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Posted 26 Nov 2011

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Import Data from a Text or CSV file into SQL Server

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26 Nov 2011CPOL2 min read
Import Data from a Text or CSV file into SQL Server

I was recently in need of importing data from a CSV (Comma Separated File) to a table in SQL Server 2008.
After searching in Google for a little while, I found this blog entry from Pinal Dave (SQL Authority) which always provides good content.

Besides passing along the technique described in Pinal's blog post, I would like to expand by explaining a few snags that I ran into.

My source data in the CSV file looks something like this:

HOU009,Windows Phone 7,Will Martinez,
11/10/2011,Houston; TX,999,2
HOU010,WPF for Business Applications,Will Martinez,
11/15/2011,Houston; TX,695,1

More or less, I have all the data needed to fill the columns of my target table. My assumption is that my column id of type uniqueidentifier is going to be auto-generated. This is my table:

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[Courses](
   [id] [uniqueidentifier] NOT NULL DEFAULT NEWSEQUENTIALID(),
   [code] [varchar](50) NOT NULL,
   [description] [varchar](200) NULL,
   [instructor] [varchar](50) NULL,
   [date] [date] NULL,
       [venue] [varchar](50) NULL,
   [price] [money] NULL,
       [duration] [int] NULL,

As you may notice, I have two datatypes that may be challenging, first my primary key is of type uniqueidentifier and also, I'm using a date datatype.

Initially, I tried to import my data from the CSV file using the below statement:

bulk insert [dbo].[Courses]
from 'C:\Courses.csv'
with (fieldterminator = ',', rowterminator = '\n')

On my first try, I did not have any luck. I ran into the below issue:

Msg 4861, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
Cannot bulk load because the file "C:\Courses.csv" 
could not be opened. Operating system error code 5
(Access is denied.).

Moved my file to the Public directory and then made sure permissions were set to 'Everyone'. No luck, although I did not get the "access denied" error. My insert returns 0 row(s) affected.

At this point, my guess was that I had a couple of issues:

  • First, I did not have a value for the Id column which is our primary key
  • My column of type date could be a problem if there is an implicit conversion of string data

To work around the problem, I decided to create a new temporary table, without a primary key and with a datetime datafield. Here is the table:

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[CoursesTemp](
   [code] [varchar](50) NOT NULL,
   [description] [varchar](200) NULL,
   [instructor] [varchar](50) NULL,
   [date] [datetime] NULL,
   [venue] [varchar](50) NULL,
   [price] [money] NULL,
   [duration] [int] NULL)

Ran my insert statement again:

bulk insert [dbo].[CoursesTemp]
from 'C:\Users\Public\Downloads\Courses.csv'
with (fieldterminator = ',', rowterminator = '\n')

Success! Finally got to see what I was waiting for...(20 row(s) affected).

At this point, life is easy. I can use the data I just inserted in the temporary table and use it to insert into the "live" table.

insert [dbo].[Courses]
  (code, description, instructor, date, venue, duration)
   code, description, instructor, cast(date as date), venue,
from [dbo].[CoursesTemp]

Notice that my Id column is not listed since it has a uniqueidentifier with a default of NEWSEQUENTIALID , it automatically generates a GUID for each record.

To deal with the issue of the date field, I noticed that there is a CAST statement that will convert the data to the appropriate datatype.

Below is how the data looks like in my table:


Now, I have the data I needed and my id column has nice GUIDs generated for every record.
I'm ready to get some work done.

Hope this helps somebody out there,


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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Comments and Discussions

QuestionIs there another way to do this, but without Bulk Insert? Pin
Boris Krepkanovich14-Feb-15 23:07
MemberBoris Krepkanovich14-Feb-15 23:07 
QuestionCSV not supported by SQL Server Bulk import Pin
nanonerd18-Sep-13 10:34
Membernanonerd18-Sep-13 10:34 
QuestionQuestion about import txt file.. please help Pin
GaboBigale16-Jan-13 5:35
MemberGaboBigale16-Jan-13 5:35 
AnswerRe: Question about import txt file.. please help Pin
gmtzgtz16-Jan-13 6:46
Membergmtzgtz16-Jan-13 6:46 
GeneralRe: Question about import txt file.. please help Pin
GaboBigale17-Jan-13 6:22
MemberGaboBigale17-Jan-13 6:22 
General:) Pin
Hector Perales26-Apr-12 20:05
MemberHector Perales26-Apr-12 20:05 

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