How to Install SQL Server Express (& SSMS)

In this post, you’ll see the step-by-step process to download and install SQL Server Express, install SQL Server Management Studio, and connect to the database.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Download SQL Server Express

Let’s download SQL Server Express.

To do this, visit the Microsoft website at www.microsoft.com.

Here’s what the Microsoft website looks like.

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You can browse through some of the sites under the All Microsoft entry, but this changes often, and the SQL Server entry is buried quite deep.

I think the quickest way is to search. Click on the search bar and enter “sql server download”, then press Enter.

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Click on the first entry in the list, called “SQL Server Downloads”.

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You’ll see the Downloads page for SQL Server products.

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Scroll down and click on the Download Now button under Express.

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You’re then prompted to save the file on your computer. Choose a location, and the file begins to download.

It’s a small download, as the full download happens during the installation process.


Step 2: Install SQL Server Express

So, now we’ve downloaded the SQL Server Express installation file, it’s time to install it.

This should only take a few minutes. I’ll walk through the process step by step.

Let’s start the SQL Server Express installation process. Navigate to the place on your computer where the file was downloaded.

Then, open the downloaded executable file.

After a moment, the installer will open. You’ll see this screen which allows you to select an installation type.

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You can choose Basic to use the default settings, Custom to specify each setting, or Download Media to download the files for later use.

Click the Basic option.

Read and accept the license terms and click Accept.

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The next screen shows the installation location. Leave it as the default and click Install. You can change it, but you don’t need to.

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The installation will then begin. It starts with downloading the install package, then it is installed. This can take a few minutes.

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Once the installation has finished, you’ll see this screen.

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The next thing we’ll need to do is download and install SSMS, which stands for SQL Server Management Studio. It’s one of the most popular SQL editors for SQL Server.

Click on the Install SSMS button. This will take you to the Microsoft web page for downloading SSMS.

Here’s the download page for SSMS

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If you closed the SQL Server installer, or couldn’t open this page, you can find it on Google or on the Microsoft website.

Click Download SQL Server Management Studio on this page.

The SSMS Setup file will download. It’s a few hundred megabytes so may take a couple of minutes.

Once it’s downloaded, it’s ready to install.

Step 3: Install SSMS

Once you have downloaded the installation file, open it.

You’ll see the Welcome screen. Click Install.

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SSMS will now begin installing. This will take a few minutes.

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Once it is done, you’ll see this screen here.

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Click OK.


Step 4: Connect to SQL Server

So we’ve installed SQL Server Express, and we’ve downloaded SQL Server Management Studio. How do we use it with the SQL Server Express database?

We create a connection in SQL Server Management Studio to the SQL Server database.

To do this, we open SQL Server Management Studio.

Open this by going to the Start menu, and then expanding Microsoft SQL Server Tools.

Click on Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.

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A splash screen will display for a few seconds as it loads.

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Once SQL Server Management Studio has opened, you’ll see this screen.

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This Connect to Server dialog box allows you to connect to the SQL Server to start working with SQL.

The good news is that all of the information is already populated, so you should be able to click Connect and be connected to the database.

You may want to change this if you’re connecting to a database on another server. But for us, we can just click Connect.

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SQL Server Management Studio is now connected to SQL Server.


So that’s how you can install SQL Server Express and SSMS on your computer.

Now that you’ve got it installed and can connect, you’ll probably find this SQL Server Cheat Sheet useful:

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