osql Utility

The osql utility allows you to enter Transact-SQL statements, system procedures, and script files. This utility uses ODBC to communicate with the server.


This feature will be removed in a future version of SQL Server. Avoid using this feature in new development work, and plan to modify applications that currently use the feature. Use sqlcmd instead. For more information, see sqlcmd Utility.


[-?] |  
[-L] |  
     {-Ulogin_id [-Ppassword]} | –E }  
     [-Sserver_name[\instance_name]] [-Hwksta_name] [-ddb_name]  
     [-ltime_out] [-ttime_out] [-hheaders]  
     [-scol_separator] [-wcolumn_width] [-apacket_size]  
     [-e] [-I] [-D data_source_name]  
     [-ccmd_end] [-q "query"] [-Q"query"]  
     [-n] [-merror_level] [-r {0 | 1}]  
     [-iinput_file] [-ooutput_file] [-p]  
     [-b] [-u] [-R] [-O]  


Displays the syntax summary of osql switches.

Lists the locally configured servers and the names of the servers broadcasting on the network.


Due to the nature of broadcasting on networks, osql may not receive a timely response from all servers. Therefore the list of servers returned may vary for each invocation of this option.

-U login_id
Is the user login ID. Login IDs are case-sensitive.

-P password
Is a user-specified password. If the -P option is not used, osql prompts for a password. If the -P option is used at the end of the command prompt without any password, osql uses the default password (NULL).


Do not use a blank password. Use a strong password. For more information, see Strong Passwords.

Passwords are case-sensitive.

The OSQLPASSWORD environment variable allows you to set a default password for the current session. Therefore, you do not have to hard code a password into batch files.

If you do not specify a password with the -P option, osql first checks for the OSQLPASSWORD variable. If no value is set, osql uses the default password, NULL. The following example sets the OSQLPASSWORD variable at a command prompt and then accesses the osql utility:

C:\>SET OSQLPASSWORD=abracadabra  

To mask your password, do not specify the -P option along with the -U option. Instead, after specifying osql along with the -U option and other switches (do not specify -P), press ENTER, and osql will prompt you for a password. This method ensures that your password will be masked when it is entered.

Uses a trusted connection instead of requesting a password.

-S server_name[ \instance_name]
Specifies the instance of SQL Server to connect to. Specify server_name to connect to the default instance of SQL Server on that server. Specify server_name\instance_name to connect to a named instance of SQL Server on that server. If no server is specified, osql connects to the default instance of SQL Server on the local computer. This option is required when executing osql from a remote computer on the network.

-H wksta_name
Is a workstation name. The workstation name is stored in sysprocesses.hostname and is displayed by sp_who. If this option is not specified, the current computer name is assumed.

-d db_name
Issues a USE db_name statement when osqlis started.

-l time_out
Specifies the number of seconds before an osql login times out. The default time-out for login to osql is eight seconds.

-t time_out
Specifies the number of seconds before a command times out. If a time_out value is not specified, commands do not time out.

-h headers
Specifies the number of rows to print between column headings. The default is to print headings one time for each set of query results. Use -1 to specify that no headers will be printed. If –1 is used, there must be no space between the parameter and the setting (-h-1, not -h -1).

-s col_separator
Specifies the column-separator character, which is a blank space by default. To use characters that have special meaning to the operating system (for example, | ; & < >), enclose the character in double quotation marks (").

-w column_width
Allows the user to set the screen width for output. The default is 80 characters. When an output line has reached its maximum screen width, it is broken into multiple lines.

-a packet_size
Allows you to request a different-sized packet. The valid values for packet_size are 512 through 65535. The default value osql is the server default. Increased packet size can enhance performance on larger script execution where the amount of SQL statements between GO commands is substantial. Microsoft testing indicates that 8192 is typically the fastest setting for bulk copy operations. A larger packet size can be requested, but osql defaults to the server default if the request cannot be granted.

Echoes input.

Sets the QUOTED_IDENTIFIER connection option on.

-D data_source_name
Connects to an ODBC data source that is defined using the ODBC driver for SQL Server. The osql connection uses the options specified in the data source.


This option does not work with data sources defined for other drivers.

-c cmd_end
Specifies the command terminator. By default, commands are terminated and sent to SQL Server by entering GO on a line by itself. When you reset the command terminator, do not use Transact-SQL reserved words or characters that have special meaning to the operating system, whether preceded by a backslash or not.

-q " query "
Executes a query when osql starts, but does not exit osql when the query completes. (Note that the query statement should not include GO). If you issue a query from a batch file, use %variables, or environment %variables%. For example:

SET table=sys.objects  
osql -E -q "select name, object_id from %table%"  

Use double quotation marks around the query and single quotation marks around anything embedded in the query.

-Q" query "
Executes a query and immediately exits osql. Use double quotation marks around the query and single quotation marks around anything embedded in the query.

Removes numbering and the prompt symbol (>) from input lines.

-m error_level
Customizes the display of error messages. The message number, state, and error level are displayed for errors of the specified severity level or higher. Nothing is displayed for errors of levels lower than the specified level. Use -1 to specify that all headers are returned with messages, even informational messages. If using -1, there must be no space between the parameter and the setting (-m-1, not -m -1).

-r { 0| 1}
Redirects message output to the screen (stderr). If you do not specify a parameter, or if you specify 0, only error messages with a severity level 11 or higher are redirected. If you specify 1, all message output (including "print") is redirected.

-i input_file
Identifies the file that contains a batch of SQL statements or stored procedures. The less than (<) comparison operator can be used in place of -i.

-o output_file
Identifies the file that receives output from osql. The greater than (>) comparison operator can be used in place of -o.

If input_file is not Unicode and -u is not specified, output_file is stored in OEM format. If input_file is Unicode or -u is specified, output_file is stored in Unicode format.

Prints performance statistics.

Specifies that osql exits and returns a DOS ERRORLEVEL value when an error occurs. The value returned to the DOS ERRORLEVEL variable is 1 when the SQL Server error message has a severity of 11 or greater; otherwise, the value returned is 0. Microsoft MS-DOS batch files can test the value of DOS ERRORLEVEL and handle the error appropriately.

Specifies that output_file is stored in Unicode format, regardless of the format of the input_file.

Specifies that the SQL Server ODBC driver use client settings when converting currency, date, and time data to character data.

Specifies that certain osql features be deactivated to match the behavior of earlier versions of isql. These features are deactivated:

  • EOF batch processing

  • Automatic console width scaling

  • Wide messages

    It also sets the default DOS ERRORLEVEL value to -1.


The -n, -O and -D options are no longer supported by osql.


The osql utility is started directly from the operating system with the case-sensitive options listed here. After osqlstarts, it accepts SQL statements and sends them to SQL Server interactively. The results are formatted and displayed on the screen (stdout). Use QUIT or EXIT to exit from osql.

If you do not specify a user name when you start osql, SQL Server checks for the environment variables and uses those, for example, osqluser=(user) or osqlserver=(server). If no environment variables are set, the workstation user name is used. If you do not specify a server, the name of the workstation is used.

If neither the -U or -P options are used, SQL Server attempts to connect using Microsoft Windows Authentication Mode. Authentication is based on the Microsoft Windows account of the user running osql.

The osql utility uses the ODBC API. The utility uses the SQL Server ODBC driver default settings for the SQL Server ISO connection options. For more information, see Effects of ANSI Options.


The osql utility does not support CLR user-defined data types. To process these data types, you must use the sqlcmd utility. For more information, see sqlcmd Utility.

OSQL Commands

In addition to Transact-SQL statements within osql, these commands are also available.

Command Description
GO Executes all statements entered after the last GO.
RESET Clears any statements you have entered.
QUIT or EXIT( ) Exits from osql.
CTRL+C Ends a query without exiting from osql.

The !! and ED commands are no longer supported by osql.

The command terminators GO (by default), RESET EXIT, QUIT, and CTRL+C, are recognized only if they appear at the beginning of a line, immediately following the osql prompt.

GO signals both the end of a batch and the execution of any cached Transact-SQL statements. When you press ENTER at the end of each input line, osql caches the statements on that line. When you press ENTER after typing GO, all of the currently cached statements are sent as a batch to SQL Server.

The current osql utility works as if there is an implied GO at the end of any script executed, therefore all statements in the script execute.

End a command by typing a line beginning with a command terminator. You can follow the command terminator with an integer to specify how many times the command should be run. For example, to execute this command 100 times, type:

SELECT x = 1  
GO 100  

The results are printed once at the end of execution. osql does not accept more than 1,000 characters per line. Large statements should be spread across multiple lines.

The command recall facilities of Windows can be used to recall and modify osql statements. The existing query buffer can be cleared by typing RESET.

When running stored procedures, osql prints a blank line between each set of results in a batch. In addition, the "0 rows affected" message does not appear when it does not apply to the statement executed.

Using osql Interactively

To use osql interactively, type the osql command (and any of the options) at a command prompt.

You can read in a file containing a query (such as Stores.qry) for execution by osql by typing a command similar to this:

osql -E -i stores.qry  

You can read in a file containing a query (such as Titles.qry) and direct the results to another file by typing a command similar to this:

osql -E -i titles.qry -o titles.res  

When possible, use the -Eoption (trusted connection).

When using osql interactively, you can read an operating-system file into the command buffer with :rfile_name. This sends the SQL script in file_name directly to the server as a single batch.


When using osql, SQL Server treats the batch separator GO, if it appears in a SQL script file, as a syntax error.

Inserting Comments

You can include comments in a Transact-SQL statement submitted to SQL Server by osql. Two types of commenting styles are allowed: -- and /...\/.

Using EXIT to Return Results in osql

You can use the result of a SELECT statement as the return value from osql. If it is numeric, the last column of the last result row is converted to a 4-byte integer (long). MS-DOS passes the low byte to the parent process or operating system error level. Windows passes the entire 4-byte integer. The syntax is:

EXIT ( < query > )  

For example:


You can also include the EXIT parameter as part of a batch file. For example:

osql -E -Q "EXIT(SELECT COUNT(*) FROM '%1')"  

The osql utility passes everything between the parentheses () to the server exactly as entered. If a stored system procedure selects a set and returns a value, only the selection is returned. The EXIT() statement with nothing between the parentheses executes everything preceding it in the batch and then exits with no return value.

There are four EXIT formats:

  • EXIT

Does not execute the batch; quits immediately and returns no value.

  • EXIT()

Executes the batch, and then quits and returns no value.

  • EXIT(query)

Executes the batch, including the query, and then quits after returning the results of the query.

  • RAISERROR with a state of 127

If RAISERROR is used within an osql script and a state of 127 is raised, osql will quit and return the message ID back to the client. For example:

RAISERROR(50001, 10, 127)  

This error will cause the osql script to end and the message ID 50001 will be returned to the client.

The return values -1 to -99 are reserved by SQL Server; osql defines these values:

  • -100

    Error encountered prior to selecting return value.

  • -101

    No rows found when selecting return value.

  • -102

    Conversion error occurred when selecting return value.

Displaying money and smallmoney Data Types

osql displays the money and smallmoney data types with two decimal places although SQL Server stores the value internally with four decimal places. Consider the example:

SELECT CAST(CAST(10.3496 AS money) AS decimal(6, 4))  

This statement produces a result of 10.3496, which indicates that the value is stored with all decimal places intact.

See Also

Comment (MDX)
-- (Comment) (MDX)
CAST and CONVERT (Transact-SQL)