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Why Can't We Go Backwards?

By Steve Jones,

This editorial was originally published on Oct 1, 2013. It is being re-run as Steve is out of town.

I've seen this question many times over the years: "How do I backup my database on version x and restore it on version x-1?" The standard answer has been that the database structure has changed and that you must export your schema and data, and then import it onto the other version.

Why is that?

I mean I understand why the backup structure changes, and why the database structure changes to take advantage of the new changes in the next version of SQL Server. You want your new version server to run more efficiently, and often there are core engine changes that ensure that happens, regardless of the compatibility level of the database. That is, almost all the time, a good thing.

However we have the code that creates the backups for all versions of SQL Server. And when I saw "we", I mean the developers at Microsoft. We have the formats for those backups. So why can't we include a plug in, an add-on, a download that will connect to my SQL Server 2005 database and then export it in SQL Server 2000 backup format?

I hadn't thought about it before, but could this really be that hard to implement and test? Wouldn't it make sense to include this to allow people to move their database back to SQL 2000 if they had issues with an upgrade to SQL Server 2005/2008? Wouldn't in possibly entice more people to "upgrade" to the next version with this fallback plan?

If nothing else, isn't this something that you ought to provide to your customers just to make them feel better?

I think so, and I submitted a Connect item for this. You can vote here for a backup plug in, and don't forget to vote for Service Pack 4 for SQL Server 2005 and Service Pack 2 for SQL Server 2008.

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Steve Jones