Transaction log backups (SQL Server)

Applies to: SQL Server

This article is relevant only for SQL Server databases that are using the full or bulk-logged recovery models. This article discusses backing up the transaction log of a SQL Server database.

Minimally, you must have created at least one full backup before you can create any log backups. After that, the transaction log can be backed up at any time unless the log is already being backed up.

We recommend you take log backups frequently, both to minimize work loss exposure and to truncate the transaction log.

A database administrator typically creates a full database backup occasionally, such as weekly, and, optionally, creates a series of differential database backup at a shorter interval, such as daily. Independent of the database backups, the database administrator backs up the transaction log at frequent intervals. For a given type of backup, the optimal interval depends on factors such as the importance of the data, the size of the database, and the workload of the server. For more information about implementing a good strategy, see Recommendations in this article.

How a sequence of log backups works

The sequence of transaction log backups log chain is independent of data backups. For example, assume the following sequence of events.

Time Event
8:00 AM Back up database.
Noon Back up transaction log.
4:00 PM Back up transaction log.
6:00 PM Back up database.
8:00 PM Back up transaction log.

The transaction log backup created at 8:00 PM contains transaction log records from 4:00 PM through 8:00 PM, spanning the time when the full database backup was created at 6:00 PM. The sequence of transaction log backups is continuous, from the initial full database backup created at 8:00 AM, to the last transaction log backup created at 8:00 PM. For information about how to apply these log backups, see the example in Apply Transaction Log Backups (SQL Server).


If a transaction log is damaged, work that is performed since the most recent valid backup is lost. Therefore we strongly recommend that you put your log files on fault-tolerant storage.

If a database is damaged, or you are about to restore the database, we recommend that you create a tail-log backup to enable you to restore the database to the current point in time.


Known issue: For databases with memory-optimized tables, performing a transactional log backup with no recovery, and later executing a transaction log restore with recovery, may result in an unresponsive database restore process. This issue can also affect log shipping functionality. To work around this problem, the SQL Server instance can be restarted before initiating the restore process.

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 very frequently, these success messages accumulate quickly, resulting in huge error logs that can make 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. For more information, see Trace Flags (Transact-SQL).

Take frequent enough log backups to support your business requirements, specifically your tolerance for work loss such as might be caused by a damaged log storage.

  • The appropriate frequency for taking log backups depends on your tolerance for work-loss exposure balanced by how many log backups you can store, manage, and, potentially, restore. Think about the required recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) when implementing your recovery strategy, and specifically the log backup cadence.

  • Taking a log backup every 15 to 30 minutes might be enough. If your business requires that you minimize work-loss exposure, consider taking log backups more frequently. More frequent log backups have the added advantage of increasing the frequency of log truncation, resulting in smaller log files.


To limit the number of log backups that you need to restore, it is essential to routinely back up your data. For example, you might schedule a weekly full database backup and daily differential database backups.
Again, think about the required RTO and RPO when implementing your recovery strategy, and specifically the full and differential database backup cadence.