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A generic bulk insert using DataSets and OpenXML

, 14 Apr 2005
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Create T-SQL command text to update a table with OpenXML quickly and with minimal effort.


The project I’m working on now requires a way to drop a significant amount of data into 20+ tables. I went looking for Bulk Insert solutions and what I found was these articles in the MSDN.

The article explains how to prepare a table as XML using its DataSet’s schema, then sending it to a stored procedure to execute an Update and Insert. The problem I saw for my needs was that the MSDN solution requires a function and a stored procedure for each table.

So I spent a day and rolled out this code here. It takes a DataSet, an open SQL connection and a table name and writes the command text to execute an OPENXML Bulk Insert.

The Code

There is one calling function and two support functions. The first function takes three parameters:

  • a DataSet,
  • an open SQL connection,
  • and a table name.

and begins by processing the table’s ColumnMapping, just like MSDN’s tutorial. It also streams the DataSet to a StringBuilder as XML. Then, instead of sending the XML to a stored procedure, it sends it to buildBulkUpdateSql which creates the remaining T-SQL script.

/// <summary>
/// Takes a dataset and creates a OPENXML script dynamically around it for 
/// bulk inserts 
/// </summary> 
/// <remarks>The DataSet must have at least one primary key, otherwise it'll wipe 
/// out the entire table, then insert the dataset. Multiple Primary Keys are okay. 
/// The dataset's columns must match the target table's columns EXACTLY. A 
/// dataset column "democd" does not work for the sql column
/// "DemoCD". Any missing or incorrect data is assumed NULL (default).
/// </remarks>
/// <param name="objDS">Dataset containing target DataTable.</PARAM>
/// <param name="objCon">Open Connection to the database.</PARAM>
/// <param name="tablename">Name of table to save.</PARAM>
public static void BulkTableInsert(DataSet objDS, 
                                 SqlConnection objCon, string tablename)
    //Change the column mapping first.
    System.Text.StringBuilder sb = new System.Text.StringBuilder( 1000);
    System.IO.StringWriter sw = new System.IO.StringWriter(sb); 
    foreach( DataColumn col in objDS.Tables[tablename].Columns)
         col.ColumnMapping = System.Data.MappingType.Attribute;
    objDS.WriteXml(sw, System.Data.XmlWriteMode.WriteSchema);
    string sqlText = buildBulkUpdateSql(sb.ToString(), objDS.Tables[tablename]);
    execSql(objCon, sqlText);

This is where the generic T-SQL text is created. The only magic here is getting the C# escape characters out of the string before sending it to the SqlCommand. Another thing to note is how I’m using the database’s table as the schema to work within the WITH argument so that I don’t have to name each column and DataType.

static string buildBulkUpdateSql( string dataXml, DataTable table)
    System.Text.StringBuilder sb = new System.Text.StringBuilder();
    dataXml = dataXml.Replace(Environment.NewLine, "");
    dataXml = dataXml.Replace("\"", "''");
    //init the xml doc
    sb.Append(" SET NOCOUNT ON");
    sb.Append(" DECLARE @hDoc INT");
    sb.AppendFormat(" EXEC sp_xml_preparedocument @hDoc OUTPUT, '{0}'", dataXml);
    //This code deletes old data based on PK.
    sb.AppendFormat(" DELETE {0} FROM {0} INNER JOIN ", table.TableName);
    sb.AppendFormat(" (SELECT * FROM OPENXML (@hdoc, '/NewDataSet/{0}', 1)", 
    sb.AppendFormat(" WITH {0}) xmltable ON 1 = 1", table.TableName);
    foreach( DataColumn col in table.PrimaryKey)
        sb.AppendFormat(" AND {0}.{1} = xmltable.{1}", table.TableName, 
    //This code inserts new data.
    sb.AppendFormat(" INSERT INTO {0} SELECT *", table.TableName);
    sb.AppendFormat(" FROM OPENXML (@hdoc, '/NewDataSet/{0}', 1) WITH {0}", 
    //clear the xml doc
    sb.Append(" EXEC sp_xml_removedocument @hDoc");
    return sb.ToString(); 

There’s no magic here. This is just a simple command executer. In my actual app I don’t use this and I don’t expect you to use this as well, but for code-completion, here it is:

static void execSql(SqlConnection objCon, string sqlText)
    SqlCommand objCom = new SqlCommand();
    objCom.Connection = objCon;
    objCom.CommandType = CommandType.Text;
    objCom.CommandText = sqlText;


As the documentation in the function header says, this procedure assumes a few things:

  • The DataTable must have at least one primary key so that it knows what is update data and what is not.
  • The existing data matched by the primary key will be deleted, and then re-inserted. This can be debated as to whether it is a good idea or not. I believe it would speed up the transaction as a whole, but perhaps it is not the most elegant solution. I’m interested in any DBA comments. Doing the update part is easy, but then you would have to do an outer join against the XML table for the Insert data; which could take a while depending on the table size.
  • The DataTable column names must match the database’s table perfectly. This is kind of a bummer, but if you’re auto-magically creating DataSets in the IDE, it shouldn’t matter to you.


Rip out unnecessary XML before creating the Insert script. DataSets can contain multiple tables, all of which are written out with the DataSet.WriteXml() function. In large samples, this is too much data to be send across and is completely useless.


I’ve tested the heck out of this using small and medium size tables and DataSets. There is tons of room for improvement and feature enhancement and I know this won’t work in many professional environments, but it’s a good start for me that I wish I had two days ago. Like I mentioned, I'm looking forward to hearing from the community about speeding up this snippet a bit.



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About the Author

Web Developer
United States United States
writing for the financial and television industries since 1997. Currently working for Transformational Security in Baltimore, Maryland as Architect.

Comments and Discussions

GeneralJunk. Use SqlBulkCopy instead. Pinmemberllitsanylg28-Aug-09 0:38 
GeneralRe: Junk. Use SqlBulkCopy instead. Pinmemberpoodull7628-Aug-09 3:49 
GeneralRe: Junk. Use SqlBulkCopy instead. Pinmemberdmofo26-Jun-12 7:03 
GeneralProblem with OPENXML ?, Bulk Insert ?, Encoding ? [modified] PinmemberXavito23-Apr-09 17:30 
GeneralRe: Problem with OPENXML ?, Bulk Insert ?, Encoding ? Pinmemberllitsanylg28-Aug-09 0:43 
GeneralInserting table with identity column Pinmembersriprabu1-May-07 12:24 
GeneralRe: Inserting table with identity column Pinmemberpoodull761-May-07 15:32 
GeneralRe: Inserting table with identity column Pinmembersriprabu5-May-07 1:44 
Generalinsert fails when data contains single quote Pinmemberbreakpoint18-Mar-07 22:54 
GeneralRe: insert fails when data contains single quote Pinmemberpoodull7619-Mar-07 2:52 
GeneralSQL Bulk Insert Pinmemberrhorc1-Dec-06 13:04 
Generaldatetime fails! Pinmemberspecies217523-Jan-06 3:49 
GeneralRe: datetime fails! Pinmemberpoodull7623-Jan-06 4:22 
GeneralRe: datetime fails! Pinmemberspecies217523-Jan-06 20:03 
GeneralRe: datetime fails! Pinmembersides_dale23-Aug-06 15:20 
GeneralPossible way to speed up inserts/ updates PinmemberMegatop2-Oct-05 21:36 
GeneralRe: Possible way to speed up inserts/ updates Pinmembersides_dale23-Aug-06 15:23 
Generalgood concept PinmemberMP3Observer15-Jun-05 2:35 
GeneralI have a Pbm with string data types PinmemberSidhartha Shenoy10-Jun-05 23:42 
GeneralRe: I have a Pbm with string data types Pinmemberpoodull7614-Jun-05 8:37 
GeneralRe: I have a Pbm with string data types PinmemberSidhartha Shenoy14-Jun-05 18:15 
GeneralBoolean/Bit type PinmemberChrisMcv30-May-05 23:36 
GeneralRe: Boolean/Bit type Pinmemberpoodull7614-Jun-05 8:31 
AnswerRe: Boolean/Bit type Pinmembersides_dale23-Aug-06 15:18 
GeneralRe: Boolean/Bit type Pinmemberja92822-Oct-06 9:20 
GeneralTable with smalldatetime column fails. PinmemberKeith Doyle2-May-05 9:33 
GeneralRe: Table with smalldatetime column fails. Pinmemberpoodull762-May-05 10:28 
GeneralUPDATE! Pinmemberpoodull7627-Apr-05 9:51 
GeneralRe: UPDATE! PinmemberBostonIdiot20-Jun-05 5:17 
GeneralRe: UPDATE! Pinmemberfire ice14-Aug-06 21:56 
AnswerRe: UPDATE! Pinmemberpoodull7615-Aug-06 4:08 
GeneralBulkInsert PinmemberNorman19-Apr-05 2:43 
GeneralRe: BulkInsert Pinmemberpoodull7619-Apr-05 6:44 
GeneralRe: BulkInsert PinmemberNorman19-Apr-05 15:19 

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