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Free Tools for the SQL Server DBA

By David Bird,

We've all done it. Scourer the Internet for a script or free tool to help do our job or solve a problem. SQL Server Central and similar sites contain an abundance of scripts and guides to assist us. There are times when I want to use a tool instead of a collection of scripts and commands. A tool more often than not requires less customization than a script and sometimes less technical know how to get them to work. So I decided to share a list of free tools that I use from time to time.

To start with I wrote this article using NVU an open source WYSIWYG HTML editor. It creates HTML pages with very simple HTML code. It still adds a few extra commands such as " " but that's nothing compared to what MS Word generates for HTML code.

NVU is open source software and does not require any registration to download or use.

FullSun SQL Server Toolkit
It is a nice tool kit with many helpful features. Currently this tool is for SQL Server 2000 but a 2005 version is being developed.  Here are some of the functions available with this tool:

  • List all SQL ids with very easy passwords so they can be fixed.
  • Review all the errors or failed logins in the SQL Error Log files.
  • Monitor database growth through their backup file sizes along with viewing the current table sizes.
  • Check nine predefined performance counters.
  • Read a database log file.  (This was primary reason I got this tool. It's nothing fancy but I like it.)
This tool is CharityWare software. Every time the tool is started, a panel pops up in the background with instructions on using the tool and a request for a charitable donation.

EMS SQL Manager for SQL Server Lite
EMS provides a free lite version of their SQL Manager tool with limited administration functions. The SQL Monitor is fairly simple and only works on SQL Server 2005. The feature I like most about this tool is when I am browsing or editing data in a table, I can view the data in a grid or form. The form shows the contents of one row vertically. This is very helpful for reading long columns.

To download from the EMS website you need to register. There are two download options. One is a full download of the product and the other is just the executable. So far I've only used the 2.73 MB executable because it does not require any installation. The full download of this tool is available from an alternate site:  http://www.download.com/3001-10255_4-10594854.html

Toad for SQL Server
Quest has a freeware version of their toad for SQL Server. I downloaded it because I heard how popular Toad for Oracle was. It seems to have all the basic functions of Enterprise Manager. The SQL Editor is incorporated into the tool as a separate tab. Yes, it uses tabs to provide access to the various functions. The export wizard supports a variety of formats. It does disappoint me that you need the commercial version to export a table as insert statements. You would start to think they are in the business of making money. Wait, I guess they are.

Quest does not seem to require any registration to download and use this tool. Previously it required you to download the product every 60 days but that restriction has been removed for the current release.

SQLCheck is a free performance dashboard from Idera. It provides real time monitoring of about a dozen key performance indicators such as Buffer Cache Ratio, User Connections, and Processor Time. In addition, you can review SQL processes, SQL error log, jobs, and configurations. All this information is available using other tools but this tool provides a single location to finding this information.

Idera requires you to register before you download the product. You will probably get a phone call from the company, but you won't be continually spammed.

Synametrics provides a free lite version of their WinSql product. It is an ODBC SQL Query tool with create table options. I work with some developers who love using it. Since developers use it, I use it to help troubleshoot any problems they are having executing SQL statements.

To use this product you need to register.

SQLinForm is a free online SQL Formatter for many database engines. This tool is great for cleaning up complex SQL and making it more readable. There are other sites with free online SQL formatting tools (like SQL Parser). When one parser has trouble formatting a SQL statement you can try it on another site.

These tools are free to use online with no registration required.

It happens, a drive is running out of space.  To get a quick view of what is taking up the space, I use SpaceMonger v1.4.0.   It provides a bird's-eye, graphical view of the file allocations on a single drive. Plus it is faster than some similar tools. The tool consist of a single 212k executable that can be copied to servers and executed locally to create the report as fast as possible. When needed, it can be used remotely on mapped drives.

Sixty-Five has released a purchasable version of this tool that contains more functions.  They are still providing the version 1.4.0 of SpaceMonger at no cost.  This free version does not require any installation or registration to download and use.

There are times when I need to compare SQL code, stored procedures, table counts, and other data. For this I use ExamDiff. It has a clean GUI interface for selecting files and browsing the results. While browsing the results, it has an option to edit the files.  The company PrestoSoft provides a more advance version, but for simple text file comparisons the free version is adequate.

This program does not require any installation or registration to use. Just download the zip and click on the executable.

Windows Sysinternals
Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell at Sysinternals created a large collection of free tools to help troubleshoot and diagnose window servers and desktops. In 2006 Microsoft purchased Sysinternals. Most of these tools are still  free and continue to be updated. I am a big fan of the tools Process Explorer and Handle. When I have trouble with a locked file, I turn to these tools. Most of tools are executables and require no installation.

Last I knew they still do not require registration to use.

7-Zip is a compression tool that supports multiple formats and files larger than 4 GB. WinZip v8 does not compress files larger than 4 GB. My company was not going to pay the $50 dollars for a newer version. Why? Because that's the way they are. So I found 7-zip which does support zip files > 4 GB. It is slower than WinZip 11 and does not include encryption but at least it gets the job done. I don't use the 7z format because it is really slow on big files even though the files it creates are suppose to 30-70% smaller than Zip.

7-Zip is open source software and does not require any registration to download or use.

The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities
This site does not have any database specific tools. Instead it has 46 other categories of tools that are reviewed and rated by the site owner. So if you are looking for an FTP client, text editor, registry editor or some other tool give it a look.

This site only provides links to other sites from which you can download the software.

Yahoo E-mail
Many companies released free tools that require registration. I use a free Yahoo e-mail account when I register. It provides an excellent spam filter. Yeah it's not 100% but it's sure better than some others I've had. Sometimes registration information gets caught as SPAM but as long as it goes to the Bulk (SPAM) folder you can retrieve it.

Yahoo sometimes sends you an advertisement, but they are easily identified and deleted.


That's it for my list of DBA tools. Most of the time, purchased tools provide more functionality. But when it comes to free, these tools do fill a need. Last I checked all these tools where still available and free. If you know of any other useful free tools for a SQL Server DBA be sure to mention it in "Your Opinion" discussion for this article.

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