What Is the XML Data Type?


Heather Bennett

What Is the XML Data Type?


XML, short for eXtensible Markup Language, is a widely used data format that is both human-readable and machine-readable. It provides a flexible way to structure and store data, making it ideal for sharing information between different systems and platforms.

Understanding XML

XML follows a hierarchical structure, which means that data is organized in a tree-like format. Each piece of information in an XML document is enclosed within tags, which define its purpose or meaning. These tags are similar to HTML tags but serve a different purpose.

The XML Data Type

In SQL Server, the XML data type allows you to store and manipulate XML data within your database tables. It provides powerful features for querying, modifying, and transforming XML documents.

Creating an XML Column

To create an XML column in SQL Server, you can use the following syntax:

   MyXmlColumn XML

This example creates a table called MyTable with two columns: ID (an integer) and MyXmlColumn (an XML column). The MyXmlColumn can store any valid XML document.

Storing XML Data

Once you have created an XML column, you can insert or update rows with XML data using SQL statements like INSERT or UPDATE. For example:

INSERT INTO MyTable (ID, MyXmlColumn)
VALUES (1, 'John Doe');

This statement inserts a row into the MyTable table with ID 1 and an XML document representing a person’s name.

Querying XML Data

SQL Server provides various methods to query and extract information from an XML column. You can use XPath expressions to navigate through the XML structure and retrieve specific elements or attributes.

SELECT MyXmlColumn.value('(/person/name)[1]', 'nvarchar(max)') AS Name
FROM MyTable

This query retrieves the name element from the XML column for the row with ID 1.

Modifying XML Data

SQL Server also offers functions to modify XML data. You can insert new elements, update existing elements, or delete elements from an XML column using these functions.

SET MyXmlColumn.modify('insert 30 as last into (/person)[1]');

This statement adds an age element with a value of 30 to the existing XML document for the row with ID 1.


The XML data type in SQL Server provides a versatile way to store and manipulate XML data. With its powerful querying and modification capabilities, it allows you to work with XML documents seamlessly within your database environment.


  • The XML data type in SQL Server enables storing and manipulating XML data.
  • You can create an XML column using the CREATE TABLE statement.
  • XML data can be inserted or updated using SQL statements like INSERT or UPDATE.
  • SQL Server offers various methods to query and extract information from an XML column.
  • You can modify XML data using functions like modify(), insert(), update(), or delete().

Whether you need to store configuration settings, exchange data between different systems, or process complex documents, understanding and utilizing the XML data type in SQL Server can greatly enhance your database capabilities.

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