SQL Server Express Size Limit

My Pluralsight course for new SQL Server DBAs


(Needs to upgrade to a bigger bowl)

Common scenario:

Company is using SQL Server Express to save on licensing costs for a small database. Over time this database grows and is getting close to the hard 10GB limit.

I just got off the phone with a client and their client is in this situation. During the conversation, she mentioned that the DB has information for four “regions.”

They already have a purge process in place, and compression is not an Express Edition feature.

Options I gave:

  • Decrease the retention (her client already said no to this)
  • Split the data into 4 databases – 1 for each region
    • Might require some re-work of applications and connection strings
  • Install a second Express instance and split the data between them
    • Easier on their app
  • Convince the end customer to buy SQL Standard (1% chance this is going to happen)
  • Buy Standard Edition for them and eat/split the cost to keep a huge customer happy
  • Move to a different platform (nope…all SQL Server shop)
  • I saw a blog post that you can bypass 10GB by using the Master database instead
    • That’s the worst idea I’ve ever read. If you do that, never call me. 🙂

If you have other legitimate things I should add to this list that Microsoft will support, please share in the comments.


If your data is important, buy the proper version for your needs.  Maybe that’s Standard, maybe an Azure VM and spread out the SQL licensing over many months. But don’t do crazy things to try to get around the limits.

Thanks for reading!


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