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How can I quickly test a SQL connection from a workstation?

A quick way to test the connection to a SQL Server database from a random workstation in the network is the following (you don't need to use SQL Server Management Studio or Adlib Designer to do so):

  1. Open Windows Notepad and save the new empty document somewhere on your computer, using the file extension .udl, in C:\Temp for example. You could name the file test.udl. In the Save as type drop-down list, select the All files option (instead of Text documents), to prevent Notepad from still adding .txt to the end of the file name.

  2. Open Windows Explorer, go to the folder you chose earlier, C:\Temp for example, and double-click your udl file. The Data Link Properties window opens.

  3. On the Connection tab, under section 1, first enter your SQL Server name. Simply open the drop-down list and pick your SQL Server instance*. The name may consist of one or two parts, OURSQLSERVER or OURSERVER\SQLEXPRESS for example.

  4. Under section 2, specify the login details. Choose Use Windows NT Integrated security if your SQL Server database uses Windows authentication: then the user name and password with which you are currently logged in to Windows will be used to attempt to log in to the database.
    On the other hand, choose Use a specific user name and password, after which you have to enter both, if your database has been secured through SQL authentication.

  5. Under section 3, mark the first option and in the drop-down list below it select the name of the database with which you want to test the connection.

  6. Click the Test connection button. If the connection test succeeds, you'll be notified so in a separate message. Close the message.

  7. If you then click OK in the Data Link Properties window, these settings will be stored in the udl file, so that you can repeat the test quickly later on. Or click Cancel to not save these settings; afterwards you can remove the udl file if you don't need it anymore.

* The names of SQL Server instances need to be broadcast over the local network in order to be able to connect to them, be it from Adlib or the test described here. When you are working within a domain, this broadcast (of so-called SRV records for SQL services) is automatically provided by the domain DNS.
However, if you're not working within a Windows domain, for instance when you've installed your SQL application in a workgroup environment, an additional service is needed to broadcast the correct SQL instance names over the network and allow Adlib to connect to any one of them. The SQL Browser service, which is a supplemental service for SQL installations, is specifically designed for that purpose. By default, this service is disabled. To get it to work, you need to configure it as an automatically starting service on the server or pc on which SQL Server has been installed. You can do that with the SQL Server Configuration Manager tool in your Microsoft SQL Server 2008/2012 Start menu folder or in the Windows Services. For example:

  1. From the Windows Start menu, open the Control Panel.
  2. Go to System and Security > Administrative Tools > Services
  3. Look up SQL Server Browser in the list and check if the service has been started already.
  4. If not, right-click the service and choose Properties in the pop-up menu.
  5. Set the Startup type to Automatic.
  6. Click OK and close the Services window and Control Panel.

To solve other SQL Server connection issues, see the following article by Microsoft: How to troubleshoot connecting to the SQL Server database.