What Is the Length of Text Data Type in SQL Server?


Heather Bennett

What Is the Length of Text Data Type in SQL Server?

In SQL Server, the text data type is used to store large amounts of text data. It is commonly used to store long strings, such as documents, articles, or even XML data. The text data type can hold up to 2^31-1 (or 2,147,483,647) characters.

However, it’s important to note that the text data type has been deprecated since SQL Server 2005. Microsoft recommends using the nvarchar(max) or varchar(max) data types instead. These new data types provide similar functionality but with improved performance and storage capabilities.

Differences between text and nvarchar(max)/varchar(max)

While both the text data type and the nvarchar(max)/varchar(max) data types can store large amounts of text, there are some key differences between them.

Data Storage

The text data type stores its content outside of the row structure on separate pages. This means that when you retrieve a row containing a text column, SQL Server needs to perform additional I/O operations to retrieve the text values. This can impact query performance.

On the other hand, the nvarchar(max)/varchar(max) data types store their content directly in-line with the row structure. This allows for faster retrieval and improved query performance compared to using the deprecated text data type.

Length Limitations

As mentioned earlier, the maximum length for a column of the text data type is 2^31-1 characters. However, the nvarchar(max)/varchar(max) data types have an even larger maximum length of 2^30-1 characters.

By using the nvarchar(max)/varchar(max) data types, you can store significantly more text in a single column compared to the deprecated text data type.

Migrating from text to nvarchar(max)/varchar(max)

If you are currently using the text data type in your SQL Server database, it is recommended to migrate to the nvarchar(max)/varchar(max) data types.

The migration process involves altering the table structure and converting the existing text columns to nvarchar(max)/varchar(max) columns. You can use the ALTER TABLE statement with the ALTER COLUMN clause to make this change.

Before making any changes, it’s essential to back up your database and thoroughly test the migration process on a non-production environment to ensure data integrity.


In summary, while the text data type in SQL Server has been deprecated, it is still supported for backward compatibility. However, Microsoft recommends using the nvarchar(max)/varchar(max) data types for storing large amounts of text due to their improved performance and storage capabilities.

Migrating from the old text data type to nvarchar(max)/varchar(max) may require some effort, but it will result in better performance and ensure that your database remains up-to-date with best practices.

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