System Base Tables

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Published on: January 30, 2012

On January 19th, I published a post about the Dedicated Administrator Connection.  I spoke very briefly of the system base tables in that article.  Today, I want to dive into these tables a little bit more.

First, let’s get the Microsoft definition for these tables.  ”System base tables are the underlying tables that actually store the metadata for a specific database.”

Have you ever queried sys.objects from the master database and wondered about some of the results?  You can see all of the System base tables when querying the sys.objects view.  These tables are denoted in sys.objects by type of ‘S’ and a type_desc of ‘SYSTEM_TABLE’.

Here is a simple query to take a quick peek at these tables.

SELECT * FROM sys.objects
	WHERE Type = 'S'
	ORDER BY NAME

There is no need for a Dedicated Administrator connection in order for this query to work.  You can view these results with a non-DAC connection to the instance so long as you have adequate permissions to query sys.objects.  That said, not all objects returned by that query are System Base Tables.  Furthermore, it appears that the list from MSDN is not comprehensive.  One such example is the reference to sys.sysserrefs that does not appear to exist in SQL 2008 R2 and the missing System Base table called sys.sysbrickfiles (which is used by sysaltfiles as shown in this execution plan).

If I try to query the sysbrickfiles table (as an example) without connecting via DAC, I will get an error message like this:

Msg 208, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
Invalid object name 'sys.sysbrickfiles'.

This is normal behavior.  You cannot query the system base tables without first connecting via DAC.  Having said that, the obligatory warning is required.  As explained on MSDN, these tables are intended for use by Microsoft.  Proceed at your own risk and please make sure you have backups.

In addition to these System Base tables, you will find tables not mentioned in the article nor in the master database.  These System Base tables are found within the Resource database.  The resource database does contain most of the tables mentioned in that article, but there are some differences.  I will leave that discovery exercise to the reader.

There is plenty about SQL Server that many of us take for granted.  Under the hood, there is much more to learn.  Taking a peek at the System Base tables is one of those areas that will help you to learn more about SQL Server.  My question is this: How far are you willing to explore to learn more about SQL Server?

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