Unicode and Non-Unicode Data

SQL Server supports unicode and non-unicode characters and hence supports multiple languages. Varchar,Char,Text datatypes support non-unicode data and Nvarchar,Nchar,Ntext datatypes support unicode data. Let’s see a simple unicode and non-unicode data demo:

北京 – stands for Beijing in Chinese. The database collation is ‘SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS’, so, we know Chinese characters are not directly supported.We can set collation on the table but I choose not to for the demo so as to see how special characters error out when stored in non-unicode column.
create table foobarDemo1(scity varchar(20))
create table foobarDemo2(scity nvarchar(20))
Insert into foobarDemo1(scity)
select '北京'
Insert into foobarDemo2(scity)
select N'北京'

--Data not stored Correctly.
select * from foobarDemo1
--Data stored correctly because of unicode column datatype
select * from foobarDemo2

Unicode data takes twice the storage as non-unicode data, considering this, it is important to define right datatype for the application. This disadvantage on the storage side can take performance hit as more data pages have to be read to fetch the data. Below demo shows how unicode and non-unicode data is stored on the data page.
Create Database TestDb
use TestDb
Create Table foobarDemo1(sname varchar(8000))
Create Table foobarDemo2(sname nvarchar(4000))
Insert into foobarDemo1(sname)
Select Replicate('Clippers',1000)
Insert into foobarDemo2(sname)
Select Replicate('Clippers',500)

--Enable trace flag to read the data
DBCC Traceon(3604)
--query to find which data page has the data row(works in sql2012 and above)
Select object_name(object_id) as TableName,allocated_page_page_id
from sys.dm_db_database_page_allocations
where is_iam_page=0

--shows how the non-unicode data is stored in the page
Dbcc page('testdb',1,282,2)
VarcharDataPage--query to find which data page has the unicode data(works in sql2012 and above)
Select object_name(object_id) as TableName,allocated_page_page_id
from sys.dm_db_database_page_allocations
where is_iam_page=0

--shows how the unicode data is stored in the page;you can see placeholder for special character
Dbcc page('testdb',1,284,2)

Starting from SQL 2008R2, SQL Server has Unicode Compression which basically compresses non-unicode data stored in unicode column as non-unicode. More on this in this MSDN Link.


When’s the last time DBCC CheckDB ran without any errors??

There’s an undocumented DBCC command ‘DBCC DBINFO’ that gives us lot of information about the database.
One of the extremely useful info this command returns is the last time DBCC CheckDB ran without any errors.

To find this info, run


Scroll down to find “dbi_dbccLastKnownGood” value. When you do DBCC DBINFO, along with lots of other information, you will get dbi_dbccLastKnownGood result. It is a date time value, which essentially means, the last time the CHECKDB went well without any corruption. This could be particularly useful piece of information, when your database is corrupted and you can find out the last time your database is corruption free(this information will be up-to-date only if you run DBCC CHECKDB regularly).

How to find database internal version number

When you try to attach a higher version database to lower version sql server(attaching sql2008R2 database to sql SQL2008 Instance),you will get an error message similar to “The database is of version 661. The server will only support databases of version 655 and earlier”. This is error simply means that you are trying to attach higher version database to a lower version sql server.This is not suppported by SQL Server.Remember, we also cannot restore higher version databases to lower version sql server.Below are reference internal numbers for each of version of SQL Server:

Internal Version Number = 611 == SQL2005
Internal Version Number= 655 ==SQL2008
Internal Version Number= 661 ==SQL2008R2
Internal Version Number= 706 == SQL 2012

If you want to find out the database Internal version, run the below
DBCC DBINFO('DatabaseName')

In the results, look for dbi_version.There is also dbi_createVersion and this shows the actual version it was created on.
Example:  if the database was created on SQL 2005 and later migrated to sql 2008R2).
In that case, you would see, dbi_createVersion = Internal version number the database was intially created which is sql 2005 Internal Version Number as per example and dbi_version = shows the present Internal version number which is sql 2008R2 Internal Version Number