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SQL Writer Service

The SQL Writer Service provides added functionality for backup and restore of SQL Server through the Volume Shadow Copy Service framework.

The SQL Writer Service is installed automatically. It must be running when the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) application requests a backup or restore. To configure the service, use the Microsoft Windows Services applet. The SQL Writer Service installs on all operating systems.

When running, Database Engine locks and has exclusive access to the data files. When the SQL Writer Service is not running, backup programs running in Windows do not have access to the data files, and backups must be performed using SQL Server backup.

Use the SQL Writer Service to permit Windows backup programs to copy SQL Server data files while SQL Server is running.

The VSS is a set of COM APIs that implements a framework to allow volume backups to be performed while applications on a system continue to write to the volumes. The VSS provides a consistent interface that allows coordination between user applications that update data on disk (writers) and those that back up applications (requestors).

The VSS captures and copies stable images for backup on running systems, particularly servers, without unduly degrading the performance and stability of the services they provide. For more information on the VSS, see your Windows documentation.

SQL Server provides an API called Virtual Backup Device Interface (VDI) that enables independent software vendors to integrate SQL Server into their products for providing support for backup and restore operations. These APIs are engineered to provide maximum reliability and performance, and support the full range of SQL Server backup and restore functionality, including the full range of hot and snapshot backup capabilities.

The SQL Writer service must run under the Local System account. The SQL Writer service uses the NT Service\SQLWriter login to connect to SQL Server. Using the NT Service\SQLWriter login allows the SQL Writer process to run at a lower privilege level in an account designated as no login, which limits vulnerability. If the SQL Writer service is disabled, then any utility which in relies on VSS snapshots, such as System Center Data Protection Manager, as well as some other 3rd-party products, would be broken, or worse, at risk of taking backups of databases which were not consistent. If neither SQL Server, the system it runs on, nor the host system (in the event of a virtual machine), need to use anything besides Transact-SQL backup, then the SQL Writer service can be safely disabled and the login removed.  Note that the SQL Writer service may be invoked by a system or volume level backup, whether the backup is directly snapshot-based or not. Some system backup products use VSS to avoid being blocked by open or locked files. The SQL Writer service needs elevated permissions in SQL Server because in the course of its activities it briefly freezes all I/O for the instance of SQL Server. 

SQL Writer supports:

  • Full database backup and restore including full-text catalogs

  • Differential backup and restore

  • Restore with move

  • Database rename

  • Copy-only backup

  • Auto-recovery of database snapshot

SQL Writer does not support:

  • Log backups

  • File and filegroup backup

  • Page restore

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