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Exporting and Importing Registered Servers in SSMS


Many SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) users connect to the same SQL Server instances over and over. In some organizations, the number of instances can be large, which makes flipping through a long list of instances in the Connect to SQL Server dialog cumbersome. I don't have a huge list, but I do have a few, as you can see in the image below.

List of registered servers in SSMS

Many users will create a custom list of registered servers that they have handy in the SSMS window on the side. These are custom to each installation, but teams may want to share their lists with each other. This article covers the export and import of your Registered Servers list.

Note: If you've never used Registered Servers, you can open this pan from the View Menu where there is a Registered Servers item. Or press CTRL+ALT+G.

Exporting Registered Servers

The export of your registered servers is very easy, but we'll walk through how this works. In the Registered Servers pane, right click the Local Server Groups item. In here, you will see a number of items, including how to add new subgroups or servers. The Tasks menu expands, and in here we see the Export item. Select that.

Export menu item in SSMS Registered Servers pane

This brings up a short dialog, which is very simple. We pick which server or group we want to export. I'll just choose everything to start and enter a file name.

If I click OK at this point, I get an error. The default path for this isn't accessible.

If I go back through the process and select the ellipsis button to search for a path, it defaults to my Documents folder. I am not sure why this isn't the default path anyway, but it isn't. Note that I also see a file extension, .regsrvr.

choosing a file path

I click Save here and OK and I get a message things are exported.

Export successful

If I go to my Explorer, I see the file created.

Export file for registered servers

Examining the Export File

I can open this in Notepad, or any text editor. This way I can see what is being exported.

Opening the file in Notepad

When I do that, I see this is just an XML document, despite the new extension. I am glad they choose a new extension since this helps me to know what this file contains.

XML document of registered servers

If I scroll down a bit, I will find a RegisteredServers:ServerGroup element. In here, I see my four servers as sub elements. Note these are the display names of the instances.

List of Registered Servers in XML

If I scroll further, I see there is a RegisteredServers:RegisteredServer element. In here, the details for my database (this is an Azure SQL Database) are contained.

Server connection addresses

Exporting Credentials

I left the box checked on my export to not include credentials in the export. Let's redo the export, but uncheck the box. I am curious what this will produce for the XML. Here's my export setting.

export dialog with credentials

When this completes, I'll open the file. I see the same list of registered servers, but when I scroll down to a particular server, I see something different. For one of my Azure SQL Databases, I connect with a name and password. You can see that below. We see the element for RegisteredServers:ConnectionStringWithEncryptedPassword has a connection string that includes the server, the user id (opsshared) and a password. The password, however, is not the one I use. I assume this is encrypted, but I doubt this is highly secure.

credentials in the XML

Be careful with this file if sharing with others and delete it as soon as you can (and empty the recycle bin).

If I scroll to another entry, one that uses Windows Auth, I see this is noted in the connection string.

exported instance with trusted connection

That's about it for exports. Now, let's import these.

Importing Registered Servers

As you might guess, the import takes this file and adds it to the Registered Servers. As a first experiment, I'm going to leave my Registered Servers in SSMS, but I'll change one thing. For the SQLExpress entry, I'm changing the custom color.

Now I right click the group, select Tasks, and Import.

import dialog

When I click OK, I see this message. I like this. It asks me to overwrite existing items. This is useful if I am sharing with a colleague, and want to update their settings.

Overwrite question dialog

I select Yes to All and let the import run. In a couple seconds, it completes.

Import confirmation

If I check my SQLExpress instance, then I see the color is wiped out.

color properties for SQLExpress

That's it. If I were to delete an instance, the import would add it back. I deleted the azureproddb instance and then re-ran the import from the file with credentials. The instance appears again, and when I check the properties of the server, I see they are correct. The Test works as well.

Successful test and properties for Azure database


Now to go delete those regsrvr files.


This short article shows how easy it is to shared registered servers from SSMS. If you are not using Registered Servers in your install and you work in a team, you might consider having one person create these and then share a file with others. It's also a good way to onboard new developers.

If you use any names and passwords, however, then you should not keep these regsrvr files around, nor should you email them (copies are stored on servers). Instead, directly copy the file for another user and then be sure all copies are deleted after the imports are complete.


A few references that might help you understand this article.


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