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Article ID: 243589 - Last Review: June 22, 2014 - Revision: 6.0

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Summary

This article describes how to handle a performance issue that applications may experience in conjunction with Microsoft SQL Server: slow performance of a specific query or group of queries. If you are troubleshooting a performance issue, but you have not isolated the problem to a specific query or small group of queries that perform slower than expected, see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base before you continue:
224587  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/224587/ ) HOW TO: Troubleshoot Application Performance with SQL Server
This article is based on the assumption that you have used the article 224587 to narrow down the scope of the problem, and that you have captured a SQL Profiler trace with the specific events and data columns that are detailed in the article 224587.

Tuning database queries can be a multi-faceted endeavor. The following sections discuss common items to examine when you are investigating query performance.

Note If you are using SQL Server 2005, use SQL Server Management Studio instead of SQL Query Analyzer, and use Database Engine Tuning Advisor instead of the Index Tuning Wizard.

Verify the Existence of the Correct Indexes

One of the first checks to perform when you are experiencing slow query execution times is an index analysis. If you are investigating a single query, you can use the Perform Index Analysis option in SQL Query Analyzer; if you have a SQL Profiler trace of a large workload, you can use the Index Tuning Wizard. Both methods use the SQL Server query optimizer to determine which indexes would be helpful for the specified queries. This is a very efficient method for determining whether the correct indexes exist in your database.

For information about how to use the Index Tuning Wizard, see the "Index Tuning Wizard" topic in SQL Server 7.0 Books Online.

If you have upgraded your application from a previous version of SQL Server, different indexes may be more efficient in SQL Server 7.0 because of optimizer and storage engine changes. The Index Tuning Wizard helps you to determine if a change in indexing strategy would improve performance.

For more information about how to use Database Engine Tuning Advisor instead of the Index Tuning Wizard in SQL Server 2005, see the following topics in SQL Server 2005 Books Online:
  • Differences between Database Engine Tuning Advisor and Index Tuning Wizard
  • Database Engine Tuning Advisor tutorial

Remove All Query, Table, and Join Hints

Hints override query optimization and can prevent the query optimizer from choosing the fastest execution plan. Because of optimizer changes, hints that improved performance in earlier versions of SQL Server may have no effect or may actually adversely affect performance in SQL Server 7.0. Additionally, join hints can cause performance degradation based on the following reasons:
  • Join hints prevent an ad hoc query from being eligible for auto-parameterization and caching of the query plan.
  • When you use a join hint, it implies that you want to force the join order for all tables in the query, even if those joins do not explicitly use a hint.
If the query that you are analyzing includes any hints, remove them, and then re-evaluate the performance.

Examine the Execution Plan

After you confirm that the correct indexes exist, and that no hints are restricting the optimizer's ability to generate an efficient plan, you can examine the query execution plan. You can use any of the following methods to view the execution plan for a query:
  • SQL Profiler

    If you captured the MISC:Execution Plan event in SQL Profiler, it will occur immediately before the StmtCompleted event for the query for the particular system process ID (SPID).
  • SQL Query Analyzer: Graphical Showplan

    With the query selected in the query window, click the Query menu, and then click Display Estimated Execution Plan.

    NOTE: If the stored procedure or batch creates and references temporary tables, you must use a SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON statement or explicitly create the temporary tables before you display the execution plan.
  • SHOWPLAN_ALL and SHOWPLAN_TEXT

    To receive a text version of the estimated execution plan, you can use the SET SHOWPLAN_ALL and SET SHOWPLAN_TEXT options. See the "SET SHOWPLAN_ALL (T-SQL)" and "SET SHOWPLAN_TEXT (T-SQL)" topics in SQL Server 7.0 Books Online for more details.

    NOTE: If the stored procedure or batch creates and references temporary tables, you must use the SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON option or explicitly create the temporary tables before displaying the execution plan.
  • STATISTICS PROFILE

    When you are displaying the estimated execution plan, either graphically or by using SHOWPLAN, the query is not actually executed. Therefore, if you create temporary tables in a batch or a stored procedure, you cannot display the estimated execution plans because the temporary tables will not exist. STATISTICS PROFILE executes the query first, and then displays the actual execution plan. See the "SET STATISTICS PROFILE (T-SQL)" topic in SQL Server 7.0 Books Online for more details. When it is running in SQL Query Analyzer, this appears in graphical format on the Execution Plan tab in the results pane.
For more information about how to display the estimated execution plan in SQL Server 2005, see the "How to display the estimated execution plan" topic in SQL Server 2005 Books Online.

Examine the Showplan Output

Showplan output provides a lot of information about the execution plan that SQL Server is using for a particular query. The details of the information and events that are generated are discussed in detail in the "Optimizing Database Performance" chapter of SQL Server 7.0 Books Online. The following are some basic aspects of the execution plan that you can view to determine whether you are using the best plan:
  • Correct Index Usage

    The showplan output displays each table that is involved in the query and the access path that is used to obtain data from it. With graphical showplan, move the pointer over a table to see the details for each table. If an index is in use, you see "Index Seek"; if an index is not in use, you see either "Table Scan" for a heap or "Clustered Index Scan" for a table that has a clustered index. "Clustered Index Scan" indicates that the table is being scanned through the clustered index, not that the clustered index is being used to directly access individual rows.

    If you determine that a useful index exists and it is not being used for the query, you can try forcing the index by using an index hint. See the "FROM (T-SQL)" topic in SQL Server Books Online for more details about index hints.
  • Correct Join Order

    The showplan output indicates in what order tables that are involved in a query are being joined. For nested loop joins, the upper table that is listed is the outer table and it should be the smaller of the two tables. For hash joins, the upper table becomes the build input and should also be the smaller of the two tables. However, note that the order is less critical because the query processor can reverse build and probe inputs at run time if it finds that the optimizer made a wrong decision. You can determine which table returns fewer rows by checking the Row Count estimates in the showplan output.

    If you determine that the query may benefit from a different join order, you can try forcing the join order with a join hint. See the "FROM (T-SQL)" topic in SQL Server 7.0 Books Online for more details about join hints.

    NOTE: Using a join hint in a large query implicitly forces the join order for the other tables in the query as if FORCEPLAN was set.
  • Correct Join Type

    SQL Server uses nested loop, hash, and merge joins. If a slow-performing query is using one join technique over another, you can try forcing a different join type. For example, if a query is using a hash join, you can force a nested loops join by using the LOOP join hint. See the "FROM (T-SQL)" topic in SQL Server 7.0 Books Online for more details on join hints.

    NOTE: Using a join hint in a large query implicitly forces the join type for the other tables in the query as if FORCEPLAN was set.
  • Parallel Execution

    If you are using a multiprocessor computer, you can also investigate whether a parallel plan is in use. If parallelism is in use, you see a PARALLELISM (Gather Streams) event. If a particular query is slow when it is using a parallel plan, you can try forcing a non-parallel plan by using the OPTION (MAXDOP 1) hint. See the "SELECT (T-SQL)" topic in SQL Server 7.0 Books Online for more details.
For more information about how to use Showplan execution plan output in SQL Server 2005, see the following topics in SQL Server 2005 Books Online:
  • How to save an execution plan in XML format
  • XML Showplans
  • Showplan security
CAUTION: Because the query optimizer typically selects the best execution plan for a query, Microsoft recommends that you use join hints, query hints, and table hints only as a last resort, and only if you are an experienced database administrators.

References

The following topics in SQL Server 7.0 Books Online provide information about optimizing queries:
  • "Optimizing Application Performance Using Efficient Data Retrieval"
  • "Query Tuning"
  • "Query Tuning Recommendations"
  • "Transact-SQL Tips"

Applies to
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000 64-bit Edition
  • Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition
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