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Customizing Transaction Isolation Level

READ COMMITTED is the default isolation level for the Microsoft SQL Server Database Engine. If an application must operate at a different isolation level, it can use the following methods to set the isolation level:

  • Run the SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL statement.

  • ADO.NET applications that use the System.Data.SqlClient managed namespace can specify an IsolationLevel option by using the SqlConnection.BeginTransaction method.

  • Applications that use ADO can set the Autocommit Isolation Levels property.

  • When starting a transaction, applications using OLE DB can call ITransactionLocal::StartTransaction with isoLevel set to the desired transaction isolation level. When specifying the isolation level in autocommit mode, applications that use OLE DB can set the DBPROPSET_SESSION property DBPROP_SESS_AUTOCOMMITISOLEVELS to the desired transaction isolation level.

  • Applications that use ODBC can set the SQL_COPT_SS_TXN_ISOLATION attribute by using SQLSetConnectAttr.

For more information about setting transaction isolation levels, see Adjusting Transaction Isolation Levels.

When the isolation level is specified, the locking behavior for all queries and data manipulation language (DML) statements in the SQL Server session operates at that isolation level. The isolation level remains in effect until the session terminates or until the isolation level is set to another level.

The following example sets the SERIALIZABLE isolation level:

USE AdventureWorks2008R2;
GO
SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL SERIALIZABLE;
GO
BEGIN TRANSACTION;
SELECT BusinessEntityID
    FROM HumanResources.Employee;
GO

The isolation level can be overridden for individual query or DML statements, if necessary, by specifying a table-level hint. Specifying a table-level hint does not affect other statements in the session. We recommend that table-level hints be used to change the default behavior only when absolutely necessary.

The Database Engine might have to acquire locks when reading metadata even when the isolation level is set to a level where share locks are not requested when reading data. For example, a transaction running at the read-uncommitted isolation level does not acquire share locks when reading data, but might sometime request locks when reading a system catalog view. This means it is possible for a read uncommitted transaction to cause blocking when querying a table when a concurrent transaction is modifying the metadata of that table.

To determine the transaction isolation level currently set, use the DBCC USEROPTIONS statement as shown in the following example. The result set may vary from the result set on your system.

USE AdventureWorks2008R2;
GO
SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL REPEATABLE READ;
GO
DBCC USEROPTIONS;
GO

Here is the result set.

Set Option Value

---------------------------- -------------------------------------------

textsize 2147483647

language us_english

dateformat mdy

datefirst 7

... ...

Isolation level repeatable read

(14 row(s) affected)

DBCC execution completed. If DBCC printed error messages, contact your system administrator.

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