Database Cloning in SQL Server for Troubleshooting and Diagnostics

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Microsoft released SQL Server 2014 SP2 and with this new service pack we have some new features. This update introduces database cloning in which a new database will be created that contains just the schema of all the objects and statistics from the specified source database. Follow this tip to learn how to clone a database.


SQL Server 2014 SP2 update introduces a new management command DBCC CLONEDATABASE which creates a new database that contains the schema of all the objects and statistics from the specified source database. Cloned databases copy all schema and metadata of the source database without coping any data. DBCC CLONEDATABASE should be used to create a cloned database only for troubleshooting and diagnostic purposes. A cloned database created by DBCC CLONEDATABASE must not be used as a production database.

The below command is used to create a cloned database named "Manvendra_Cloned" from its source database "Manvendra".

DBCC CLONEDATABASE(Manvendra, Manvendra_Cloned)

You might be thinking how does SQL Server manage the data file names and the size of a cloned database as we have not passed any details except the source database name and the cloned database name. The size and growth settings of the database files for a cloned database are inherited from the model database whereas the database file names will follow the source file name with some random number appended to the file name. I will show you this later in this tip.

There are few restrictions for a cloned database like the source database must be a user database. Cloning of system databases isn't allowed. The source database must be online or readable. A database that uses the same name as the clone database must not already exist. If these restrictions are present, the cloned database will not be created and it will fail.

Let's start with creating a database that has three data files and a log file then we will create a table and insert some data.  After this we will clone this database.

Step 1 - Create a SQL Server Database

First we will create a database named "Manvendra" with three data files (1 primary and 2 secondary data files) in one filegroup and one log file by running the below T-SQL code. You can change the name of the database, file path, file names, size and file growth according to your needs.

( NAME = N'Manvendra_Test', FILENAME = N'C:\MSSQL\DATA\Manvendra.mdf',SIZE = 5MB , MAXSIZE = UNLIMITED, FILEGROWTH = 10MB ),
( NAME = N'Manvendra_Test1', FILENAME = N'C:\MSSQL\DATA\Manvendra1.ndf',SIZE = 5MB , MAXSIZE = UNLIMITED, FILEGROWTH = 10MB ),
( NAME = N'Manvendra_2', FILENAME = N'C:\MSSQL\DATA\Manvendra2.ndf' ,SIZE = 5MB , MAXSIZE = UNLIMITED, FILEGROWTH = 10MB )
( NAME = N'Manvendra_log', FILENAME = N'C:\MSSQL\DATA\Manvendralog.ldf',SIZE = 10MB , MAXSIZE = 1GB , FILEGROWTH = 10%)

Step 2 - Create a SQL Server Table and Insert Data

Next, I will create a table named Test_Data and insert 10,000 rows into this table by running the below command.

--Create Table.
USE Manvendra;

CREATE TABLE [Test_Data] (
    [City] CHAR (25) DEFAULT 'Bangalore',
 [Name] CHAR (25) DEFAULT 'Manvendra Deo Singh');

--Insert 10000 Rows
GO 10000

Once the above command executes, we will check the table count to verify the data insertion. I have also created statistics on this table to validate the copy of statistics into the cloned database.

Check row counts

Step 3 - Clone the SQL Server Database

Now we will use this database as the source database to create a clone database. Run the below T-SQL command to create a cloned database of "Manvendra".


DBCC CLONEDATABASE(Manvendra, Manvendra_Cloned)

You can see T-SQL command has executed successfully and the output shows a clone was created.

Create cloned database Manvendra_cloned

Below is the complete output from running the clone command.

Database cloning for 'Manvendra' has started with target as 'Manvendra_Cloned'.
Database cloning for 'Manvendra' has finished. Cloned database is 'Manvendra_Cloned'.
Database 'Manvendra_Cloned' is a cloned database. A cloned database should be used for diagnostic purposes only and is not supported for use in a production environment. DBCC execution completed. If DBCC printed error messages, contact your system administrator.

As mentioned, a cloned database should not be used as production database. The output from the command includes this text: "A cloned database should be used for diagnostic purposes only and is not supported for use in a production environment".

Database cloning creates a cloned database by running few operations in the background. The first command creates a database then takes an internal snapshot of all schema and metadata from the source database for transactional consistency that is needed to perform the copy. Then the copy operation is executed for the schema, statistics and metadata.

Step 4 - Review Row Counts in the SQL Server Table

Now we will check the row count of the table in the cloned database to check and verify whether data has been copied along with the statistics.


SELECT COUNT (*) from [dbo].[Test_Data]

We can see the cloned database "Manvendra_Cloned" on left side of the screenshot below which is in Read-Only mode. The total number of rows from the query is zero which means data was not copied.  We can see the schema, objects and statistics have been copied to the cloned database.

validate the clone

Step 5 - Review the SQL Server Database Files for the Cloned Database

I discussed earlier that size and growth settings of the database files for a cloned database are inherited from the model database and the database file names will follow the source file name with some random number appended. Here I will validate and verify these rules. Run the below commands to get the details of all three databases: model, Manvendra and Manvendra_cloned.

USE model

SELECT file_id, name as [logical_file_name],physical_name, size,growth 
from sys.database_files


SELECT file_id, name as [logical_file_name],physical_name,size,growth
from sys.database_files

USE Manvendra_Cloned

SELECT file_id, name as [logical_file_name],physical_name,size,growth
from sys.database_files

When you look at size and growth columns of database "model", you will find the same values for the cloned database, since the settings were inherited from the model database. The size of log file is a little different because there were fewer objects created in the database. Similarly if you compare the database file locations and names then these options are inherited from the source database. Database files have been created in this format [sourcedatabasefile_number].

compare data files.

Identifying a Cloned SQL Server Database

To identify a cloned database among other databases we can run the below command. If the output returned is 1 that means the database is a clone.



If we run the above command for both databases the output shows the source database is not a cloned database because its output is 0 whereas the "Manvendra_cloned" database returns 1 which means it is a cloned database.

Identify cloned database

Another option to identify a cloned database is through the SQL Server Error Log. Whenever you create a cloned database the below entries will be logged in the SQL Server Error Log.

Error log
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About the author
MSSQLTips author Manvendra Singh Manvendra Singh has over 5 years of experience with SQL Server and has focused on Database Mirroring, Replication, Log Shipping, etc.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 - 11:10:43 AM - Ravin Yellayah Back To Top (55619)

I have noticed a very odd behaviour after a database has been cloned.


When you run the statement - SELECT COUNT (*) from [dbo].[Test_Data] you get 0 rows in the clone database.

When you run the statement sp_spaceused Test_Data- you will get the number of rows from your original database.

Using sp_spaceused Test_Data, @updateusage = 'TRUE' - does NOT resolve this issue!

When view the properties of the table > Storage - the number of rows will still be the same as the number of rows from you original database.

Extremely odd behaviour!

Monday, August 29, 2016 - 11:44:35 AM - Alex Austin Back To Top (43206)


Here is the source for this article:

 It creates a snapshot of the DB and copies only the metadata.

Monday, August 29, 2016 - 1:35:39 AM - mahmoud raad Back To Top (43199)

why we need to clone database while the cloned db will be created without data 

so how we can test any query performance in db without data 


Friday, August 26, 2016 - 6:00:11 AM - Igor Back To Top (43192)


Thank you for your very informative article. If works perfectly in Microsoft SQL Server 2014 (SP2).

JUst for information: tried in Microsoft SQL Server 2016 (RTM) , got back

Msg 2526, Level 16, State 3, Line 1

Incorrect DBCC statement. Check the documentation for the correct DBCC syntax and options.


Friday, August 26, 2016 - 1:40:56 AM - mahmoud raad Back To Top (43191)


how we use CLONEDATABASE in order to investigate a performance issue related to the query optimizer while cloneddatabse has no data. 

Why we need a copy of databse if it will not have data , please explain to me why we need to use cloneddatabase



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