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Best Practices and Recommendations

Considerations for System Databases Backup and Restore

Refer to the following tables for considerations for backup and restoration of system databases.


SQL server maintains a set of system level database which are essential for the operation of the server instance. Several of the system databases must be backed up after every significant update, they include:

  1. master
  2. model
  3. msdb
  4. distribution (for SQL database with replication enabled only)

This table summarizes all of the system databases.

System Description Backup Suggestion
master The database that records all of the system level information of a SQL server system. Yes To back up any database, the instance of SQL server must be running.

Startup of an instance of SQL server requires that the master database is accessible and at least partly usable.

Back up the master database as often as necessary to protect the data sufficiently for your business needs.

Microsoft recommends a regular backup schedule, which you can supplement with manual backup after any substantial update.
model The template for all databases that are created on the instance of SQL server. Yes Backup the model database only when necessary, for example, after customizing its database options.

Microsoft recommends that you create only full database backups of model, as required. Because model is small and rarely changes, backing up the log is unnecessary.
msdb The msdb database is used by SQL Server Agent for scheduling alerts and jobs, and for recording operators. It also contains history tables (e.g. backup / restore history table). Yes Back up the msdb whenever it is updated.
tempdb A workspace for holding temporary or intermediate result sets. This database is recreated every time an instance of SQL server is started. No The tempdb system database cannot be backed up.
distribution The distribution database exists only if the server is configured as a replication distributor.

It stores metadata and history data for all types of replication, and transactions for transactional replication.
Yes Replicated databases and their associated system databases should be backed up regularly.


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master To restore any database, the instance of SQL server must be running. Startup of an instance of SQL server requires that the master database is accessible and at least partly usable.

Restore or rebuild the master database completely if master becomes unusable.
model Restore the model database if:
* The master database has been rebuilt.
* The model database has been damaged, for example due to media failure.
* The model database has been modified, in this case, it is necessary to restore model from a backup when you rebuild master, because the Rebuild Master utility deletes and recreates model.
msdb Restore the msdb database if the master database has been rebuilt.
distribution For restore strategies of distribution database, please refer to the following online document from Microsoft for more details:

Best Practice and Recommendation

The following are some best practice and recommendation we strongly recommend you to follow before you start any MS SQL Server backup and restore.

  1. For VSS backup mode, it is suggested to set the backup schedule to a time when system activity is low to achieve the best possible performance.

  2. It is recommended to use ODBC backup mode for backup of database with a high volume of transaction, since such setup may require frequent backups. Transaction log backup (which is only supported by ODBC backup mode) can be performed periodically, and is less resource intensive than VSS based backup.

  3. For maximum data protection and restore options, it is recommended to configure:
    1. At least one offsite or cloud destination
    2. At least one local destination for fast recovery

  4. Perform test restores periodically to ensure your backup is set up and performed properly. Performing recovery test can also help identify potential issues or gaps in your recovery plan. It is important that you do not try to make the test easier, as the objective of a successful test is not to demonstrate that everything is flawless. There might be flaws identified in the plan throughout the test and it is important to identify those flaws.

  5. The Restore Raw File option is for advanced MS SQL Server administrator and should only be used if you have in-depth knowledge and understanding of your MS SQL Server, otherwise, it is not recommended to use this option as there are additional MS SQL techniques required to perform the manual restore.
public/module/microsoft_sql_database/best_practice.txt · Last modified: 2019/09/19 17:55 by ronnie.chan