The isolation property is one of the four properties, atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability (ACID), that a logical unit of work must display to qualify as a transaction. It is the ability to shield transactions from the effects of updates performed by other concurrent transactions. The level of isolation is actually customizable for each transaction.
The SQL Server Database Engine supports the transaction isolation levels defined in SQL-92. Setting transaction isolation levels allows programmers to trade off increased risk of certain integrity problems with support for greater concurrent access to data. The transaction isolation levels are:
With two exceptions, each isolation level offers more isolation than the previous level by holding more restrictive locks for longer periods. The exceptions are SNAPSHOT, and READ COMMITTED when READ_COMMITTED_SNAPSHOT is set ON. These isolation levels do not acquire shared locks on data rows during read operations. Only SCH-S locks are held at the table level.
Transaction isolation levels can be set using Transact-SQL or through a database API.
Transact-SQL scripts use the SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL statement.
ADO applications set the IsolationLevel property of the Connection object to adXactReadUncommitted, adXactReadCommitted, adXactRepeatableRead, or adXactReadSerializable.
ADO.NET applications using the System.Data.SqlClient managed namespace can call the SqlConnection.BeginTransaction method and set the IsolationLevel option to Unspecified, Chaos, ReadUncommitted, ReadCommitted, RepeatableRead, Serializable, and Snapshot.
When starting a transaction, applications using OLE DB call ITransactionLocal::StartTransaction with isoLevel set to ISOLATIONLEVEL_READUNCOMMITTED, ISOLATIONLEVEL_READCOMMITTED, ISOLATIONLEVEL_REPEATABLEREAD, ISOLATIONLEVEL_SNAPSHOT, or ISOLATIONLEVEL_SERIALIZABLE.
When specifying the transaction isolation level in autocommit mode, OLE DB applications can set the DBPROPSET_SESSION property DBPROP_SESS_AUTOCOMMITISOLEVELS to DBPROPVAL_TI_CHAOS, DBPROPVAL_TI_READUNCOMMITTED, DBPROPVAL_TI_BROWSE, DBPROPVAL_TI_CURSORSTABILITY, DBPROPVAL_TI_READCOMMITTED, DBPROPVAL_TI_REPEATABLEREAD, DBPROPVAL_TI_SERIALIZABLE, DBPROPVAL_TI_ISOLATED, or DBPROPVAL_TI_SNAPSHOT.
ODBC applications call SQLSetConnectAttr with Attribute set to SQL_ATTR_TXN_ISOLATION and ValuePtr set to SQL_TXN_READ_UNCOMMITTED, SQL_TXN_READ_COMMITTED, SQL_TXN_REPEATABLE_READ, or SQL_TXN_SERIALIZABLE.
For snapshot transactions, applications call SQLSetConnectAttr with Attribute set to SQL_COPT_SS_TXN_ISOLATION and ValuePtr set to SQL_TXN_SS_SNAPSHOT. A snapshot transaction can be retrieved using either SQL_COPT_SS_TXN_ISOLATION or SQL_ATTR_TXN_ISOLATION.