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As a student, I get Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 for free through MSDNAA. I installed it, but I seem to be at a loss for how to use it to test database queries, and how to construct a database with it.

Is this the wrong software for simple database construction and testing?

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It may not be wrong, but it certainly isn't the easiest just for basic testing and practice. Have you looked into sqlite? It is very quick just to practice and test queries on. Is there a reason that you require SQL Server, or did you choose it just because it was freely available? – MaQleod Aug 31 '11 at 15:48
Freely available, and seemed like a good tool to learn :) I've used sqlite in the past. But I can't seem to even get to any database creation with SQL Server? – water Aug 31 '11 at 16:17
What have you tried? what exact step/statement? can you post some examples of what is going on? If we can see what you are doing and the errors or messages you are getting back, it would be easier to help you out. – MaQleod Aug 31 '11 at 16:20
If you want simple and freely available (no inconvenient licensing restrictions like a maximum number of users, etc.), I strongly recommend you also consider (which is very capable, and also performs very quickly even under a heavy load while also ensuring data integrity -- it rivals the big ones like DB2 and Oracle in my opinion). I'm using PostgreSQL in a commercial context, as are some of my clients, and it's been wonderful (it's also well supported by a very strong and friendly community). – Randolf Richardson Aug 31 '11 at 17:47
@water: If any of these answers have been helpful, please check the grey check mark to the left of the most useful question to award the best answer with the "Correct Answer" mark. Thank you. – RLH Sep 1 '11 at 15:08

I recommend using Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio Express (or SSMS, for short.) SSMS, allows you to manage your server and your databases, as well as write scripts that you can execute against your databases. It's a necessary tool if you are going to used SQL Server.

You may already have the installer on your install disk. Alternatively, it can be downloaded from here.

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Completely agree. Also, you can connect the Access client to a SQL database once you've got that database up and running, and then use that for building and executing queries and the like. – music2myear Aug 31 '11 at 17:22
@m2my: Good call. In fact, I use access practically every single day to manage my SQL Server data. I completely forgot to mention that. – RLH Aug 31 '11 at 17:50
This is by far the best answer here. I personally recommend beginners start with the SQL Server Express instance as well. – surfasb Sep 1 '11 at 0:16
If OP already has SQL Server, then the full version of Management Studio should already be installed. It's not a separate download like with the Express versions. – Joe Internet Sep 1 '11 at 2:25
@Joe. Not entirely true. SQL Server doesn't always install SSMS. It's been a while since I last installed SQL Server but I seem to recall the need to having to specify the installation for SSMS. – RLH Sep 1 '11 at 15:06

Sql Server 2008 R2 is a database server. There's not an actual database there yet out of the box, just a server that can potentially host a database or three. To actually run queries against on the server, there are a few things you first need to do:

  • Install database client/management software like Sql Server Management Studio as mentioned in another example.
  • Sql Server installs locked down by default for security reasons. Use the Surface Area tool to make sure it will actually accept a connection request.
  • Connect to the server using the management tool from the first step and create an administrative user named something other than sa, that you will use for working with the db.
  • Create a database. Right now all you have is a database server. It's not actually serving up any databases yet.
  • Add data to your database.
  • Now you can finally start running queries on it.
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There are somewhat simpler databases out there, but there is nothing wrong with using R2 as a database learning system. Make sure that as part of the installation, you also installed Management Studio at the least and Business Intelligence Studio if you want to get into some more in depth work. From there, you will need to start with some tutorials. There are any number of them on the web but you could start with a couple like these on Tizag and Youtube

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I'm not sure that there are "easier" databases to use... Management Studio let's you do most config / querying via the mouse. Other similar-class RDBMS allow the same. OSS databases tend to vary in ease of use based on the features of the client interface. – Joe Internet Sep 1 '11 at 2:28

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