Do We Have BLOB Data Type in SQL Server?


Heather Bennett

The BLOB (Binary Large Object) data type is widely used in database systems to store large binary data such as images, audio files, and video files. However, when it comes to SQL Server, it does not have a specific BLOB data type like other database management systems such as MySQL or Oracle. Instead, SQL Server provides several data types that can be used to store binary data.

Binary Data Types in SQL Server

In SQL Server, binary data can be stored using the following data types:

  • VARBINARY: This variable-length binary data type can store up to 8,000 bytes of binary data.
  • VARBINARY(MAX): Introduced in SQL Server 2005, this variable-length binary data type can store up to 2^31-1 bytes of binary data. It is commonly used to store large binary objects.
  • IMAGE: This deprecated data type was used in earlier versions of SQL Server for storing large binary objects. It is still supported for backward compatibility but should be avoided in new development.

Working with VARBINARY Data Type

To work with VARBINARY or VARBINARY(MAX) data types in SQL Server, you can use various functions and operators:

  • INSERT INTO: You can use the INSERT INTO statement to insert binary data into a VARBINARY column. For example:
  • INSERT INTO MyTable (BinaryData) VALUES (0x0123456789ABCDEF)
  • SELECT: You can retrieve the binary data from a VARBINARY column using the SELECT statement. For example:
  • SELECT BinaryData FROM MyTable
  • UPDATE: You can update the binary data in a VARBINARY column using the UPDATE statement.

    For example:

  • UPDATE MyTable SET BinaryData = 0xFEDCBA9876543210 WHERE ID = 1
  • CONVERT: The CONVERT function can be used to convert binary data to other data types such as VARCHAR or NVARCHAR. For example:
  • SUBSTRING: The SUBSTRING function can be used to extract a portion of the binary data. For example:
  • SELECT SUBSTRING(BinaryData, 1, 10) AS PartialData FROM MyTable


Although SQL Server does not have a specific BLOB data type, it provides the VARBINARY and VARBINARY(MAX) data types to store binary data efficiently. These data types, along with various functions and operators, allow you to work with binary data effectively in SQL Server.

If you need to store large binary objects in SQL Server, it is recommended to use the VARBINARY(MAX) data type for better performance and scalability compared to the deprecated IMAGE data type.

In this article, we explored the different binary data types available in SQL Server and discussed how to work with them effectively. By understanding these concepts, you can efficiently handle binary data in your SQL Server database.

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