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MS SQL Server Export Table To Text

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By: Ken Simmons   |   Read Comments (23)   |   Related Tips: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | More > Import and Export

Since the transition from DTS to SSIS, I have found myself looking for alternative ways to do simple tasks such as exporting data from SQL Server into text files. SSIS is a far more powerful tool than DTS, but I generally try to stay away from it for simple operations.  With the combination of a few T-SQL commands this tip shows you a simple way to export data to text files.

One of the ways I have worked around this is by using bcp with xp_cmdshell. It's fast, easy and I can integrate it right into my code.

The first thing you have to do is make sure xp_cmdshell is enabled. You can do this in one of two ways.

1. You can use sp_configure and execute the following script.

EXEC master.dbo.sp_configure 'show advanced options', 1
EXEC master.dbo.sp_configure 'xp_cmdshell', 1

2. You can use the Surface Area Configuration Tool.

Select Surface Area Configuration for Features and check the Enable xp_cmdshell checkbox.

Now that you have xp_cmdshell enabled you are ready to export your files.

Here is a sample command that will export the results of the sysfiles table to a comma delimited file called bcptest.txt. Just copy and paste this into a query window and execute the query.

EXEC xp_cmdshell 'bcp "SELECT FROM sysfiles" queryout "C:\bcptest.txt" -T -c -t,'

Note: BCP is a command line utility and xp_cmdshell is only required to use it within a SQL Batch.

This is the output for the above command when run in the "master" database.

The parameters that were used are:

  • The queryout option allows you to specify a query to export. This could be as simple as the query we have are as complicated as you want.  You can also create a view and select the data from a view.
  • The file name where the results will be stored is placed after the queryout option.
  • The -T parameter specifies that the bcp utility connects to SQL Server with a trusted connection using integrated security. You could use -P (password) and -U (user) if you want to use a SQL Server login.
  • The -c specifies the character dataype will be used for each field.
  • The -t parameter allows you to specify a field delimiter. The character after -t will be used to separate the data fields. If -t is removed, tab will be used as the default delimiter.

Another parameter you may need to use is -S to specify the server name.  If you have a named instance, you will need to use this parameter.  Here is an example connecting to server "DEVELOP" and instance "DEV1".

EXEC xp_cmdshell 'bcp "select name, type_desc, create_date from sys.objects" queryout "C:\bcptest2.txt" -T -SDEVELOP\DEV1 -c -t,'

Also be aware that the case of the parameter such as -t and-T makes a difference, so make sure you have correct case for the parameter you are using.  You can find more options for BCP here:

Next Steps

  • You can find out more about the BCP utility and all of the available parameters on MSDN.
  • Review the following tip on enabling xp_cmdshell
  • Here are additional tips on exporting data
    • SQL Server 2000 vs SQL Server 2005 Integration Services SSIS Import and Export Wizard
    • Export data from SQL Server to Excel

Last Update: 11/24/2008

About the author
MSSQLTips author Ken Simmons Ken Simmons is a database administrator, developer, SQL Server book author and Microsoft SQL Server MVP.

View all my tips

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