Useful, free resources for SQL Server

Recently Dave Ballantyne posted a list of free resources for SQL Server, entitled "The best things in life are free."  Now, I'm not trying to upstage Dave, but I know of several resources that aren't on his list.  It would be good to have a true community page for this kind of thing, but for now a blog post will have to do.  [I also just re-noticed Mladen Prajdic's post on free SQL Server tools, and his list is quite exhaustive.]  Please leave a comment if you spot any errors, omissions, broken links, etc.

Free Upgrade Advisors / Best Practices Analyzers

These tools from Microsoft can be instrumental in cleaning up your systems and finding issues *before* the day of the upgrade.  I'm including the SQL Server 2005 versions, but if you're just planning your upgrade to 2005 now, I'd suggest re-thinking toward 2008 or 2008 R2.  The last service pack for 2005 is due out later this year, and the next major version of SQL Server is probably about a year after that.  Note that there is no SQL Server 2008 Best Practices Analyzer, at least that I could find.

SQL Server 2005 Upgrade Advisor

SQL Server 2005 Best Practices Analyzer

SQL Server 2008 Upgrade Advisordownload x64download x86

SQL Server 2008 R2 Upgrade Advisor
download x64download x86

SQL Server 2008 R2 Best Practices Analyzerdownload x64download x86

(For some advice about the R2 BPA install, see this post from August)

SQL Server 2012 CTP3 Upgrade Advisordownload x64download x86
(Note that if you're installing RC0 or later, there is a newer Upgrade Advisor with the media, they just haven't made the feature pack public yet, as of 2012-01-13.)

Free Documentation

Books Online is the official go-to documentation for SQL Server, but you don't have to have a SQL Server license to use it.  You can choose to download the application (or install it as part of setup) and keep it up to date, or use the web-based version.

SQL Server 2008 Books Online – or download

Free Training Kits

SQL Server 2012 RC0 Developer Training Kit

Free Feature Packs

Jason Howell has summed up the current set of feature packs (these are utilities provided by Microsoft to complement SQL Server tools and services):

Free Management Studio Add-Ins

Several authors have developed tools that plug into Management Studio, though I wouldn't expect all of them to work flawlessly with SQL Server 2008 R2 – yet.

Mladen Prajdic's SSMS Tools Pack:

Jonathan Kehayias' Extended Events Manager:

RedGate SQL Search

Daniel Gould's Internals Viewer:

DevArt SQL Complete Express:

SQL Sentry Plan Explorer:

Free Community Resources

Looking for other SQL Server people to help you – for free?  The SQL Server community is, as a whole, one of the best free resource you're likely to find in any industry.  I don't think I'm going to try and list out all of the SQL Server blogs here… there are just too many.  But I can point out places where you can get free help online or – believe it or not – in person:

Twitter hashtag : #sqlhelp

Also see this great twitter primer from @BrentO:

And more specifically, this summary of the #sqlhelp tag:

SQL Server forums on MSDN:

Stack overflow:

DBA StackExchange:

Ask SQLServerCentral:


SQLServerPedia is like Wikipedia but for SQL Server:

Also look for a SQLSaturday coming to a city near you:

Or a local user group.  See this editorial by Brad McGehee:

Finally, PASS is free to join. Watch for free online training events and presentations via virtual chapters:

Free Blog Assistance

This one is kind of sitting in its own category, but I didn't know where else it would fit.  This web form allows you to take T-SQL code and format it nicely – color coding and all – for various blog formats.  I have found it invaluable over the past few years in adding code samples to my posts:

Free Sample Databases

You can download a wide variety of sample databases (mostly in the AdventureWorks flavor):

If you want to load Pubs and/or Northwind on a 2005+ server, you can, I guess:

Free Maintenance / Performance Scripts

Adam Machanic's Who Is Active? v.10.0:

Michelle Ufford's Index Defrag Script, v4.0

Ola's SQL Server 2005 and 2008 – Backup, Integrity Check and Index Optimization

Brent Ozar's BLITZ! 60 minute SQL Server takeover script

Kimberly Tripp's sp_helpindex2:

Tibor Karazsi's utility procedures:

Free Maintenance / Performance Tools

SQL Sentry Plan Explorer:


Microsoft's SQL Server Backup Simulator:

Confio IgniteFree:

PSSDIAG (for SQL Server 7.0 / 2000):

SQLNexus (for SQLDiag / PSSDiag):


SQL Load Generator:


Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) Tool:

scaleSQL ClearTrace:

Qure Workload Analyzer:

Joe Chang's SQL Exec Stats (docs):


SQL Server Cache Manager:

SQL Server 2005 Performance Statistics Script:

SQL Server 2005 Performance Dashboard Reports:

SQL Server 2008 Performance Dashboard Reports:

SQL Server Health and History Tool (SQLH2):
Performance Collector:
Performance Reports:

SqlMonitoring Tool:

Log Parser 2.2:

DMVStats 1.01:

Free Configuration / Policy Tools

Scripted PowerShell Automated Deployment Engine (SPADE):

Quest Discovery Wizard beta:

Enterprise Policy Management (EPM) Framework:

Partition Management:

SQL Server Central Management System:

SQL Server Express Utility:

Free SQL Server IDEs

Various free tools from Atlantis:

Toad for SQL Server has a freeware version:

Free SQL Server eBooks

I was really reluctant to list all of the eBooks I could find, because it is often difficult to asses the legality of many offers out there.  Here are a few that I know are legit, and I'll let you search for others on your own.

SQL Server Crib-Sheet Compendium (Amirthalingam Prasanna, Grant Fritchey, Phil Factor, Robert Sheldon, Robyn Page):

SQL Server DMV Starter Pack (Glenn Berry, Louis Davidson, Tim Ford):

Defensive Database Programming (Alex Kuznetsov):

SQL Server Execution Plans (Grant Fritchey):

Introducing SQL Server 2008 R2 (Microsoft Press):

Brad's Sure Guide to SQL Server 2008 (Brad McGehee):

Paul Randal's DBA-myth-a-day series

Free SSIS Tools and Resources

SSIS Community Tasks and Components

Free PowerShell Tools and Resources


Free PowerShell IDE: 

PowerShell Extensions (SQLPSX):

TechNet : Scripting with PowerShell:


Free PowerShell eBooks

An Introduction to Microsoft PowerShell

Effective Windows PowerShell!5A8D2641E0963A97!6930.entry?sa=58811724

PowerShell Workbook : server administration


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 father of two, a huge hockey and football fan, and my pronouns are he/him. If I've helped you out, consider thanking me with a coffee. :-)

17 Responses

  1. Dharmendar Kumar says:

    You should add SSMS Boost to this excellent list.

  2. Paul Brewer says:

    Hi Aaron,
    Appreciate you are busy and probably get a lot of requests to review things. I've written a 'Database Restore Automation' framework involving 1 stored procedure and 1 PowerShell scipt. Many hours work went into them but I think they now good.
    This is an introduction and examples –
    This is where the scripts and technical documentation are stored –
    The framework can automate database restores on a standby server using primary server msdb history and backup files in a network share. It could be used to recover lost historic data, re-initialize availability groups/mirroring/replication and so on.
    Any feedback would be gratefully appreciated.
    Thanks and regards

  3. Chris Adkin says:

    I doth my cap to you sir for aggregating such an awesome set of free resources into one place. If you ever revise this list, could I trouble you to add BIDS Helper, freely available via codeplex which is a BIDS / DTP add in.

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  5. Chris says:

    Hi Aaron, I checked out this link and could not get it to work. Just a heads up

  6. Jim says:

    Aaron, FYI this link still works but unable to download and try the snapshot-add-in in from the link on the page.  
    Sean Price's Snapshot add-in:

  7. Simon Sabin says:

    You can't forget SQLBits. Free conference and free videos online.

  8. johan says:

    A free intellisense addin for Sql Mgmt Studio 2005/2008.

  9. AaronBertrand says:

    Awesome, thanks Kalen!  Glad the post is useful.

  10. Kalen Delaney says:

    Thanks, Aaron and Congratulations… This post is my Blog Post of the Day on the SQL Server Internals Facebook page!

  11. AaronBertrand says:

    Michael J. Swart posted this today, with much more detail on how to solve SQL Server problems using Google, twitter and StackOverflow:

  12. David Taylor says:

    Thank you so much for this!

  13. Dugi says:

    Thanks for sharing, nice stuff here!

  14. Peter says:

    Here's something else
    Introduction to SQL Server 2008 R2 Master Data Services

  15. tosc says:

    Hi Aaron,
    broken link at scaleSQL ClearTrace
    I wish you a nice day,

  16. Frank says:

    Your videos are great! I get a lot knowledge from your videos. 🙂
    The list is great too!
    Thank you !

  17. Michael K. Campbell says:

    Great list.
    You might want to include Free Videos. A number of sites provide them – and tons of people love using them to learn SQL Server. comes to mind 😉 (but I'm pretty sure there are other free videos/tutorials sites out there.)