A Comprehensive Guide to Different Versions of MS SQL Server with a Comparison and Overview of the Latest Free Version

Explore MS SQL Server versions in-depth with our comprehensive guide. Compare features and get an overview, including insights into the latest free version. Stay informed and make informed decisions.

Kaibarta Sa

1/18/20244 min read

a tall metal bridge over a river next to sand
a tall metal bridge over a river next to sand

Microsoft SQL Server (MS SQL) is one of the most popular and widely used relational database management systems (RDBMS) in the world. It provides a robust and scalable platform for storing, managing, and retrieving data. Over the years, Microsoft has released various versions of MS SQL, each with its own set of features and capabilities.

Understanding the Different Versions of MS SQL Server

1. MS SQL Server 2000:

Released in the year 2000, MS SQL Server 2000 was a significant milestone in the evolution of SQL Server. It introduced several important features such as support for XML data, improved query optimization, and enhanced data replication capabilities.

2. MS SQL Server 2005:

MS SQL Server 2005 brought numerous advancements to the platform. It introduced the concept of Common Language Runtime (CLR) integration, which allowed developers to write stored procedures, triggers, and functions using .NET languages. Additionally, it offered enhanced security features, improved performance, and better data management capabilities.

3. MS SQL Server 2008:

MS SQL Server 2008 introduced several new features and enhancements, including support for spatial data, transparent data encryption, policy-based management, and improved performance optimization. It also introduced the FILESTREAM data type, which allowed for efficient storage and retrieval of large binary objects.

4. MS SQL Server 2012:

MS SQL Server 2012 introduced a wide range of new features and improvements. Some of the notable additions include AlwaysOn availability groups for high availability and disaster recovery, columnstore indexes for improved query performance, and a new version of SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) with a more intuitive user interface.

5. MS SQL Server 2014:

MS SQL Server 2014 focused on providing enhanced performance, scalability, and security. It introduced the In-Memory OLTP feature, which allowed for faster transaction processing by storing selected tables in memory. It also introduced a new version of SSMS with additional tools and functionalities.

6. MS SQL Server 2016:

MS SQL Server 2016 brought several new features and improvements, including support for JSON data, stretch database functionality for seamless data archiving, and enhanced security capabilities. It also introduced the Query Store, which allowed for easy identification and resolution of performance issues.

7. MS SQL Server 2017:

MS SQL Server 2017 introduced support for Linux operating systems, making it a versatile choice for organizations with mixed technology environments. It also introduced graph database capabilities, adaptive query processing, and automatic tuning to further enhance performance and productivity.

Comparison of MS SQL Server Versions

When choosing the right version of MS SQL Server for your needs, it's essential to consider your specific requirements and the features offered by each version. Here's a comparison of the different versions:

Version Year Notable Features
MS SQL Server 2000 2000 XML support, improved query optimization, enhanced data replication
MS SQL Server 2005 2005 CLR integration, enhanced security, improved performance
MS SQL Server 2008 2008 Spatial data support, transparent data encryption, policy-based management
MS SQL Server 2012 2012 AlwaysOn availability groups, columnstore indexes, improved SSMS
MS SQL Server 2014 2014 In-Memory OLTP, enhanced performance and security
MS SQL Server 2016 2016 JSON support, stretch database, Query Store
MS SQL Server 2017 2017 Linux support, graph database, adaptive query processing

The Latest Free Version: MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition

Microsoft SQL Server 2019 Express Edition is the latest free version of MS SQL Server. It provides a powerful and feature-rich database management system for small-scale applications and development purposes. Here are some key features of MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition:

1. Limitations:

MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition has certain limitations compared to the paid versions. It supports a maximum database size of 10 GB and can utilize a maximum of 1 GB of memory per instance. It also supports a maximum of four processor cores.

2. Features:

Despite its limitations, MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition offers several essential features. It includes the core database engine, which provides support for relational databases, spatial data, and full-text search. It also includes the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) for easy database administration and development.

3. Availability:

MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition is available as a free download from the Microsoft website. It can be installed on Windows, Linux, and Docker containers, providing flexibility for different environments.

4. Use Cases:

MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition is suitable for small-scale applications, development environments, and scenarios where the database size and resource requirements are limited. It can be used for personal projects, small business applications, and learning purposes.

5. Scalability Options:

If your needs grow beyond the limitations of MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition, Microsoft offers various paid editions of SQL Server, such as Standard, Enterprise, and Azure SQL Database, which provide higher scalability, performance, and advanced features.


Microsoft SQL Server has evolved over the years, offering a wide range of versions with enhanced features and capabilities. Each version caters to different needs and requirements, allowing organizations to choose the one that best suits their specific use cases.

For those looking for a free option, MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition provides a solid platform for small-scale applications and development purposes. It offers essential features and can be easily downloaded and installed on various operating systems.

However, it's important to consider the limitations of the free version and evaluate your scalability needs. If your requirements grow, upgrading to a paid version of MS SQL Server may be necessary to unlock additional features, scalability options, and performance enhancements.

Ultimately, the choice of the MS SQL Server version depends on the specific needs of your organization and the resources available. Whether you opt for a paid version or the free MS SQL Server 2019 Express Edition, Microsoft SQL Server remains a reliable and powerful database management system.