Export (0) Print
Expand All
29 out of 49 rated this helpful - Rate this topic

Connect to SQL Server When System Administrators Are Locked Out

This topic describes how you can regain access to the SQL Server Database Engine as a system administrator. A system administrator can lose access to an instance of SQL Server because of one of the following reasons:

  • All logins that are members of the sysadmin fixed server role have been removed by mistake.

  • All Windows Groups that are members of the sysadmin fixed server role have been removed by mistake.

  • The logins that are members of the sysadmin fixed server role are for individuals who have left the company or who are not available.

  • The sa account is disabled or no one knows the password.

One way in which you can regain access is to reinstall SQL Server and attach all the databases to the new instance. This solution is time-consuming; and, to recover the logins, it might require restoring the master database from a backup. If the backup of the master database is older, it might not have all the information. If the backup of the master database is more recent, it might have the same logins as the previous instance; therefore, administrators will still be locked out.

Start the instance of SQL Server in single-user mode by using either the -m or -f options. Any member of the computer's local Administrators group can then connect to the instance of SQL Server as a member of the sysadmin fixed server role.

Note Note

When you start an instance of SQL Server in single-user mode, first stop the SQL Server Agent service. Otherwise, SQL Server Agent might connect first and prevent you from connecting as a second user.

When you use the -m option with sqlcmd or SQL Server Management Studio, you can limit the connections to a specified client application. For example, -m"sqlcmd" limits connections to a single connection and that connection must identify itself as the sqlcmd client program. Use this option when you are starting SQL Server in single-user mode and an unknown client application is taking the only available connection. To connect through the Query Editor in Management Studio, use -m"Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio - Query".

Security note Security Note

Do not use this option as a security feature. The client application provides the client application name, and can provide a false name as part of the connection string.

For step-by-step instructions about how to start SQL Server in single-user mode, see Configure Server Startup Options (SQL Server Configuration Manager).

The following instructions describe the process for connecting to SQL Server 2012 running on Windows 8. Slight adjustments for earlier versions of SQL Server or Windows are provided. These instructions must be performed while logged in to Windows as a member of the local administrators group, and they assume that SQL Server Management Studio is installed on the computer.

  1. From the Start page, start SQL Server Management Studio. On the View menu, select Registered Servers. (If your server is not already registered, right-click Local Server Groups, point to Tasks, and then click Register Local Servers.)

  2. In the Registered Servers area, right-click your server, and then click SQL Server Configuration Manager. This should ask for permission to run as administrator, and then open the Configuration Manager program.

  3. Close Management Studio.

  4. In SQL Server Configuration Manager, in the left pane, select SQL Server Services. In the right-pane, find your instance of SQL Server. (The default instance of SQL Server includes (MSSQLSERVER) after the computer name. Named instances appear in upper case with the same name that they have in Registered Servers.) Right-click the instance of SQL Server, and then click Properties.

  5. On the Startup Parameters tab, in the Specify a startup parameter box, type -m and then click Add. (That's a dash then lower case letter m.)

    Note Note

    For some earlier versions of SQL Server there is no Startup Parameters tab. In that case, on the Advanced tab, double-click Startup Parameters. The parameters open up in a very small window. Be careful not to change any of the existing parameters. At the very end, add a new parameter ;-m and then click OK. (That's a semi-colon then a dash then lower case letter m.)

  6. Click OK, and after the message to restart, right-click your server name, and then click Restart.

  7. After SQL Server has restarted your server will be in single-user mode. Make sure that that SQL Server Agent is not running. If started, it will take your only connection.

  8. On the Windows 8 start screen, right-click the icon for Management Studio. At the bottom of the screen, select Run as administrator. (This will pass your administrator credentials to SSMS.)

    Note Note

    For earlier versions of Windows, the Run as administrator option appears as a sub-menu.

    In some configurations, SSMS will attempt to make several connections. Multiple connections will fail because SQL Server is in single-user mode. You can select one of the following actions to perform. Do one of the following.

    1. Connect with Object Explorer using Windows Authentication (which includes your Administrator credentials). Expand Security, expand Logins, and double-click your own login. On the Server Roles page, select sysadmin, and then click OK.

    2. Instead of connecting with Object Explorer, connect with a Query Window using Windows Authentication (which includes your Administrator credentials). (You can only connect this way if you did not connect with Object Explorer.) Execute code such as the following to add a new Windows Authentication login that is a member of the sysadmin fixed server role. The following example adds a domain user named CONTOSO\PatK.

      CREATE LOGIN [CONTOSO\PatK] FROM WINDOWS;
      ALTER SERVER ROLE sysadmin ADD MEMBER [CONTOSO\PatK];
      
    3. If your SQL Server is running in mixed authentication mode, connect with a Query Window using Windows Authentication (which includes your Administrator credentials). Execute code such as the following to create a new SQL Server Authentication login that is a member of the sysadmin fixed server role.

      CREATE LOGIN TempLogin WITH PASSWORD = '************';
      ALTER SERVER ROLE sysadmin ADD MEMBER TempLogin;
      
      Caution noteCaution

      Replace ************ with a strong password.

    4. If your SQL Server is running in mixed authentication mode and you want to reset the password of the sa account, connect with a Query Window using Windows Authentication (which includes your Administrator credentials). Change the password of the sa account with the following syntax.

      ALTER LOGIN sa WITH PASSWORD = '************';
      
      Caution noteCaution

      Replace ************ with a strong password.

  9. The following steps now change SQL Server back to multi-user mode. Close SSMS.

  10. In SQL Server Configuration Manager, in the left pane, select SQL Server Services. In the right-pane, right-click the instance of SQL Server, and then click Properties.

  11. On the Startup Parameters tab, in the Existing parameters box, select -m and then click Remove.

    Note Note

    For some earlier versions of SQL Server there is no Startup Parameters tab. In that case, on the Advanced tab, double-click Startup Parameters. The parameters open up in a very small window. Remove the ;-m which you added earlier, and then click OK.

  12. Right-click your server name, and then click Restart.

Now you should be able to connect normally with one of the accounts which is now a member of the sysadmin fixed server role.

Did you find this helpful?
(1500 characters remaining)
Thank you for your feedback

Community Additions

ADD
Show:
© 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.