Bulk Import and Export of Data (SQL Server)
Applies to: SQL Server (all supported versions) Azure SQL Database Azure SQL Managed Instance Azure Synapse Analytics Analytics Platform System (PDW)
SQL Server supports exporting data in bulk (bulk data) from a SQL Server table and importing bulk data into a SQL Server table or nonpartitioned view.
- Bulk exporting refers to copying data from a SQL Server table to a data file.
- Bulk importing refers to loading data from a data file into a SQL Server table. For example, you can export data from a Microsoft Excel application to a data file and then bulk import that data into a SQL Server table.
Methods for bulk importing and exporting data
SQL Server supports bulk exporting data from a SQL Server table and for bulk importing data into a SQL Server table or nonpartitioned view. The following basic methods are available.
|Method||Description||Imports data||Exports data|
|bcp utility||A command-line utility (Bcp.exe) that bulk exports and bulk imports data and generates format files.||Yes||Yes|
|BULK INSERT statement||A Transact-SQL statement that imports data directly from a data file into a database table or nonpartitioned view.||Yes||No|
|INSERT ... SELECT * FROM OPENROWSET(BULK...) statement||A Transact-SQL statement that uses the OPENROWSET bulk rowset provider to bulk import data into a SQL Server table by specifying the OPENROWSET(BULK...) function to select data in an INSERT statement.||Yes||No|
|SQL Server Import and Export Wizard||The wizard creates simple packages that import and export data between many popular data formats including databases, spreadsheets, and text files.||Yes||Yes|
For rules about using a comma-separated value (CSV) file as the data file for a bulk import of data into SQL Server, see Prepare Data for Bulk Export or Import (SQL Server).
Only the bcp utility is supported by Azure Synapse Analytics for importing and exporting delimited files.
The bcp utility, BULK INSERT, and INSERT ... SELECT * FROM OPENROWSET(BULK...) all support the use of a specialized format file that stores format information for each field in a data file. A format file might also contain information about the corresponding SQL Server table. The format file can be used to provide all the format information that is required to bulk export data from and bulk import data to an instance of SQL Server.
Format files provide a flexible way to interpret data as it is in the data file during import, and also to format data in the data file during export. This flexibility eliminates the need to write special-purpose code to interpret the data or reformat the data to the specific requirements of SQL Server or the external application. For example, if you are bulk exporting data to be loaded into an application that requires comma-separated values, you can use a format file to insert commas as field terminators in the exported data.
SQL Server supports two kinds of format files: XML format files and non-XML format files.
The bcp utility is the only tool that can generate a format file. For more information, see Create a Format File (SQL Server). For more information about format files, see Format Files for Importing or Exporting Data (SQL Server).
In cases when a format file is not supplied during a bulk export or import operations, you can override the default formatting at the command line.
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