This documentation is archived and is not being maintained.

Walkthrough: Connecting to Data in a SQL Server Express Database (Windows Forms)

You can use the Data Source Configuration Wizard to quickly and easily connect your application to data in a SQL Server Express database. After you complete the wizard, you can drag data objects in the Data Sources Window onto forms to create data-bound controls.


Your computer might show different names or locations for some of the Visual Studio user interface elements in the following instructions. The Visual Studio edition that you have and the settings that you use determine these elements. For more information, see Visual Studio Settings.

Tasks illustrated in this walkthrough include:

  • Creating a new Windows Forms Application project.

  • Using the Data Source Configuration Wizard to create and configure a dataset in your application based on a SQL Server Express database.

In order to complete this walkthrough, you need:

To create the new project

  1. From the File menu, create a new project.

  2. Select Windows Forms Application and click OK. For more information, see Creating Windows-Based Applications.

    The project is created and added to Solution Explorer.

The dataset is created by running the Data Source Configuration Wizard.

Select a SQL Express database when you create your connection. For more information, see How to: Connect to Data in a Database.

To create a connection to the SQL Express database

  1. On the Data menu, click Show Data Sources.

  2. In the Data Sources window, choose Add New Data Source.

  3. On the Choose a Data Source Type page, select Database, and then click Next.

  4. On the Choose a Database Model page, select Dataset, and then click Next.

  5. On the Choose your Data Connection page, select New Connection to create a new data connection.


    If the Data source is not Microsoft SQL Server Database File, then select Change to open the Choose/Change Data Source dialog box.

  6. In the Choose Data Source dialog box, select Microsoft SQL Server Database File. Click Continue.

    The default provider is .NET Framework Provider for SQL Server. For more information, see Choose/Change Data Source Dialog Box.

  7. Enter the path of the database file that you want to access, or click the Browse button to locate the database file.


    For this walkthrough, select the SampleDatabase.mdf file created by completing the procedures in Walkthrough: Creating a SQL Server Express Database.

  8. Select the authentication mode and login information that is required by your database. For more information, see Add/Modify Connection (Microsoft SQL Server Database File).

  9. Click OK, and then click Next.


    Local database files can be included in a project as a file in the solution. When creating connections to local database files, you can decide between creating a copy of the database in your project, or connecting to the existing database file in its current location. For more information, see How to: Manage Local Data Files in Your Project.

  10. Click Yes to copy the database file to your project.

  11. Click Next on the Save connection string to the Application Configuration file page.

  12. Expand the Tables node, select Customers and Orders, and then click Finish.

    The SampleDatabaseDataSet is added to your project and the Customers and Orders tables appear in the Data Sources window.

Create the data-bound controls by dragging items from the Data Sources window onto Form1.

To create data-bound controls on the form

To run the application

  • Press F5 to run the application.

The dataset you just created is now available in the Data Sources window.

To add functionality to your application