bcp utility

Applies to: SQL Server Azure SQL Database Azure SQL Managed Instance Azure Synapse Analytics Analytics Platform System (PDW)

The bulk copy program utility (bcp) bulk copies data between an instance of Microsoft SQL Server and a data file in a user-specified format.

Note

For using bcp on Linux, see Install the SQL Server command-line tools sqlcmd and bcp on Linux.

For detailed information about using bcp with Azure Synapse Analytics, see Load data with bcp.

The bcp utility can be used to import large numbers of new rows into SQL Server tables or to export data out of tables into data files. Except when used with the queryout option, the utility requires no knowledge of Transact-SQL. To import data into a table, you must either use a format file created for that table or understand the structure of the table and the types of data that are valid for its columns.

For the syntax conventions that are used for the bcp syntax, see Transact-SQL syntax conventions.

Note

If you use bcp to back up your data, create a format file to record the data format. bcp data files don't include any schema or format information, so if a table or view is dropped and you don't have a format file, you might be unable to import the data.

Note

Microsoft Entra ID is the new name for Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). We are updating documentation at this time.

Download the latest version of the bcp utility

The command-line tools are General Availability (GA), however they're being released with the installer package for SQL Server 2019 (15.x) and later versions.

Windows

Linux and macOS

See Install the SQL Server command-line tools sqlcmd and bcp on Linux for instructions to install sqlcmd and bcp on Linux and macOS.

Version information

  • Release number: 15.0.4298.1
  • Build number: 15.0.4298.1
  • Release date: April 7, 2023

The new version of sqlcmd supports Microsoft Entra authentication, including multifactor authentication (MFA) support for Azure SQL Database, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Always Encrypted features.

The new bcp supports Microsoft Entra authentication, including multifactor authentication (MFA) support for Azure SQL Database and Azure Synapse Analytics.

System requirements

  • Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11

  • Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2022

This component requires the latest Microsoft ODBC Driver 17 for SQL Server.

To check the bcp version, execute bcp -v command, and confirm that 15.0.4298.1 or later is in use.

Note

sqlcmd and bcp are also available on Linux. For more information, see Install the SQL Server command-line tools sqlcmd and bcp on Linux.

Syntax

bcp [database_name.] schema.{table_name | view_name | "query"}
    {in data_file | out data_file | queryout data_file | format nul}
                                                                                                         
    [-a packet_size]
    [-b batch_size]
    [-c]
    [-C { ACP | OEM | RAW | code_page } ]
    [-d database_name]
    [-D]
    [-e err_file]
    [-E]
    [-f format_file]
    [-F first_row]
    [-G Azure Active Directory Authentication]
    [-h"hint [,...n]"]
    [-i input_file]
    [-k]
    [-K application_intent]
    [-l login_timeout]
    [-L last_row]
    [-m max_errors]
    [-n]
    [-N]
    [-o output_file]
    [-P password]
    [-q]
    [-r row_term]
    [-R]
    [-S [server_name[\instance_name]]]
    [-t field_term]
    [-T]
    [-U login_id]
    [-v]
    [-V (80 | 90 | 100 | 110 | 120 | 130 | 140 | 150 | 160 ) ]
    [-w]
    [-x]

Command-line options

database_name

The name of the database in which the specified table or view resides. If not specified, this is the default database for the user.

You can also explicitly specify the database name with -d.

schema

The name of the owner of the table or view. schema is optional if the user performing the operation owns the specified table or view. If schema isn't specified and the user performing the operation doesn't own the specified table or view, SQL Server returns an error message, and the operation is canceled.

table_name

The name of the destination table when importing data into SQL Server (in), and the source table when exporting data from SQL Server (out).

view_name

The name of the destination view when copying data into SQL Server (in), and the source view when copying data from SQL Server (out). Only views in which all columns refer to the same table can be used as destination views. For more information on the restrictions for copying data into views, see INSERT (Transact-SQL).

"query"

A Transact-SQL query that returns a result set. If the query returns multiple result sets, only the first result set is copied to the data file; subsequent result sets are ignored. Use double quotation marks around the query and single quotation marks around anything embedded in the query. queryout must also be specified when bulk copying data from a query.

The query can reference a stored procedure as long as all tables referenced inside the stored procedure exist prior to executing the bcp statement. For example, if the stored procedure generates a temp table, the bcp statement fails because the temp table is available only at run time and not at statement execution time. In this case, consider inserting the results of the stored procedure into a table and then use bcp to copy the data from the table into a data file.

in

copies from a file into the database table or view. Specifies the direction of the bulk copy.

out

Copies from the database table or view to a file. Specifies the direction of the bulk copy.

If you specify an existing file, the file is overwritten. When extracting data, the bcp utility represents an empty string as a null and a null string as an empty string.

data_file

The full path of the data file. When data is bulk imported into SQL Server, the data file contains the data to be copied into the specified table or view. When data is bulk exported from SQL Server, the data file contains the data copied from the table or view. The path can have from 1 through 255 characters. The data file can contain a maximum of 2^63 - 1 rows.

queryout

Copies from a query and must be specified only when bulk copying data from a query.

format

Creates a format file based on the option specified (-n, -c, -w, or -N) and the table or view delimiters. When bulk copying data, the bcp command can refer to a format file, which saves you from reentering format information interactively. The format option requires the -f option; creating an XML format file, also requires the -x option. For more information, see Create a Format File (SQL Server). You must specify nul as the value (format nul).

-a packet_size

Specifies the number of bytes, per network packet, sent to and from the server. A server configuration option can be set by using SQL Server Management Studio (or the sp_configure system stored procedure). However, the server configuration option can be overridden on an individual basis by using this option. packet_size can be from 4096 bytes to 65,535 bytes; the default is 4096.

Increased packet size can enhance performance of bulk-copy operations. If a larger packet is requested but can't be granted, the default is used. The performance statistics generated by the bcp utility show the packet size used.

-b batch_size

Specifies the number of rows per batch of imported data. Each batch is imported and logged as a separate transaction that imports the whole batch before being committed. By default, all the rows in the data file are imported as one batch. To distribute the rows among multiple batches, specify a batch_size that is smaller than the number of rows in the data file. If the transaction for any batch fails, only insertions from the current batch are rolled back. Batches already imported by committed transactions are unaffected by a later failure.

Don't use this option with the -h "ROWS_PER_BATCH=<bb>" option.

-c

Performs the operation using a character data type. This option doesn't prompt for each field; it uses char as the storage type, without prefixes and with \t (tab character) as the field separator and \r\n (newline character) as the row terminator. -c isn't compatible with -w.

For more information, see Use character format to import or export data (SQL Server).

-C { ACP | OEM | RAW | code_page }

Specifies the code page of the data in the data file. code_page is relevant only if the data contains char, varchar, or text columns with character values greater than 127 or less than 32.

Note

We recommend specifying a collation name for each column in a format file, except when you want the 65001 option to have priority over the collation/code page specification.

Code page value Description
ACP ANSI/Microsoft Windows (ISO 1252).
OEM Default code page used by the client. This is the default code page used if -C isn't specified.
RAW No conversion from one code page to another occurs. This is the fastest option because no conversion occurs.
code_page Specific code page number; for example, 850.

Versions prior to version 13 (SQL Server 2016 (13.x)) don't support code page 65001 (UTF-8 encoding). Versions beginning with 13 can import UTF-8 encoding to earlier versions of SQL Server.

-d database_name

Specifies the database to connect to. By default, bcp connects to the user's default database. If -d database_name and a three part name (database_name.schema.table, passed as the first parameter to bcp) are specified, an error occurs because you can't specify the database name twice. If database_name begins with a hyphen (-) or a forward slash (/), don't add a space between -d and the database name.

-D

Causes the value passed to the bcp -S option to be interpreted as a data source name (DSN). A DSN can be used to embed driver options to simplify command lines, enforce driver options that aren't otherwise accessible from the command line such as MultiSubnetFailover, or to help protect sensitive credentials from being discoverable as command line arguments. For more information, see DSN Support in sqlcmd and bcp in Connecting with sqlcmd.

-e err_file

Specifies the full path of an error file used to store any rows that the bcp utility can't transfer from the file to the database. Error messages from the bcp command go to the workstation of the user. If this option isn't used, an error file isn't created.

If err_file begins with a hyphen (-) or a forward slash (/), don't include a space between -e and the err_file value.

-E

Specifies that identity value or values in the imported data file are to be used for the identity column. If -E isn't given, the identity values for this column in the data file being imported are ignored, and SQL Server automatically assigns unique values based on the seed and increment values specified during table creation. For more information, see DBCC CHECKIDENT.

If the data file doesn't contain values for the identity column in the table or view, use a format file to specify that the identity column in the table or view should be skipped when importing data; SQL Server automatically assigns unique values for the column.

The -E option has a special permissions requirement. For more information, see "Remarks" later in this article.

-f format_file

Specifies the full path of a format file. The meaning of this option depends on the environment in which it's used, as follows:

  • If -f is used with the format option, the specified format_file is created for the specified table or view. To create an XML format file, also specify the -x option. For more information, see Create a Format File (SQL Server).

  • If used with the in or out option, -f requires an existing format file.

    Note

    Using a format file in with the in or out option is optional. In the absence of the -f option, if -n, -c, -w, or -N isn't specified, the command prompts for format information and lets you save your responses in a format file (whose default file name is bcp.fmt).

If format_file begins with a hyphen (-) or a forward slash (/), don't include a space between -f and the format_file value.

-F first_row

Specifies the number of the first row to export from a table or import from a data file. This parameter requires a value greater than (>) 0 but less than (<) or equal to (=) the total number rows. In the absence of this parameter, the default is the first row of the file.

first_row can be a positive integer with a value up to 2^63-1. -F first_row is 1-based.

-G

Applies to: Azure SQL Database and Azure Synapse Analytics only.

This switch is used by the client when connecting to Azure SQL Database or Azure Synapse Analytics to specify that the user be authenticated with Microsoft Entra ID. The -G switch requires version 14.0.3008.27 or later versions. To determine your version, execute bcp -v. For more information, see Use Microsoft Entra authentication with SQL Database or Azure Synapse Analytics.

Important

Microsoft Entra interactive authentication is not currently supported on Linux or macOS. Microsoft Entra integrated authentication requires Microsoft ODBC Driver 17 for SQL Server version 17.6.1 and later versions, and a properly configured Kerberos environment.

Tip

To check if your version of bcp includes support for Microsoft Entra authentication, type bcp --help and verify that you see -G in the list of available arguments.

  • Microsoft Entra username and password

    When you want to use a Microsoft Entra username and password, you can provide the -G option and also use the username and password by providing the -U and -P options.

    The following example exports data using Microsoft Entra username and password credentials. The example exports table bcptest from database testdb from Azure server aadserver.database.windows.net and stores the data in file c:\last\data1.dat:

    bcp bcptest out "c:\last\data1.dat" -c -t -S aadserver.database.windows.net -d testdb -G -U alice@aadtest.onmicrosoft.com -P xxxxx
    

    The following example imports data using the credentials of a Microsoft Entra user. The example imports data from file c:\last\data1.dat into table bcptest for database testdb on Azure server aadserver.database.windows.net using a Microsoft Entra username and password:

    bcp bcptest in "c:\last\data1.dat" -c -t -S aadserver.database.windows.net -d testdb -G -U alice@aadtest.onmicrosoft.com -P xxxxx
    
  • Microsoft Entra integrated

    For Microsoft Entra integrated authentication, provide the -G option without a username or password. This configuration requires that the current Windows user account (the account the bcp command is running under) is federated with Microsoft Entra ID:

    The following example exports data using Microsoft Entra integrated authentication. The example exports table bcptest from database testdb on the logical server aadserver.database.windows.net and stores the data in file c:\last\data2.dat, using Windows credentials federated with Microsoft Entra ID:

    bcp bcptest out "c:\last\data2.dat" -S aadserver.database.windows.net -d testdb -G -c -t
    

    The following example imports data using Microsoft Entra integrated authentication. The example imports data from file table c:\last\data2.dat into table bcptest in the database testdb on the logical server aadserver.database.windows.net, using Windows credentials federated with Microsoft Entra ID:

    bcp bcptest in "c:\last\data2.dat" -S aadserver.database.windows.net -d testdb -G -c -t
    
  • Microsoft Entra interactive

    Microsoft Entra interactive authentication, available for all Azure SQL and SQL Server 2022+, allows you to use an interactive dialog to authenticate, which also supports multifactor authentication.

    Microsoft Entra interactive authentication requires bcp version 15.0.1000.34 or later as well as ODBC version 17.2 or later.

    To enable interactive authentication, provide the -G option with user name (-U) only, and no password.

    The following example exports data using Microsoft Entra interactive authentication, which includes specifying the username of a Microsoft Entra account.

    Interactive mode requires a password to be manually entered, or for accounts with multifactor authentication enabled, complete your configured MFA authentication method.

    bcp bcptest out "c:\last\data1.dat" -c -t -S aadserver.database.windows.net -d testdb -G -U alice@aadtest.onmicrosoft.com
    

    If using a Microsoft Entra user that's a Windows account from a federated domain, the username entered in the command line must contain its domain (for example, joe@contoso.com):

    bcp bcptest out "c:\last\data1.dat" -c -t -S aadserver.database.windows.net -d testdb -G -U joe@contoso.com
    

    If guest users exist in a specific Microsoft Entra tenant and are part of a group that exists in SQL Database that has database permissions to execute the bcp command, their guest user alias is used (for example, keith0@adventure-works.com).

-h "hints [, ... n]"

Specifies the hint or hints to be used during a bulk import of data into a table or view.

  • ORDER (column [ASC | DESC] [, ...n])

    The sort order of the data in the data file. Bulk import performance is improved if the data being imported is sorted according to the clustered index on the table, if any. If the data file is sorted in a different order, that is other than the order of a clustered index key, or if there's no clustered index on the table, the ORDER clause is ignored. The column names supplied must be valid column names in the destination table. By default, bcp assumes the data file is unordered. For optimized bulk import, SQL Server also validates that the imported data is sorted.

  • ROWS_PER_BATCH = bb

    Number of rows of data per batch (as bb). Used when -b isn't specified, resulting in the entire data file being sent to the server as a single transaction. The server optimizes the bulkload according to the value bb. By default, ROWS_PER_BATCH is unknown.

  • KILOBYTES_PER_BATCH = cc

    Approximate number of kilobytes of data per batch (as cc). By default, KILOBYTES_PER_BATCH is unknown.

  • TABLOCK

    Specifies that a bulk update table-level lock is acquired for the duration of the bulkload operation; otherwise, a row-level lock is acquired. This hint significantly improves performance because holding a lock for the duration of the bulk-copy operation reduces lock contention on the table. A table can be loaded concurrently by multiple clients if the table has no indexes and TABLOCK is specified. By default, locking behavior is determined by the table option table lock on bulkload.

    Note

    If the target table is clustered columnstore index, TABLOCK hint isn't required for loading by multiple concurrent clients because each concurrent thread is assigned a separate rowgroup within the index and loads data into it. Please refer to columnstore index conceptual articles for details,

  • CHECK_CONSTRAINTS

    Specifies that all constraints on the target table or view must be checked during the bulk-import operation. Without the CHECK_CONSTRAINTS hint, any CHECK, and FOREIGN KEY constraints are ignored, and after the operation the constraint on the table is marked as not-trusted.

    Note

    UNIQUE, PRIMARY KEY, and NOT NULL constraints are always enforced.

    At some point, you need to check the constraints on the entire table. If the table was nonempty before the bulk import operation, the cost of revalidating the constraint can exceed the cost of applying CHECK constraints to the incremental data. Therefore, we recommend that normally you enable constraint checking during an incremental bulk import.

    A situation in which you might want constraints disabled (the default behavior) is if the input data contains rows that violate constraints. With CHECK constraints disabled, you can import the data and then use Transact-SQL statements to remove data that isn't valid.

    Note

    bcp now enforces data validation and data checks that can cause scripts to fail if they're executed on invalid data in a data file.

    Note

    The -m max_errors switch doesn't apply to constraint checking.

  • FIRE_TRIGGERS

    Specified with the in argument, any insert triggers defined on the destination table will run during the bulk-copy operation. If FIRE_TRIGGERS isn't specified, no insert triggers will run. FIRE_TRIGGERS is ignored for the out, queryout, and format arguments.

-i input_file

Specifies the name of a response file, containing the responses to the command prompt questions for each data field when a bulk copy is being performed using interactive mode (-n, -c, -w, or -N not specified).

If input_file begins with a hyphen (-) or a forward slash (/), don't include a space between -i and the input_file value.

-k

Specifies that empty columns should retain a null value during the operation, rather than have any default values for the columns inserted. For more information, see Keep nulls or default values during bulk import (SQL Server).

-K application_intent

Declares the application workload type when connecting to a server. The only value that is possible is ReadOnly. If -K isn't specified, the bcp utility doesn't support connectivity to a secondary replica in an Always On availability group. For more information, see Offload read-only workload to secondary replica of an Always On availability group.

-l login_timeout

Specifies a login timeout. The -l option specifies the number of seconds before a login to SQL Server times out when you try to connect to a server. The default login timeout is 15 seconds. The login timeout must be a number between 0 and 65534. If the value supplied isn't numeric or doesn't fall into that range, bcp generates an error message. A value of 0 specifies an infinite timeout.

-L last_row

Specifies the number of the last row to export from a table or import from a data file. This parameter requires a value greater than (>) 0 but less than (<) or equal to (=) the number of the last row. In the absence of this parameter, the default is the last row of the file.

last_row can be a positive integer with a value up to 2^63-1.

-m max_errors

Specifies the maximum number of syntax errors that can occur before the bcp operation is canceled. A syntax error implies a data conversion error to the target data type. The max_errors total excludes any errors that can be detected only at the server, such as constraint violations.

A row that can't be copied by the bcp utility is ignored and is counted as one error. If this option isn't included, the default is 10.

Note

The -m option also doesn't apply to converting the money or bigint data types.

-n

Performs the bulk-copy operation using the native (database) data types of the data. This option doesn't prompt for each field; it uses the native values.

For more information, see Use native format to import or export data (SQL Server).

-N

Performs the bulk-copy operation using the native (database) data types of the data for noncharacter data, and Unicode characters for character data. This option offers a higher performance alternative to the -w option, and is intended for transferring data from one instance of SQL Server to another using a data file. It doesn't prompt for each field. Use this option when you're transferring data that contains ANSI extended characters and you want to take advantage of the performance of native mode.

For more information, see Use Unicode Native Format to Import or Export Data (SQL Server).

If you export and then import data to the same table schema by using bcp with -N, you might see a truncation warning if there's a fixed length, non-Unicode character column (for example, char(10)).

The warning can be ignored. One way to resolve this warning is to use -n instead of -N.

-o output_file

Specifies the name of a file that receives output redirected from the command prompt.

If output_file begins with a hyphen (-) or a forward slash (/), don't include a space between -o and the output_file value.

-P password

Specifies the password for the login ID. If this option isn't used, the bcp command prompts for a password. If this option is used at the end of the command prompt without a password, bcp uses the default password (NULL).

Important

Do not use a blank password. Use a strong password.

To mask your password, don't specify the -P option along with the -U option. Instead, after specifying bcp along with the -U option and other switches (don't specify -P), press ENTER, and the command will prompt you for a password. This method ensures that your password is masked when it's entered.

If password begins with a hyphen (-) or a forward slash (/), don't add a space between -P and the password value.

-q

Executes the SET QUOTED_IDENTIFIERS ON statement in the connection between the bcp utility and an instance of SQL Server. Use this option to specify a database, owner, table, or view name that contains a space or a single quotation mark. Enclose the entire three-part table or view name in quotation marks ("").

To specify a database name that contains a space or single quotation mark, you must use the -q option.

-q doesn't apply to values passed to -d.

For more information, see Remarks, later in this article.

-r row_term

Specifies the row terminator. The default is \n (newline character). Use this parameter to override the default row terminator. For more information, see Specify Field and Row Terminators (SQL Server).

If you specify the row terminator in hexadecimal notation in a bcp command, the value is truncated at 0x00. For example, if you specify 0x410041, 0x41 is used.

If row_term begins with a hyphen (-) or a forward slash (/), don't include a space between -r and the row_term value.

-R

Specifies that currency, date, and time data is bulk copied into SQL Server using the regional format defined for the locale setting of the client computer. By default, regional settings are ignored.

-S server_name [\instance_name]

Specifies the instance of SQL Server to which to connect. If no server is specified, the bcp utility connects to the default instance of SQL Server on the local computer. This option is required when a bcp command is run from a remote computer on the network or a local named instance. To connect to the default instance of SQL Server on a server, specify only server_name. To connect to a named instance of SQL Server, specify server_name**\**instance_name.

-t field_term

Specifies the field terminator. The default is \t (tab character). Use this parameter to override the default field terminator. For more information, see Specify Field and Row Terminators (SQL Server).

If you specify the field terminator in hexadecimal notation in a bcp command, the value is truncated at 0x00. For example, if you specify 0x410041, 0x41 is used.

If field_term begins with a hyphen (-) or a forward slash (/), don't include a space between -t and the field_term value.

-T

Specifies that the bcp utility connects to SQL Server with a trusted connection using integrated security. The security credentials of the network user, login_id, and password aren't required. If -T isn't specified, you need to specify -U and -P to successfully log in.

Important

When the bcp utility is connecting to SQL Server with a trusted connection using integrated security, use the -T option (trusted connection) instead of the username and password combination. When the bcp utility is connecting to SQL Database or Azure Synapse Analytics, using Windows authentication or Microsoft Entra authentication is not supported. Use the -U and -P options.

-U login_id

Specifies the login ID used to connect to SQL Server.

-v

Reports the bcp utility version number and copyright.

-V (80 | 90 | 100 | 110 | 120 | 130 | 140 | 150 | 160)

Performs the bulk-copy operation using data types from an earlier version of SQL Server. This option doesn't prompt for each field; it uses the default values.

80 = SQL Server 2000 (8.x)

90 = SQL Server 2005 (9.x)

100 = SQL Server 2008 (10.0.x) and SQL Server 2008 R2 (10.50.x)

110 = SQL Server 2012 (11.x)

120 = SQL Server 2014 (12.x)

130 = SQL Server 2016 (13.x)

140 = SQL Server 2017 (14.x)

150 = SQL Server 2019 (15.x)

160 = SQL Server 2022 (16.x)

For example, to generate data for types not supported by SQL Server 2000 (8.x), but were introduced in later versions of SQL Server, use the -V80 option.

For more information, see Import native and character format data from earlier versions of SQL Server.

-w

Performs the bulk copy operation using Unicode characters. This option doesn't prompt for each field; it uses nchar as the storage type, no prefixes, \t (tab character) as the field separator, and \n (newline character) as the row terminator. -w isn't compatible with -c.

For more information, see Use unicode character format to import or export data (SQL Server).

-x

This option is used with the format and -f format_file options, and generates an XML-based format file instead of the default non-XML format file. The -x doesn't work when importing or exporting data. It generates an error if used without both format and -f format_file.

Remarks

  • The bcp 13.0 client is installed when you install Microsoft SQL Server 2019 (15.x) tools. If tools are installed for multiple versions of SQL Server, depending on the order of values of the PATH environment variable, you might be using the earlier bcp client instead of the bcp 13.0 client. This environment variable defines the set of directories used by Windows to search for executable files. To discover which version you're using, run the bcp -v command at the Windows Command Prompt. For information about how to set the command path in the PATH environment variable, see Environment Variables or search for Environment Variables in Windows Help.

    To make sure the newest version of the bcp utility is running, you need to remove any older versions of the bcp utility.

    To determine where all versions of the bcp utility are installed, type in the command prompt:

    where bcp.exe
    
  • The bcp utility can also be downloaded separately from the Microsoft SQL Server 2016 Feature Pack. Select either ENU\x64\MsSqlCmdLnUtils.msi or ENU\x86\MsSqlCmdLnUtils.msi.

  • XML format files are only supported when SQL Server tools are installed together with SQL Server Native Client.

  • For information about where to find or how to run the bcp utility and about the command prompt utilities syntax conventions, see SQL Command Prompt Utilities (Database Engine).

  • For information on preparing data for bulk import or export operations, see Prepare data for bulk export or import.

  • For information about when row-insert operations that are performed by bulk import are logged in the transaction log, see Prerequisites for minimal logging in bulk import.

  • Using additional special characters

    The characters <, >, |, &, and ^ are special command shell characters, and they must be preceded by the escape character (^), or enclosed in quotation marks when used in String (for example, "StringContaining&Symbol"). If you use quotation marks to enclose a string that contains one of the special characters, the quotation marks are set as part of the environment variable value.

Native data file support

In SQL Server, the bcp utility supports native data files compatible with SQL Server versions starting with SQL Server 2000 (8.x) and later.

Computed columns and timestamp columns

Values in the data file being imported for computed or timestamp columns are ignored, and SQL Server automatically assigns values. If the data file doesn't contain values for the computed or timestamp columns in the table, use a format file to specify that the computed or timestamp columns in the table should be skipped when importing data; SQL Server automatically assigns values for the column.

Computed and timestamp columns are bulk copied from SQL Server to a data file as usual.

Specify identifiers that contain spaces or quotation marks

SQL Server identifiers can include characters such as embedded spaces and quotation marks. Such identifiers must be treated as follows:

  • When you specify an identifier or file name that includes a space or quotation mark at the command prompt, enclose the identifier in quotation marks ("").

    For example, the following bcp out command creates a data file named Currency Types.dat:

    bcp AdventureWorks2022.Sales.Currency out "Currency Types.dat" -T -c
    
  • To specify a database name that contains a space or quotation mark, you must use the -q option.

  • For owner, table, or view names that contain embedded spaces or quotation marks, you can either:

    • Specify the -q option, or

    • Enclose the owner, table, or view name in brackets ([]) inside the quotation marks.

Data validation

bcp now enforces data validation and data checks that can cause scripts to fail if they're executed on invalid data in a data file. For example, bcp now verifies that:

  • The native representations of float or real data types are valid.

  • Unicode data has an even-byte length.

Forms of invalid data that could be bulk imported in earlier versions of SQL Server can fail to load now; whereas, in earlier versions, the failure didn't occur until a client tried to access the invalid data. The added validation minimizes surprises when querying the data after bulkload.

Bulk exporting or importing SQLXML documents

To bulk export or import SQLXML data, use one of the following data types in your format file.

Data type Effect
SQLCHAR or SQLVARYCHAR The data is sent in the client code page or in the code page implied by the collation). The effect is the same as specifying the -c switch without specifying a format file.
SQLNCHAR or SQLNVARCHAR The data is sent as Unicode. The effect is the same as specifying the -w switch without specifying a format file.
SQLBINARY or SQLVARYBIN The data is sent without any conversion.

Permissions

A bcp out operation requires SELECT permission on the source table.

A bcp in operation minimally requires SELECT/INSERT permissions on the target table. In addition, ALTER TABLE permission is required if any of the following conditions are true:

  • Constraints exist and the CHECK_CONSTRAINTS hint isn't specified.

    Note

    Disabling constraints is the default behavior. To enable constraints explicitly, use the -h option with the CHECK_CONSTRAINTS hint.

  • Triggers exist and the FIRE_TRIGGER hint isn't specified.

    Note

    By default, triggers aren't fired. To fire triggers explicitly, use the -h option with the FIRE_TRIGGERS hint.

  • You use the -E option to import identity values from a data file.

Note

Requiring ALTER TABLE permission on the target table was new in SQL Server 2005 (9.x). This new requirement can cause bcp scripts that don't enforce triggers and constraint checks to fail if the user account lacks ALTER table permissions for the target table.

Character mode (-c) and native mode (-n) best practices

This section has recommendations for character mode (-c) and native mode (-n).

  • (Administrator/User) When possible, use native format (-n) to avoid the separator issue. Use the native format to export and import using SQL Server. Export data from SQL Server using the -c or -w option if the data will be imported to a non-SQL Server database.

  • (Administrator) Verify data when using BCP OUT. For example, when you use BCP OUT, BCP IN, and then BCP OUT verify that the data is properly exported and the terminator values aren't used as part of some data value. Consider overriding the default terminators (using -t and -r options) with random hexadecimal values to avoid conflicts between terminator values and data values.

  • (User) Use a long and unique terminator (any sequence of bytes or characters) to minimize the possibility of a conflict with the actual string value. This can be done by using the -t and -r options.

Examples

The examples in this section make use of the WideWorldImporters sample database for SQL Server 2016 (13.x) and later versions, Azure SQL Database, and Azure SQL Managed Instance. WideWorldImporters can be downloaded from https://github.com/Microsoft/sql-server-samples/releases/tag/wide-world-importers-v1.0. See RESTORE (Transact-SQL) for the syntax to restore the sample database.

Example test conditions

Except where specified otherwise, the examples assume that you use Windows Authentication and have a trusted connection to the server instance on which you're running the bcp command. A directory named D:\BCP is used in many of the examples.

The following script creates an empty copy of the WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions table and then adds a primary key constraint. Run the following T-SQL script in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS)

USE WideWorldImporters;
GO

SET NOCOUNT ON;

IF NOT EXISTS (SELECT * FROM sys.tables WHERE name = 'Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp')
BEGIN
    SELECT * INTO WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp
    FROM WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions
    WHERE 1 = 2;

    ALTER TABLE Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp
    ADD CONSTRAINT PK_Warehouse_StockItemTransactions_bcp PRIMARY KEY NONCLUSTERED
    (StockItemTransactionID ASC);
END

Note

Truncate the StockItemTransactions_bcp table as needed.

TRUNCATE TABLE WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp;

A. Identify bcp utility version

At a command prompt, enter the following command:

bcp -v

B. Copy table rows into a data file (with a trusted connection)

The following examples illustrate the out option on the WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions table.

  • Basic

    This example creates a data file named StockItemTransactions_character.bcp and copies the table data into it using character format.

    At a command prompt, enter the following command:

    bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions out D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_character.bcp -c -T
    
  • Expanded

    This example creates a data file named StockItemTransactions_native.bcp and copies the table data into it using the native format. The example also: specifies the maximum number of syntax errors, an error file, and an output file.

    At a command prompt, enter the following command:

    bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions OUT D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_native.bcp -m 1 -n -e D:\BCP\Error_out.log -o D:\BCP\Output_out.log -S -T
    

Review Error_out.log and Output_out.log. Error_out.log should be blank. Compare the file sizes between StockItemTransactions_character.bcp and StockItemTransactions_native.bcp.

C. Copy table rows into a data file (with mixed-mode authentication)

The following example illustrates the out option on the WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions table. This example creates a data file named StockItemTransactions_character.bcp and copies the table data into it using character format.

The example assumes that you use mixed-mode authentication, and you must use the -U switch to specify your login ID. Also, unless you're connecting to the default instance of SQL Server on the local computer, use the -S switch to specify the system name and, optionally, an instance name.

At a command prompt, enter the following command: (The system prompts you for your password.)

bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions out D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_character.bcp -c -U<login_id> -S<server_name\instance_name>

D. Copy data from a file to a table

The following examples illustrate the in option on the WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp table using files created previously.

  • Basic

    This example uses the StockItemTransactions_character.bcp data file previously created.

    At a command prompt, enter the following command:

    bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp IN D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_character.bcp -c -T
    
  • Expanded

    This example uses the StockItemTransactions_native.bcp data file previously created. The example also: use the hint TABLOCK, specifies the batch size, the maximum number of syntax errors, an error file, and an output file.

    At a command prompt, enter the following command:

    bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp IN D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_native.bcp -b 5000 -h "TABLOCK" -m 1 -n -e D:\BCP\Error_in.log -o D:\BCP\Output_in.log -S -T
    

    Review Error_in.log and Output_in.log.

E. Copy a specific column into a data file

To copy a specific column, you can use the queryout option. The following example copies only the StockItemTransactionID column of the Warehouse.StockItemTransactions table into a data file.

At a command prompt, enter the following command:

bcp "SELECT StockItemTransactionID FROM WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions WITH (NOLOCK)" queryout D:\BCP\StockItemTransactionID_c.bcp -c -T

F. Copy a specific row into a data file

To copy a specific row, you can use the queryout option. The following example copies only the row for the person named Amy Trefl from the WideWorldImporters.Application.People table into a data file Amy_Trefl_c.bcp.

Note

The -d switch is used identify the database.

At a command prompt, enter the following command:

bcp "SELECT * from Application.People WHERE FullName = 'Amy Trefl'" queryout D:\BCP\Amy_Trefl_c.bcp -d WideWorldImporters -c -T

G. Copy data from a query to a data file

To copy the result set from a Transact-SQL statement to a data file, use the queryout option. The following example copies the names from the WideWorldImporters.Application.People table, ordered by full name, into the People.txt data file.

Note

The -t switch is used to create a comma-delimited file.

At a command prompt, enter the following command:

bcp "SELECT FullName, PreferredName FROM WideWorldImporters.Application.People ORDER BY FullName" queryout D:\BCP\People.txt -t, -c -T

H. Create format files

The following example creates three different format files for the Warehouse.StockItemTransactions table in the WideWorldImporters database. Review the contents of each created file.

At a command prompt, enter the following commands:

REM non-XML character format
bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions format nul -f D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_c.fmt -c -T

REM non-XML native format
bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions format nul -f D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_n.fmt -n -T

REM XML character format
bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions format nul -f D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_c.xml -x -c -T

Note

To use the -x switch, you must be using a bcp 9.0 client. For information about how to use the bcp 9.0 client, see "Remarks."

For more information, see Use Non-XML format files (SQL Server) and XML Format Files (SQL Server).

I. Use a format file to bulk import with bcp

To use a previously created format file when importing data into an instance of SQL Server, use the -f switch with the in option. For example, the following command bulk copies the contents of a data file, StockItemTransactions_character.bcp, into a copy of the Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp table by using the previously created format file, StockItemTransactions_c.xml.

Note

The -L switch is used to import only the first 100 records.

At a command prompt, enter the following command:

bcp WideWorldImporters.Warehouse.StockItemTransactions_bcp in D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_character.bcp -L 100 -f D:\BCP\StockItemTransactions_c.xml -T

Note

Format files are useful when the data file fields are different from the table columns; for example, in their number, ordering, or data types. For more information, see Format files to import or export data (SQL Server).

J. Specify a code page

The following partial code example shows bcp import while specifying a code page 65001:

bcp MyTable in "D:\data.csv" -T -c -C 65001 -t , ...

K. Example output file using a custom field and row terminators

This example shows two sample files, generated by bcp using custom field and row terminators.

  1. Create a table dbo.T1 in the tempdb database, with two columns, ID and Name.

    USE tempdb;
    GO
    
    CREATE TABLE dbo.T1 (ID INT, [Name] NVARCHAR(20));
    GO
    
    INSERT INTO dbo.T1 VALUES (1, N'Natalia');
    INSERT INTO dbo.T1 VALUES (2, N'Mark');
    INSERT INTO dbo.T1 VALUES (3, N'Randolph');
    GO
    
  2. Generate an output file from the example table dbo.T1, using a custom field terminator.

    In this example, the server name is MYSERVER, and the custom field terminator is specified by -t ,.

    bcp dbo.T1 out T1.txt -T -S MYSERVER -d tempdb -w -t ,
    

    Here is the result set.

    1,Natalia
    2,Mark
    3,Randolph
    
  3. Generate an output file from the example table dbo.T1, using a custom field terminator and custom row terminator.

    In this example, the server name is MYSERVER, the custom field terminator is specified by -t ,, and the custom row terminator is specified by -r :.

    bcp dbo.T1 out T1.txt -T -S MYSERVER -d tempdb -w -t , -r :
    

    Here is the result set.

    1,Natalia:2,Mark:3,Randolph:
    

    Note

    The row terminator is always added, even to the last record. The field terminator, however, isn't added to the last field.

Additional examples

The following articles contain examples of using bcp:

Considerations and limitations

  • The bcp utility has a limitation that the error message shows only 512-byte characters. Only the first 512 bytes of the error message are displayed.

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