Importing and Exporting Bulk Data by Using the bcp Utility

This topic provides an overview for using the bcp utility to export data from anywhere in a SQL Server database where a SELECT statement works, including partitioned views.

The bcp utility (Bcp.exe) is a command-line tool that uses the Bulk Copy Program (BCP) API. The bcp utility performs the following tasks:

  • Bulk exports data from a SQL Server table into a data file.
  • Bulk exports data from a query.
  • Bulk imports data from a data file into a SQL Server table.
  • Generates format files.

The bcp utility is accessed by the bcp command. To use the bcp command to bulk import data, you must understand the schema of the table and the data types of its columns, unless you are using a pre-existing format file.

The bcp utility can export data from a SQL Server table to a data file for use in other programs. The utility can also import data into a SQL Server table from another program, usually another database management system (DBMS). The data is first exported from the source program to a data file and then, in a separate operation, copied from the data file into a SQL Server table.

The bcp command provides switches that you use to specify the data type of the data file and other information. If these switches are not specified, the command prompts for formatting information, such as the type of data fields in a data file. The command then asks whether you want to create a format file that contains your interactive responses. If you want flexibility for future bulk-import or bulk-export operations, a format file is often useful. You can specify the format file on later bcp commands for equivalent data files. For more information, see Specifying Data Formats for Compatibility by Using bcp.


Starting with Microsoft SQL Server version 7.0, the bcp utility is written by using the ODBC bulk-copy API. Earlier versions of bcp were written by using the DB-Library bulk copy API.

For a description of the bcp syntax, see bcp Utility.


For bcp examples, see:

See Also


Basic Guidelines for Bulk Importing Data
Importing and Exporting Bulk Data
Creating a Format File

Other Resources

INSERT (Transact-SQL)
SELECT Clause (Transact-SQL)
bcp Utility

Help and Information

Getting SQL Server 2005 Assistance

Change History

Release History

17 July 2006

New content:
  • Added the "Additional Examples" section.