Transact-SQL Debugger for SQL Server 2008 – Part 1

In my next series of blog posts, I’ll explore the Transact-SQL Debugger for SQL Server 2008. This feature only works against database instances of SQL Server 2008. If you need to use a debugger for SQL Server 2005, you’ll have to use the Visual Studio Professional SKU or better. Please refer to the MSDN topic on How to: Enable SQL Server 2005 Debugging.

This series will cover:

  1. Basic debugging
  2. Configure remote debugging & best practices
  3. Debugging triggers and stored procedures with breakpoints

The Transact-SQL debugger in SQL Server Management Studio enables you to find errors in Transact-SQL scripts, stored procedures, triggers, and functions by observing their run-time behavior. You can start the debugger when you are using the Database Engine Query Editor window. By using the Transact-SQL debugger, you can do the following:

  • Step through the Transact-SQL statements in the editor line by line, or set breakpoints to stop at specific lines.
  • Step into or over Transact-SQL stored procedures, functions, or triggers that are run by the code in the editor window.
  • Watch the values that are assigned to variables, and observe system objects such as the call stack and threads.

The examples that I’m going to show are based on the SQL Server 2005 version of AdventureWorks that can be downloaded here. My demo for this post assumes that SSMS in debugging and instance on the same machine. I’ll cover remote debugging in Part 2. If you need to deal with remote debugging and can’t wait – check out the help topic on Configuring and Starting the Transact-SQL Debugger.

To kick things off, open the script file that you want to debug and then click on the green debug toolbar button or press [ALT]-[F5].

Debugging01 - Start debugging

SSMS launches into a Debugging session by clearing aside may of your tool windows, opens the debugger specific tool windows and debugger toolbar, and displays a Yellow arrow indicating the next statement to execute.

Debugging02 - Debugger Launched

To step through statements like two set statements in this example, press the F11 key twice. You’ll notice that the Locals is now populated with the two variables.

Debugging03 - Variables in Locals window

The next F11 action then steps into the stored procedure. If you press the Step-Over [F10], you would go right over the stored procedure and in this case – end the debugging session.

The debugger opens a special editor window for the stored procedure that you just stepped into along with hints that you don’t really want to make edits to this file.

Debugging04 - Stepping into an SP

The other thing you’ll notice is the Locals window now shows the value for the SP parameters and the Call Stack window is updated to show that you are now in the SP.

Debugging05 - Locals and Call Stack

The Locals window allows you to edit values so that you can change scenarios inside of the debug session. You can use the mouse or the [CTRL]+[ALT]+[V], [L] command to navigate to the Locals window. This is a little different pattern of calling up debugger windows like [CTRL]+[ALT]+[C] for the Call Stack window because [CTRL]+[ALT]+[L] was already taken for displaying the Solution Explorer.  Back to the task – now double click on the value 819 for @StartProductId and then type in 820 and press [ENTER].  You’ll see that the value changes color to Red meaning it’s been modified.

Debugging06 - Changing a local value

We could continue to step thru the procedure, but since this procedure only has one more command, we can press the Step Out [SHIFT]+[F11] command to complete execution in the stored procedure.

If you had additional statements in the original script DebugSPExample.sql script like this:

Debugging07 - More statements

The debugger would set focus to the editor window and indicate in the status bar “Debugging query” to remind you that you are still debugging.

Debugging07 - Still debugging

If you press [ALT]+[F5], you would complete the debugging session for this demo.

Here are the keystrokes for the debugger with the Standard keyboard setting.



Start or continue debugging


Stop debugging


Step into


Step over


Step out


Implement the Run To Cursor command


Display the QuickWatch dialog box


Toggle breakpoint


Delete all breakpoints


Display the Breakpoints window


Break all


Display the Watch 1 window


Display the Watch 2 window


Display the Watch 3 window


Display the Watch 4 window


Display the Autos window


Display the Locals window


Display the Immediate window


Display the Call Stack window


Display the Threads window


That’s it for debugging basics for part 1.

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