Transparent Data Encryption (TDE)

APPLIES TO: yesSQL Server yesAzure SQL Database yesAzure Synapse Analytics (SQL DW) yesParallel Data Warehouse

Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) encrypts SQL Server, Azure SQL Database, and Azure Synapse Analytics (SQL DW) data files, known as encrypting data at rest. You can take several precautions to help secure the database such as designing a secure system, encrypting confidential assets, and building a firewall around the database servers. However, in a scenario where the physical media (such as drives or backup tapes) are stolen, a malicious party can just restore or attach the database and browse the data. One solution is to encrypt the sensitive data in the database and protect the keys that are used to encrypt the data with a certificate. This prevents anyone without the keys from using the data, but this kind of protection must be planned in advance.

TDE performs real-time I/O encryption and decryption of the data and log files. The encryption uses a database encryption key (DEK), which is stored in the database boot record for availability during recovery. The DEK is a symmetric key secured by using a certificate stored in the master database of the server or an asymmetric key protected by an EKM module. TDE protects data "at rest", meaning the data and log files. It provides the ability to comply with many laws, regulations, and guidelines established in various industries. This enables software developers to encrypt data by using AES and 3DES encryption algorithms without changing existing applications.

About TDE

Encryption of the database file is performed at the page level. The pages in an encrypted database are encrypted before they are written to disk and decrypted when read into memory. TDE does not increase the size of the encrypted database.

Information applicable to SQL Database

When using TDE with SQL Database V12, the server-level certificate stored in the master database is automatically created for you by SQL Database. To move a TDE database on SQL Database, you do not have to decrypt the database for the move operation. For more information on utilizing TDE with SQL Database, see Transparent Data Encryption with Azure SQL Database.

Information applicable to SQL Server

After it is secured, the database can be restored by using the correct certificate. For more information about certificates, see SQL Server Certificates and Asymmetric Keys.

When enabling TDE, you should immediately back up the certificate and the private key associated with the certificate. If the certificate ever becomes unavailable or if you must restore or attach the database on another server, you must have backups of both the certificate and the private key or you will not be able to open the database. The encrypting certificate should be retained even if TDE is no longer enabled on the database. Even though the database is not encrypted, parts of the transaction log may still remain protected, and the certificate may be needed for some operations until the full backup of the database is performed. A certificate that has exceeded its expiration date can still be used to encrypt and decrypt data with TDE.

Encryption Hierarchy

The following illustration shows the architecture of TDE encryption. Only the database level items (the database encryption key and ALTER DATABASE portions are user-configurable when using TDE on SQL Database.

Displays the hierarchy described in the topic.

Using Transparent Data Encryption

To use TDE, follow these steps.

Applies to: SQL Server.

  • Create a master key

  • Create or obtain a certificate protected by the master key

  • Create a database encryption key and protect it by the certificate

  • Set the database to use encryption

The following example illustrates encrypting and decrypting the AdventureWorks2012 database using a certificate installed on the server named MyServerCert.

USE master;  
USE AdventureWorks2012;  
ALTER DATABASE AdventureWorks2012  

The encryption and decryption operations are scheduled on background threads by SQL Server. You can view the status of these operations using the catalog views and dynamic management views in the list that appears later in this topic.


Backup files of databases that have TDE enabled are also encrypted by using the database encryption key. As a result, when you restore these backups, the certificate protecting the database encryption key must be available. This means that in addition to backing up the database, you have to make sure that you maintain backups of the server certificates to prevent data loss. Data loss will result if the certificate is no longer available. For more information, see SQL Server Certificates and Asymmetric Keys.

Commands and Functions

The TDE certificates must be encrypted by the database master key to be accepted by the following statements. If they're encrypted by password only, the statements will reject them as encryptors.


Altering the certificates to be password-protected after they are used by TDE will cause the database to become inaccessible after a restart.

The following table provides links and explanations of TDE commands and functions.

Command or function Purpose
CREATE DATABASE ENCRYPTION KEY (Transact-SQL) Creates a key that is used to encrypt a database.
ALTER DATABASE ENCRYPTION KEY (Transact-SQL) Changes the key that is used to encrypt a database.
DROP DATABASE ENCRYPTION KEY (Transact-SQL) Removes the key that was used to encrypt a database.
ALTER DATABASE SET Options (Transact-SQL) Explains the ALTER DATABASE option that is used to enable TDE.

Catalog Views and Dynamic Management Views

The following table shows TDE catalog views and dynamic management views.

Catalog view or dynamic management view Purpose
sys.databases (Transact-SQL) Catalog view that displays database information.
sys.certificates (Transact-SQL) Catalog view that shows the certificates in a database.
sys.dm_database_encryption_keys (Transact-SQL) Dynamic management view that provides information about the encryption keys used in a database, and the state of encryption of a database.


Each TDE feature and command has individual permission requirements, described in the tables shown earlier.

Viewing the metadata involved with TDE requires the VIEW DEFINITION permission on the certificate.


While a re-encryption scan for a database encryption operation is in progress, maintenance operations to the database are disabled. You can use the single user mode setting for the database to perform the maintenance operation. For more information, see Set a Database to Single-user Mode.

You can find the state of the database encryption using the sys.dm_database_encryption_keys dynamic management view. For more information, see the "Catalog Views and Dynamic Management Views"section earlier in this topic).

In TDE, all files and filegroups in the database are encrypted. If any filegroups in a database are marked READ ONLY, the database encryption operation will fail.

If a database is being used in database mirroring or log shipping, both databases will be encrypted. The log transactions will be encrypted when sent between them.


Full-text indexes will be encrypted when a database is set for encryption. Full-text indexes created prior to SQL Server 2008 will be imported into the database during upgrade to SQL Server 2008 or greater and they will be encrypted by TDE.


To monitor changes in the TDE status of a database, use SQL Server Audit or SQL Database Auditing. For SQL Server, TDE is tracked under the audit action group DATABASE_CHANGE_GROUP which can be found in SQL Server Audit Action Groups and Actions.


The following operations are not allowed during initial database encryption, key change, or database decryption:

  • Dropping a file from a filegroup in the database

  • Dropping the database

  • Taking the database offline

  • Detaching a database

  • Transitioning a database or filegroup into a READ ONLY state


  • Dropping a file from a filegroup in the database.

  • Dropping the database.

  • Taking the database offline.

  • Detaching a database.

  • Transitioning a database or filegroup into a READ ONLY state.

  • Using an ALTER DATABASE command.

  • Starting a database or database file backup.

  • Starting a database or database file restore.

  • Creating a snapshot.


  • The database is read-only or has any read-only file groups.

  • An ALTER DATABASE command is executing.

  • Any data backup is running.

  • The database is in an offline or restore condition.

  • A snapshot is in progress.

  • Database maintenance tasks.

When creating database files, instant file initialization is not available when TDE is enabled.

In order to encrypt the database encryption key with an asymmetric key, the asymmetric key must reside on an extensible key management provider.

Transparent Data Encryption and Transaction Logs

Enabling a database to use TDE has the effect of "zeroing out" the remaining part of the virtual transaction log to force the next virtual transaction log. This guarantees that no clear text is left in the transaction logs after the database is set for encryption. You can find the status of the log file encryption by viewing the encryption_state column in the sys.dm_database_encryption_keys view, as in this example:

USE AdventureWorks2012;  
/* The value 3 represents an encrypted state   
   on the database and transaction logs. */  
FROM sys.dm_database_encryption_keys  
WHERE encryption_state = 3;  

For more information about the SQL Server log file architecture, see The Transaction Log (SQL Server).

All data written to the transaction log before a change in the database encryption key will be encrypted by using the previous database encryption key.

After a database encryption key has been modified twice, a log backup must be performed before the database encryption key can be modified again.

Transparent Data Encryption and the tempdb System Database

The tempdb system database will be encrypted if any other database on the instance of SQL Server is encrypted by using TDE. This might have a performance effect for unencrypted databases on the same instance of SQL Server. For more information about the tempdb system database, see tempdb Database.

Transparent Data Encryption and Replication

Replication does not automatically replicate data from a TDE-enabled database in an encrypted form. You must separately enable TDE if you want to protect the distribution and subscriber databases. Snapshot replication, as well as the initial distribution of data for transactional and merge replication, can store data in unencrypted intermediate files; for example, the bcp files. During transactional or merge replication, encryption can be enabled to protect the communication channel. For more information, see Enable Encrypted Connections to the Database Engine (SQL Server Configuration Manager).

Transparent Data Encryption and FILESTREAM DATA

FILESTREAM data is not encrypted even when TDE is enabled.

Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) scan

In order to enable Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) on a database, SQL Server must perform an encryption scan that reads each page from the data file(s) into the buffer pool, and then writes the encrypted pages back out to disk. To provide the user with more control over the encryption scan, SQL Server 2019 (15.x) introduces TDE scan - suspend and resume syntax so that you can pause the scan while the workload on the system is heavy, or during business-critical hours, and then resume the scan later.

Use the following syntax to pause the TDE encryption scan:


Similarly, the following syntax resumes the TDE encryption scan:


To show the current state of the encryption scan, encryption_scan_state has been added to the sys.dm_database_encryption_keys dynamic management view. There is also a new column called encryption_scan_modify_date which will contain the date and time of the last encryption scan state change. Also note that if the SQL Server instance is restarted while the encryption scan is in a suspended state, a message will be logged in the error log on startup indicating that there is an existing scan that has been paused.

Transparent Data Encryption and Buffer Pool Extension

Files related to buffer pool extension (BPE) are not encrypted when database is encrypted using TDE. You must use file system level encryption tools like BitLocker or EFS for BPE related files.

Transparent Data Encryption and In-Memory OLTP

TDE can be enabled on a database that has In-Memory OLTP objects. In SQL Server 2016 (13.x) and Azure SQL Database In-Memory OLTP log records and data are encrypted if TDE is enabled. In SQL Server 2014 (12.x) In-Memory OLTP log records are encrypted if TDE is enabled, but files in the MEMORY_OPTIMIZED_DATA filegroup are not encrypted.

Move a TDE Protected Database to Another SQL Server
Enable TDE on SQL Server Using EKM
Extensible Key Management Using Azure Key Vault (SQL Server)

Transparent Data Encryption with Azure SQL Database
Get started with Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) on SQL Data Warehouse
SQL Server Encryption
SQL Server and Database Encryption Keys (Database Engine)

See Also

Security Center for SQL Server Database Engine and Azure SQL Database