Why is the 8.3 filename convention still biting us?
April 2nd, 20087
Why is the 8.3 filename convention still biting us?
April 2nd, 20087

It is 2008.  Not 1992.  Why are we still intentionally creating filenames that conform to the limitations of ancient DOS and Windows 3.1 naming standards?  This came up today in one of the SQL Server newsgroups, where a user was trying to find the data file for the Northwind database he was sure had just installed.  Why couldn't he find it?  Because he was searching for Northwind.mdf.  Silly user!  It's obviously going to be Northwnd.mdf.  You should know that if i follows o, or if there are two e's, then you drop the second and all subsequent vowels to make an 8.3 filename.  However, if you have a double o, two e's, or i before e, then you drop the first vowel that appears.  *smacks forehead*

If they couldn't call it Northwind.mdf because of the 8.3 limitation, then why didn't they pick a name they could still spell completely?  Eastwind and Westwind come to mind.  I wonder if I should file a suggestion on Connect to finally name the SQL Server executable correctly?  I'm sure there are still people who try to find sqlserver.exe or sqlsrvr.exe or sqlsrver.exe…

By: Aaron Bertrand

I am a passionate technologist with industry experience dating back to Classic ASP and SQL Server 6.5. I am a long-time Microsoft MVP, write at Simple Talk, SQLPerformance, and MSSQLTips, and have had the honor of speaking at more conferences than I can remember. In non-tech life, I am a husband, a father of two, a huge hockey and football fan, and my pronouns are he/him.

7 Responses

  1. Ted says:

    I am new in SQL, just finished an introductory course in programing language. I was told by the instructor that a free version of the SQL software is available to download online as well as a database named Eastwind tables I believe.
    I think I downloaded the software SQL 2005. I cant go to the screen where the codes are writen and I do not know where to start. But most importantly I do not have tables ( a server db).
    Any help is highly appreciated

  2. AaronBertrand says:

    Northwind predates the ability to have filenames beyond 8.3?  Maybe I need to check my history books… but I'm pretty sure Northwind came with SQL Server 7.0, and at that point in time, we were no longer restricted to 8.3 filenames.
    Anyway, I'm not saying that anyone is rubbing their hands together, scheming about how they can make our lives difficult by making unintelligible file names.  But they could certainly have, sometime along the way, renamed the data file they're distributing, without forcing everyone to move to 2005/AdventureWorks, and allowing a more intuitive data/log file name.  Just my 2 cents.

  3. Michael Swart says:

    So you gripe that we're still intentionally creating filenames in 2008 that conform to the old standards. But Northwind is much older than that isn't it and as you said, we shouldn't throw away all that work. So what's your gripe about again?
    You can criticize the writers of Northwind for conforming to the old standard *poorly* (Eastwind definitely would have been better) but I disagree that anyone in your example is intentionally creating files with 8.3 file names. Copying such files maybe.

  4. alphatross says:

    What about the Logical name for TempDB's mdf file: "tempdev"  Didn't Devices go out with SQL 6.5?  To be fair, I suppose MS do have a responsibility to make names backwards compatible…  Agree that the 8.3 convention needs to be 'retired', and also the whole C: Drive, A: Floppy, B: Floppy thing too!

  5. AaronBertrand says:

    Well, some people are still using samples that refer to Northwind, and some people are still on SQL Server 2000.  I don't see why we should throw away all that work just because there is a new database to use now.

  6. Michael Swart says:

    It's 2008. Shouldn't we be looking for AdventureWorks_Data.mdf instead?

  7. Denis Gobo says:

    Very interesting, I though this was a delayed April 1st joke
    sp_helpfile 'northwind' confirms that it is not a joke