Back up a transaction log

Applies to: SQL Server

This article describes how to back up a transaction log in SQL Server by using SQL Server Management Studio, Azure Data Studio, Transact-SQL, or PowerShell.


The BACKUP statement isn't allowed in an explicit or implicit transaction. An explicit transaction is one in which you explicitly define both the start and end of the transaction.

Transaction log backups of the master system database aren't supported.


If a database uses either the full or bulk-logged recovery model, you must back up the transaction log regularly enough to protect your data, and to prevent the transaction log from filling. This truncates the log and supports restoring the database to a specific point in time.

By default, every successful backup operation adds an entry in the SQL Server error log and in the system event log. If you back up the log frequently, these success messages accumulate quickly, resulting in huge error logs, making finding other messages difficult. In such cases you can suppress these log entries by using trace flag 3226, if none of your scripts depend on those entries, see Trace Flags (Transact-SQL).


Check for the correct permissions before you begin, at both the instance level and storage level.

Database Engine permissions

The BACKUP DATABASE and BACKUP LOG permissions needed are granted by default to members of the sysadmin fixed server role, and the db_owner and db_backupoperator fixed database roles.

Backup device permissions

Ownership and permission problems on the backup device's physical file can interfere with a backup operation. The operating system account under which the SQL Server service runs, must be able to read from and write to the device. Permissions problems on the backup device's physical file aren't obvious to you until you attempt to access the physical resource when you try to back up or restore.


sp_addumpdevice, which adds an entry for a backup device in the system tables, doesn't check file access permissions.

Use SQL Server Management Studio


The steps in this section also apply to Azure Data Studio.

  1. After connecting to the appropriate instance of the SQL Server Database Engine, in Object Explorer, select the server name to expand the server tree.

  2. Expand Databases, and, depending on the database, either select a user database or expand System Databases and select a system database.

  3. Right-click the database, point to Tasks, and then select Back Up. The Back Up Database dialog box appears.

  4. In the Database list box, verify the database name. You can optionally select a different database from the list.

  5. Verify that the recovery model is either FULL or BULK_LOGGED.

  6. In the Backup type list box, select Transaction Log.

  7. (optional) Select Copy Only Backup to create a copy-only backup. A copy-only backup is a SQL Server backup that is independent of the sequence of conventional SQL Server backups, see Copy-only backups.


    When the Differential option is selected, you can't create a copy-only backup.

  8. Either accept the default backup set name suggested in the Name text box, or enter a different name for the backup set.

  9. (optional) In the Description text box, enter a description of the backup set.

  10. Specify when the backup set will expire:

    • To have the backup set expire after a specific number of days, select After (the default option), and enter the number of days after set creation that the set will expire. This value can be from 0 to 99999 days; a value of 0 days means that the backup set never expires.

      The default value is set in the Default backup media retention (in days) option of the Server Properties dialog box (Database Settings page). To access this dialog box, right-click the server name in Object Explorer and select properties; then select the Database Settings page.

    • To have the backup set expire on a specific date, select On, and enter the date on which the set will expire.

  11. Choose the type of backup destination by selecting Disk, URL, or Tape. To select the paths of up to 64 disk or tape drives containing a single media set, select Add. The selected paths are displayed in the Backup to list box.

    To remove a backup destination, select it and select Remove. To view the contents of a backup destination, select it and select Contents.

  12. To view or select the advanced options, select Options in the Select a page pane.

  13. Select an Overwrite Media option, by selecting one of the following:

    • Back up to the existing media set

      For this option, select either Append to the existing backup set or Overwrite all existing backup sets, see Media Sets, Media Families, and Backup Sets (SQL Server).

      • (optional) Select Check media set name and backup set expiration to cause the backup operation to verify the date and time at which the media set and backup set expire.

      • (optional) Enter a name in the Media set name text box. If no name is specified, a media set with a blank name is created. If you specify a media set name, the media (tape or disk) is checked to see whether the actual name matches the name you enter here.

      If you leave the media name blank and check the box to check it against the media, success equals the media name on the media also being blank.

    • Back up to a new media set, and erase all existing backup sets

      For this option, enter a name in the New media set name text box, and, optionally, describe the media set in the New media set description text box, see Media Sets, Media Families, and Backup Sets (SQL Server).

  14. In the Reliability section, optionally, check:

  15. In the Transaction log section:

    • For routine log backups, keep the default selection, Truncate the transaction log by removing inactive entries.

    • To back up the tail of the log (the active log), check Back up the tail of the log, and leave database in the restoring state.

      A tail-log backup is taken after a failure to back up the tail of the log in order to prevent work loss. Back up the active log (a tail-log backup) both after a failure, before beginning to restore the database, or when failing over to a secondary database. Selecting this option is equivalent to specifying the NORECOVERY option in the BACKUP LOG statement of Transact-SQL.

      For more information about tail-log backups, see Tail-log backups (SQL Server).

  16. If you're backing up to a tape drive (as specified in the Destination section of the General page), the Unload the tape after backup option is active. Selecting this option activates the Rewind the tape before unloading option.

  17. By default, whether a backup is compression depends on the value of the backup-compression default server configuration option. However, regardless of the current server-level default, you can compress a backup by checking Compress backup, and you can prevent compression by checking Don't compress backup.

    Backup compression is supported on SQL Server 2008 (10.0.x) Enterprise and later versions, and SQL Server 2016 (13.x) Standard with Service Pack 1 and later versions.

    To view the current backup compression default, see View or Configure the backup compression default (server configuration option).

    To encrypt the backup file, check the Encrypt backup check box. Select an encryption algorithm to use for encrypting the backup file and provide a Certificate or Asymmetric key. The available algorithms for encryption are:

    • AES 128
    • AES 192
    • AES 256
    • Triple DES

Use Transact-SQL

Execute the BACKUP LOG statement to back up the transaction log, providing the following information:

  • The name of the database to which the transaction log that you want to back up belongs.
  • The backup device where the transaction log backup is written.


This example uses the AdventureWorks2022 database, which uses the simple recovery model. To permit log backups, before taking a full database backup, the database was set to use the full recovery model.

For more information, see View or change the recovery model of a database (SQL Server).

This example creates a transaction log backup for the AdventureWorks2022 database to the previously created named backup device, MyAdvWorks_FullRM_log1.

BACKUP LOG AdventureWorks2022
   TO MyAdvWorks_FullRM_log1;

Use PowerShell

Set up and use the SQL Server PowerShell Provider. Use the Backup-SqlDatabase cmdlet and specify Log for the value of the -BackupAction parameter.

The following example creates a log backup of the <myDatabase> database to the default backup location of the server instance Computer\Instance.

Backup-SqlDatabase -ServerInstance Computer\Instance -Database <myDatabase> -BackupAction Log