File Repair

How to Restore a SQL Server Database Backup to an Older Version of SQL Server

Summary: Do you want to restore a database backup taken on a higher version of SQL Server to a lower one? You may fail or get an error while trying to restore the database to a lower SQL version. Read this article to understand why such a situation happens and options to restore the database from a higher version to a lower one. The article also discusses how a SQL database toolkit can come in handy when the database backup you’re trying to restore gets corrupted.

SQL Server doesn’t allow taking a database backup from a higher version and restoring it to a lower version. And, you would likely encounter the following error when trying to downgrade a database to an older version of SQL Server:

restore of database failed

Here, the error message clearly states that the restore of database failed as the backup was from SQL Server version 2008 but was restored on SQL Server 2012 version.

Why Such a Situation Occurs?

Even if the database objects, like tables, stored procedures, views, etc., are compatible with the lower version of SQL Server, restoring the backup taken on a newer SQL Server version will still fail. This happens because of the database changes in each version of SQL Server, such as cumulative updates.

What You Can Do to Restore a Database to an Older SQL Server Version?

You can try restoring a SQL Server 2012 (or other versions) database to an older version of SQL Server (2008 R2 or lower) by following these steps:

Step 1: Generate Scripts in Higher Version of SQL Server

Step 2: Run the SQL Scripts in Lower Version of SQL Server

Let’s discuss both these steps in detail.

Step 1: Generate Scripts in Higher Version of SQL Server

In this step, we will use the ‘Generate Script’ wizard for generating scripts in a higher version of SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). For example, in our case, we will use SQL Server 2012 Management Studio. The detailed steps are as follows:

  • In SQL Server 2018 Management Studio (SSMS), right-click a database, and click Tasks > Generate Scripts.
select generate scripts
  • On the ‘Generate and Publish Scripts’ window, click the ‘Next’ button.
select choose objects
  • On the 'Choose Objects' screen, the 'entire database and all the objects' option is selected by default. Do not change the option, and click the ‘Set Scripting Options’ tab.
select set scripting options
  • On the ‘Set Scripting Options’ screen, click the ‘Advanced’ button. When the ‘Advanced Scripting Options’ dialog box opens, do the following:
    • Choose ‘SQL Server 2008 R2’ (or whatever SQL version you want) from the ‘Script for Server Version’ drop-down list.
    • Set ‘Schema and data’ as the ‘Types of data to script’; this is crucial to generate data for each table.
    • Under the ‘Table/View Options’ section, ensure that the ‘Script Indexes,’ ‘Script Primary Keys,’ and ‘Script Triggers’ are set to ‘True.
open advanced scripting options
  • Click ‘OK’. In the ‘Set Scripting Options’ screen that appears, click ‘Save as script file’ option and rename the script file if you want. Click ‘Next’.
Note: Copy and paste the location where the script file gets stored, as you would need to open it in a lower SQL version. In our case, the location is path ‘C:\Users\charanjeet.kaur\Documents\scriptofBondDB.sql’.
click next to continue
  • Verify your selections from the ‘Summary’ page and then click ‘Next’ to generate the script.
sql script summary
  • Once the scripts get generated successfully, click ‘Finish’ to exit the ‘Generate and Publish Scripts’ wizard.
scripts generated successfully

Before proceeding with the next step, copy and paste the script file to a shared network drive. From the network drive, you can copy the file to the D: drive on which the lower version of SQL Server is installed.

Step 2: Run the SQL Scripts in Lower Version of SQL Server

Here, we will connect to a lower version of SQL Server 2008 R2 (you may choose whatever version you want) and run the SQL script generated in Step 1. After connecting to the server instance, perform these steps:

  • Go to the ‘File’ menu, click Open > File.
open script in lower sql version
  • On the ‘Open File’ dialog box, browse to the location where the SQL Script for version 2012 is saved. Next, select the script file and click ‘Open.
open the sq script file
  • When the script opens, change the .mdf and .ldf files to the default location where the data and log files are saved in SQL Server 2008 R2.
execute sql script

After executing the above script successfully, right-click on ‘Databases’ and select ‘Refresh.’ The ‘BondDB’ will open in the lower version of SQL Server.

Downsides to this method

While the above approach to restore a newer SQL version to an older one might work, it has certain drawbacks:

  • If the higher version of the SQL Server database contains objects that are not supported in a lower version, you won't create those objects. In that case, you will need to review all the generated scripts and manually update the code in each script, which requires significant time and effort.
  • This is not a feasible approach for restoring large (complex) databases to an older SQL Server version.

What Else You Need to Know?

You can upgrade your lower version of SQL Server to the newer SQL version to restore the db from backup without any issues. Also, you can try restoring the backup on SQL Server 2012, export all the data, and then import it on a lower version of the SQL Server 2008R2 database.

When trying to restore a database backup, you might find that the backup is corrupted. In that case, you can use a professional SQL database toolkit like Stellar Toolkit for MS SQL to extract data from the corrupted backup. Also, the toolkit software comprises tools to repair the database and restore all its components.



Q. Can I use the ‘Copy Database Wizard’ to restore databases from a newer SQL Server version (2014) to an older one (2008 or 2012)?

A. No, you cannot restore a database from a higher version of SQL Server to a lower version using the ‘Copy Database Wizard’.

The best approach is to generate SQL scripts from your 2014 machine and run them on a lower version of SQL Server, as discussed in this article.

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