SQL Express Update, Feb. 5, 2007: About the SQL Server Browser Service

About the SQL Server Browser Service

As you're getting started with SQL Server 2005 Express Edition and you spend some time poking around at the various options that you'll find in the SQL Server Configuration Manager or the SQL Server 2005 Surface Area Configuration programs, one item that you might find a bit confusing and mysterious is the SQL Server Browser service. As its name implies, the SQL Server Browser is a Windows service, and by default it’s turned off. The primary purpose of the SQL Server Browser is to enable networked systems to locate named instances of the SQL Server database engine. This functionality can be important because SQL Server Express, like the full-blown editions of SQL Server 2005, supports multiple named database instances running on a single computer.

Each SQL Server instance listens on its own port number to respond to its individual incoming client requests. When the SQL Server system starts, each named database instance is dynamically assigned a port number. Because the assignment is dynamic, these port numbers can change if the system is rebooted. The job of the SQL Server Browser is to query the registry and locate all of the active SQL Server named instances and report them to client applications. By default, the SQL Server Browser uses port UDP 1434 to tell networked clients about the active SQL Server database instances.

So, is the SQL Server Browser really required to use SQL Server Express? Strictly speaking, the answer is no. Single-user desktop applications have no need to advertise the presence of the database to networked systems, so they don’t need the SQL Server Browser. In addition, if there’s only one instance of the database running, networked applications can connect to it by using the standard SQL Server TCP port 1433. In other words, if you’re using the default SQL Server instance, the SQL Server Browser isn’t necessary. The SQL Server Browser is useful only when there are multiple named instances of the SQL Server database. Then, the networked clients can specify the instance name as part of the connection string, and the SQL Server Browser will take care of resolving that instance name to the matching TCP port. Technically speaking, the client application can actually connect to the different named instances by specifying the port number of the named instance on the application’s connection string. However, that’s not a desirable connection method because the port number could change the next time the service is restarted.

If you want to enable the SQL Server Browser service, go to the Start menu, select All Programs, Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Configuration Tools, SQL Server Surface Area Configuration. Click the “Surface Area Configuration for Services and Connections” link, then select SQL Server Browser from the “Select a component and then configure its services and connections list.” Click Start to start the service, and use the Startup type drop-down box to change the startup type to Automatic. For more information about SQL Server Express’s Browser, refer to the SQL Server Books Online (BOL) topics “Using the SQL Server Browser” at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms165724.aspx and “SQL Server Browser Service” at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms181087.aspx.


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Replication Basics

Although SQL Server 2005 Express is primarily intended to be used as a standalone database for desktop or small scale server applications, that's not its only role. SQL Server 2005 Express can also function as a part of a bigger enterprise environment in which database changes are replicated to other SQL Server systems in the organization Centralizing database activity from multiple branch office locations is one useful scenario for SQL Server 2005 Express's replication support. You can check out more about using SQL Server Express to replicate data in SQL Server 2005 Books Online BOL under "Replication in SQL Server Express" or by going to the Microsoft website.

Enabling Network Access

By default the network access for SQL Server 2005 Express is turned off. This out of the box security measure is designed to help ensure secure implementation for desktop oriented applications. However, this default can be confusing because it can make the user think that SQL Server 2005 Express doesn't support network access However that's certainly not the case The easiest way to enable SQL Sever Express's network access is by using the SQL Server Surface Area Configuration program. You start the SQL Server Configuration Manager by using the Start menu and selecting All Programs SQL Server 2005 Configuration Tools SQL Server Surface Area Configuration.

After you start the SQL Server Surface Area Configuration program select the Surface Area Configuration for Services and Connections option. Then in the Select a component and then configure its services and connections list, click Remote Connections and select Local and remote connections. Typically, you would also select the default TCP IP protocol by leaving the Using TCP IP only option enabled. This option allows TCP IP based connections to SQL Server Express. Remember, if you're using SQL Server Express's default port setting to access the system across the network you'll also need to keep TCP port 1433 open on your firewall.

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