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How Can You Tell if a Database is in Pseudo Full/Bulk Logged Mode?

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

I was asked on Friday, “how do you tell if a database logging mode is reporting bulk or full, but it is still in simple?” – as mentioned before, a database is not in really full / bulk logged unless a full backup has been taken. Until that time the database is still running in a simple mode, sometimes referred to as pseudo-simple. It is not easy to spot, because the properties of the database will report full / bulk as appropriate and give no indication that it is not actually logging in the way it says.

The existence of a backup of the database is not a reliable enough mechanism for this, since the database can be backed up and then moved out of full / bulk logged mode into simple and back again. This breaks the backup and transaction log chain, but the database is still reporting full – to make it worse there is a backup record showing on the history, giving it an air of legitimacy.

The backup records can be accessed from the sys.sysdatabases and msdb.dbo.backupset, MSDN even has an example script showing how to see when a database was last backed up and by whom.

SELECT 
T1.Name as DatabaseName, COALESCE(Convert(varchar(12), MAX(T2.backup_finish_date), 101),'Not Yet Taken') as LastBackUpTaken, COALESCE(Convert(varchar(12), MAX(T2.user_name), 101),'NA') as UserName
FROM sys.sysdatabases T1 LEFT OUTER JOIN msdb.dbo.backupset T2 ON T2.database_name = T1.name
GROUP BY T1.Name
ORDER BY T1.Name

To play around with the scripts you probably want a test database:

CREATE DATABASE [LogModeTest] ON  PRIMARY
( NAME = N'LogModeTest', FILENAME = N'C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\DATA\LogModeTest.mdf' , SIZE = 3072KB , MAXSIZE = UNLIMITED, FILEGROWTH = 1024KB )
 LOG ON
( NAME = N'LogModeTest_log', FILENAME = N'C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\DATA\LogModeTest_log.ldf' , SIZE = 1024KB , MAXSIZE = 2048GB , FILEGROWTH = 10%)
 COLLATE Latin1_General_CI_AI

With a minor alteration to the MSDN script you can get the backup history for this database:

SELECT
T1.Name as DatabaseName, COALESCE(Convert(varchar(12), MAX(T2.backup_finish_date), 101),'Not Yet Taken') as LastBackUpTaken FROM sys.sysdatabases T1
LEFT OUTER JOIN msdb.dbo.backupset T2 ON T2.database_name = T1.name
WHERE T1.Name = 'LogModeTest'
GROUP BY T1.Name

The results show the database is not yet backed up:

DatabaseName                  LastBackUpTaken 
----------------------------- ---------------
LogModeTest                   Not Yet Taken

That is easy to fix, so let’s take a backup of the database and recheck the last backup value.

BACKUP DATABASE [LogModeTest] TO  DISK = N'C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\Backup\LogModeTest.bak' WITH NOFORMAT, NOINIT,  NAME = N'LogModeTest-Full Database Backup', SKIP, NOREWIND, NOUNLOAD,  STATS = 10

DatabaseName                   LastBackUpTaken 
------------------------------ ---------------
LogModeTest                    12/13/2009

As expected the date of the backup is now set. If we alter the logging mode of the database to simple we will break the transaction log chain. To demonstrate the backup information being an unreliable source, let’s change to simple, create a table and then return to the fully logged mode.

ALTER DATABASE [LogModeTest] SET RECOVERY SIMPLE WITH NO_WAIT
CREATE TABLE foo(id int identity)
ALTER DATABASE [LogModeTest] SET RECOVERY FULL WITH NO_WAIT

If we now attempt to backup the transaction log, SQL is going to throw an error.

BACKUP LOG [LogModeTest] TO  DISK = N'C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\Backup\LogModeTest.bak' WITH NOFORMAT, NOINIT,  NAME = N'LogModeTest-Transaction Log  Backup', SKIP, NOREWIND, NOUNLOAD,  STATS = 10 

Msg 4214, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
BACKUP LOG cannot be performed because there is no current database backup.
Msg 3013, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
BACKUP LOG is terminating abnormally.

And if we check the database backup history using the MSDN script:

DatabaseName                   LastBackUpTaken
------------------------------ ---------------
LogModeTest                    12/13/2009

So the backup history continues to show a date of the last full backup even though the transaction log chain is now broken. SQL certainly knows the database has not had a full backup since swapping into fully logged mode, so any transaction log backup is invalid, thus the error.

There is an easier way to find out that you are in pseudo-simple mode, without trying to perform a transaction log backup:

SELECT name, COALESCE(Convert(varchar(30),last_log_backup_lsn), 'No Full Backup Taken') as BackupLSN 
FROM sys.databases
INNER JOIN sys.database_recovery_status on sys.databases.database_id = sys.database_recovery_status.database_id

Run this against your server and it lists the databases that have had a backup taken (by the existence of a backup LSN) and which have not had a full backup that could be used in recovery. If we then backup the database and recheck the values, the test database now records an LSN, showing it is out of psuedo-simple and into the full / bulk logged modes.

So that indicates whether we are in pseudo simple or not, but does not link back to the properties of the database to check what is the actual database logging mode – you are primarily only interested in databases that are not in simple mode in the first place, but are running in psuedo-simple due to the lack of a relevant full database backup. We can alter the query to handle this specific situation and the result is:

SELECT name, recovery_model_desc, COALESCE(Convert(varchar(30),last_log_backup_lsn), 'No Full Backup Taken') as BackupLSN 
FROM sys.databases
INNER JOIN sys.database_recovery_status on sys.databases.database_id = sys.database_recovery_status.database_id
WHERE sys.databases.recovery_model <> 3 AND last_log_backup_lsn is null

If you run that query against your database server and get any results then you have databases that are not running the recovery mode they are indicating / you that you think they are – which would generally not be a good thing.

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