logic and reasoning at an early age of his academic career paved his path to become a data professional. He began his professional life as a computer programmer more than 10 years ago working on his first data venture to migrate and rewrite a public sector database driven examination system from IBM AS DB2 to SQL Server using VB 6. His work and interest revolves around Database-Centric Architectures and his expertise include database and reports design, development, testing, implementation and migration along with Database Life Cycle Management DLM.

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