What Is XML Data Type in SQL Server?


Heather Bennett

XML Data Type in SQL Server

XML, which stands for Extensible Markup Language, is a popular format for storing and exchanging data. It provides a flexible way to structure and represent information using a set of tags.

What is XML Data Type?

In SQL Server, the XML data type is a special data type that allows you to store and manipulate XML documents directly in the database. It provides built-in support for handling XML data, including querying, modifying, and indexing.

The XML data type can be used to store both well-formed XML documents and fragments of XML. It stores the data in an internal binary representation called the Document Object Model (DOM).

Creating a Table with an XML Column

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

    ColumnName XML

This will create a table with a column of type XML, which can hold XML data.

Storing XML Data

To store XML data in the database, you can use the INSERT statement as you would with any other data type:

INSERT INTO TableName (ColumnName)
VALUES ('<person><name>John Doe</name><age>30</age></person>');

In this example, we are inserting an XML document representing a person’s information into the table.

Querying XML Data

SQL Server provides various methods for querying and extracting information from XML data. One commonly used method is XPath queries.

To query an XML column, you can use the value() method, which allows you to extract a single value from an XML document based on an XPath expression:

SELECT ColumnName.value('(//name)[1]', 'nvarchar(50)') AS Name
FROM TableName;

This query retrieves the value of the name element from the XML column.

Modifying XML Data

You can also modify XML data using SQL Server’s built-in methods. For example, you can use the modify() method to update or delete elements within an XML document:

UPDATE TableName
SET ColumnName.modify('replace value of (//age/text())[1] with "40"')
WHERE Condition;

This query updates the value of the age element in the XML column.

Indexing XML Data

In order to improve performance when querying XML data, SQL Server allows you to create indexes on XML columns. These indexes can significantly speed up queries that involve XPath expressions.

To create an index on an XML column, you can use the following syntax:

ON TableName (ColumnName);


  • The primary XML index is used for efficient querying and modifying of XML data.
  • You can also create secondary XML indexes for specific XPath expressions that are frequently used in queries.
  • XML indexes are stored separately from the table data and require additional disk space.
  • You should carefully consider when and how to use indexes on XML columns based on your specific requirements and workload.


The XML data type in SQL Server provides a powerful and efficient way to store, query, and manipulate XML data. It allows you to leverage the full power of XML while benefiting from the performance and scalability of a relational database management system.

By using the XML data type and its associated methods, you can easily work with XML data in your SQL Server applications, making it a valuable tool for handling complex data structures.

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