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Server and Database Roles in SQL Server

All versions of SQL Server use role-based security, which allows you to assign permissions to a role, or group of users, instead of to individual users. Fixed server and fixed database roles have a fixed set of permissions assigned to them.

Fixed Server Roles

Fixed server roles have a fixed set of permissions and server-wide scope. They are intended for use in administering SQL Server and the permissions assigned to them cannot be changed. Logins can be assigned to fixed server roles without having a user account in a database.


The sysadmin fixed server role encompasses all other roles and has unlimited scope. Do not add principals to this role unless they are highly trusted. sysadmin role members have irrevocable administrative privileges on all server databases and resources.

Be selective when you add users to fixed server roles. For example, the bulkadmin role allows users to insert the contents of any local file into a table, which could jeopardize data integrity.

Fixed Database Roles

Fixed database roles have a pre-defined set of permissions that are designed to allow you to easily manage groups of permissions. Members of the db_owner role can perform all configuration and maintenance activities on the database.

For more information about SQL Server predefined roles, see the following resources.

Resource Description
Server-Level Roles Describes fixed server roles and the permissions associated with them in SQL Server.
Database-Level Roles Describes fixed database roles and the permissions associated with them

Database Roles and Users

Logins must be mapped to database user accounts in order to work with database objects. Database users can then be added to database roles, inheriting any permission sets associated with those roles. All permissions can be granted.

You must also consider the public role, the dbo user account, and the guest account when you design security for your application.

The public Role

The public role is contained in every database, which includes system databases. It cannot be dropped and you cannot add or remove users from it. Permissions granted to the public role are inherited by all other users and roles because they belong to the public role by default. Grant public only the permissions you want all users to have.

The dbo User Account

The dbo, or database owner, is a user account that has implied permissions to perform all activities in the database. Members of the sysadmin fixed server role are automatically mapped to dbo.


dbo is also the name of a schema, as discussed in Ownership and User-Schema Separation in SQL Server.

The dbo user account is frequently confused with the db_owner fixed database role. The scope of db_owner is a database; the scope of sysadmin is the whole server. Membership in the db_owner role does not confer dbo user privileges.

The guest User Account

After a user has been authenticated and allowed to log in to an instance of SQL Server, a separate user account must exist in each database the user has to access. Requiring a user account in each database prevents users from connecting to an instance of SQL Server and accessing all the databases on a server. The existence of a guest user account in the database circumvents this requirement by allowing a login without a database user account to access a database.

The guest account is a built-in account in all versions of SQL Server. By default, it is disabled in new databases. If it is enabled, you can disable it by revoking its CONNECT permission by executing the Transact-SQL REVOKE CONNECT FROM GUEST statement.


Avoid using the guest account; all logins without their own database permissions obtain the database permissions granted to this account. If you must use the guest account, grant it minimum permissions.

For more information about SQL Server logins, users and roles, see the following resources.

Resource Description
Getting Started with Database Engine Permissions Contains links to topics that describe principals, roles, credentials, securables and permissions.
Principals Describes principals and contains links to topics that describe server and database roles.

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