Is Binary a Data Type in SQL?


Scott Campbell

SQL, which stands for Structured Query Language, is a powerful programming language used for managing and manipulating relational databases. It provides a standardized way to interact with data stored in databases. When working with SQL, it is important to understand the different data types that can be used to store and retrieve data.

One common question that often arises is whether binary is a data type in SQL. The short answer is yes, binary is indeed a data type in SQL. It allows you to store and manipulate binary data such as images, audio files, and other types of non-textual information.

Binary Data Type

The binary data type in SQL allows you to store sequences of bytes or bits. It differs from other data types like text or numbers because it does not represent human-readable characters or numerical values directly. Instead, it represents raw binary information.


The binary data type can be useful in various scenarios. For example, if you are building a database for an e-commerce website that needs to store product images, you can use the binary data type to efficiently store the image files directly in the database. This eliminates the need for separate storage systems or file servers.

  • Binary vs. Varbinary:

When working with binary data types in SQL, you might come across terms like “binary” and “varbinary.” The main difference between these two is their fixed length versus variable length nature.

The binary data type has a fixed length and requires you to specify the exact number of bytes needed to store the value when creating the table. For example, if you define a column as BINARY(10), it will always occupy exactly 10 bytes of storage space.

On the other hand, the varbinary (variable binary) data type allows for variable-length storage. It can store binary data up to a maximum length that you specify when creating the table. For example, if you define a column as VARBINARY(255), it can store binary data up to 255 bytes in length.

Manipulating Binary Data

When working with binary data in SQL, you can perform various operations on it. Some common operations include inserting binary data into a table, retrieving binary data from a table, and updating existing binary data.

To insert binary data into a table, you would typically use an INSERT statement and provide the necessary values for the binary column. For example:

INSERT INTO Images (ImageName, ImageData)
VALUES ('example.jpg', 0xFFD8FFE000104A46494600010100000100010000FFDB004300080606070605080707070909080A0C140D0C0B0B0C1912130F141D1A1F1E1D1A1C1C20242E2720222C231C1C2837292C30313434341F27393D38323C2E333432FFDB0043010909090C0B0C180D0D1832211C2132323232323232323232323232323232323232323232323232323232323>

To retrieve binary data from a table, you can use a SELECT statement and specify the appropriate columns. For example:

SELECT ImageData
FROM Images
WHERE ImageName = 'example.jpg'

Updating existing binary data follows a similar pattern but uses an UPDATE statement instead.


In conclusion, the binary data type is indeed available in SQL. It allows for efficient storage and manipulation of non-textual information such as images or audio files. Understanding how to work with binary data can greatly enhance your ability to handle complex data scenarios in SQL.

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