Understanding SQL Server Snapshot Isolation

Hey Dev, if you’re reading this article, then you probably have some interest in SQL Server Snapshot Isolation. Good news! We’re going to dive into everything you need to know about this feature and how it can benefit your work as a developer.

What is SQL Server Snapshot Isolation?

Snapshot isolation is a feature in SQL Server that allows a transaction to read data from a consistent set of data, regardless of concurrent changes made to the data by other transactions. In simpler terms, it allows you to read data without any interference from other transactions.

Let’s look at an example to understand it better:

Transaction 1
Transaction 2
UPDATE Table1 SET Col1 = 2 WHERE ID = 1

In the above example, Transaction 1 updates a row in Table1, while Transaction 2 reads from the same table. Without snapshot isolation, Transaction 2 would read the uncommitted value of the row being updated by Transaction 1. But with snapshot isolation, Transaction 2 reads the committed values and ignores the uncommitted change made by Transaction 1.

Benefits of SQL Server Snapshot Isolation

Snapshot isolation has several benefits, including:

  • Increased concurrency: Snapshot isolation allows multiple transactions to read data simultaneously without any conflicts.
  • Consistent reads: Snapshot isolation provides consistent reads since each transaction reads from a snapshot of the database.
  • No locking: Snapshot isolation eliminates the need for locks, which can cause performance issues on a heavily used database.

How to Enable Snapshot Isolation

Before you can use snapshot isolation, you need to enable it on your database. Here are the steps to enable snapshot isolation:

  1. Connect to your SQL Server instance using SQL Server Management Studio.
  2. Right-click on the database you want to enable snapshot isolation for and select Properties.
  3. Select Options from the left pane.
  4. Under the Other section, set the ALLOW_SNAPSHOT_ISOLATION option to True.
  5. Click OK to save the changes.


What are the disadvantages of snapshot isolation?

Snapshot isolation has a few disadvantages, including:

  • Increased disk space usage: Since each transaction reads from a snapshot of the database, SQL Server needs to store multiple versions of the same data, which can cause an increase in disk space usage.
  • Increased load on the tempdb database: Snapshot isolation uses the tempdb database to store version information, which can cause increased load on the database.
  • Increased risk of concurrency issues: Although snapshot isolation eliminates locking, it can still cause concurrency issues if not used properly.

How does snapshot isolation differ from other isolation levels?

Snapshot isolation differs from other isolation levels in that it provides a consistent view of the data, regardless of concurrent changes. Other isolation levels, such as Read Committed or Repeatable Read, may allow for dirty reads or non-repeatable reads.

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Can I use snapshot isolation with all databases?

No, snapshot isolation is only available in SQL Server Enterprise and Developer editions.

Can I use snapshot isolation with a replication environment?

Yes, you can use snapshot isolation in a replication environment, but you need to enable the feature on the publisher, subscriber, and distributor databases.

Can I use snapshot isolation with in-memory OLTP?

Yes, snapshot isolation is supported in in-memory OLTP.


Snapshot isolation is a powerful feature in SQL Server that allows multiple transactions to read data simultaneously without any conflicts. It provides consistent reads and eliminates the need for locking, which can cause performance issues. By enabling snapshot isolation on your databases, you can increase concurrency and provide a better experience for your users.