Learn SQL Server



“How do I start learn SQL Server?”  That is the most popular question I’m asked.  Many people just don’t know where to start.  I understand!

SQL is a simple enough language to write basic queries, but putting together all the pieces to get started isn’t straight forward.

So, if you’re looking to get started learning SQL Server, you’re in this right place.  In this article, I’ll make some recommendations that make getting started much easier.

What You’ll Need to Learn SQL Server

To learn SQL there are several tools and guides you’ll want to have ready and available on your computer.  They include:

  1. SQL Server
  2. SQL Server Management Studio to run queries
  3. Sample Databases for examples
  4. Study Guide to know which topics to learn and in what order.
  5. User Community for support and to help answer your questions.

All of these items are readily available on the Internet at no cost!  In subsequent section I’ll show you where to get each so that you’re ready to start learning.


SQL Server

Though you can get download and install Microsoft SQL Server 2019 Developer Edition through other means, I would a highly encourage you to join the Visual Studio Dev Essentials site.

Once you have created an account, you’ll have access to Microsoft SQL Server 2019 Developer Edition as well as other free Microsoft resources.

You can get your hands-on SQL Server here.

Learn SQL Server - Dev Essentials

Before you install the software make sure your computer is ready.  All the following should be checked before you start:

  • Confirm you are running Windows 10 or greater.
  • Make sure you have administrative privilege on your account.
  • Install the latest security updates and patches. These typically occur automatically.  If you have pending updates, install them now.

SQL Server Management Studio

I would recommend downloading and installing SSMS version 18.  You can get the free download here.

Once you have it install you can use it to connect to SQL Server.  You’ll use SSMS to add or create databases as well as write queries and review their results.

To write queries, you need to know what tables and columns are available in your databases.  When using SSMS (SQL Server Management Studio) you can simply expand the database’s tables folder to list all the tables found in your database.

Learn SQL Server - Object Explorer

Once you find a table you would like to know more about, simply click on the table name to expand it, and then the columns folder to list all the columns.   You’ll use SSMS to do this a more!  It’s an invaluable tool and good to know.

Sample Databases

I would recommend that you download and install both the AdventureWorks 2016 and Wide World Importers database.

You can download Adventure Works here, and get a copy of Wide World Importers here.

Learn SQL Server - Wide World Importers

Once you have downloaded and restored the databases you’ll be able to follow the examples I and others have provided to see how the queries work.  In fact, now that you these items in place, I would recommend you visit my Getting Started page to start to learn SQL Server!

Study Guide

Knowing what to study and in what order is key.  SQL can get complicated, but it doesn’t need to be so.  If you start with the basics and build new concepts upon what you already know, it isn’t so tough to get to know SQL and master it.

I’ve put together a Getting Started page that organizes my articles into topics and presents them in an order that makes it easier to learn.

If you’re interested in earning your 70-761 certification, then I would encourage you to look at the 70-761 Study Guide.  It details the topics covered on the exam, and links back to articles that cover those topics.


Join the Essential SQL Learning Group.  There is no reason to go it alone.

It is so much easier to learn SQL if you have a group of people you can go to get answers to vexing questions.

This is a private group, so you’ll be sure your comments and questions are treated with respect.

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