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SysTools SQL Log Analyzer

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By: justin hansen

September 17, 2017

SysTools SQL Log Analyzer: Advanced Utility for SQL Transaction Log Forensics

When SQL Server log files are mentioned, the very thought on our programmer's brain is a SQL Server transaction log file. These files record and track updates of the activities carried out on the corresponding database. However, some of us remain unaware of the fact that there are many other log files.There are SQL Server Profiler, Setup, Error, Agent, and Windows event log files. It is easy to view SQL logs of this category; however, to open a transaction log file one needs to have an external SQL Log analyzer tool only. No other procedure lets you view transaction logs for SQL as easy as a third party tool.The blog puts light on the statement with a set of facts, which shows how difficult it is to view transaction log SQL Server without an application.

Different Logs in SQL Server vs. Transaction Log File

SQL Server log files do not limit to just transaction log files. Many more log files offer other details related to the server and its functions. A set of log files other than the database transaction record are:
  1. Log files for Audit collection
  2. Log file for Data collection
  3. Database Mail log file
  4. Job history related logs
  5. Server agent log files
  6. General SQL Server activity log
  7. And, Windows event
All the above-listed log file records are readable with the help of integrated Log File Viewer provided by Server Management Studio. These different types of log files are meant to store respective information around and about SQL Server. However, none of these is meant to store any bit of information related to the database activities.Thus, a transaction log for each database is maintained separately for the same. Moreover, one cannot view SQL server log using the integrated Log File Viewer provided in the SQL Server Management Studio.NOTE: Windows Event log is not dependable on SQL Server environment and can be read using the Event Viewer on the machine.If Log File Viewer cannot read transaction logs, then what can?

Reading a Transaction Log File on SQL Server

When searching for how to view SQL transaction logs, you must have found a four-step procedure. However, that is not the end of it; the stated procedure is for Log File Viewer, which is meant to read all the SQL Server related log files except for transaction logs.In reality, there are not four but a number of endless steps involved in reading the transactions of any SQL Server database. Transaction logs records are not directly readable and require one to either uses a function or a third party tool (to get the best result) to view transaction log SQL Server.Matter of FactThe transaction logs record information that describes any/all changes made on to the associated database. The stored information is sufficient for even restoring the corresponding database to a particular point in time. Either you can replay or roll back a change made in the database previously.However, viewing what a transaction log file stores in it is not a very simple procedure to follow as it is for the rest of the log files. Transaction log files are viewed in a condition where either the DBA wants to read the transactions to see what happened to a database or to roll back changes previously made to recover a deleted record.

How to View SQL Transaction Logs without Software?

  1. Open LDF and TRN in a binary/hex editor
  2. Or, run the undocumented function ‘fn_dblog’
Trying the first method to view SQL server log will show the transactions in a non-readable format, i.e. binary. Thus, you are left with ‘fn_dblog’ function to read transaction log of a database.
  1. Run the function ‘fn_dblog’ against the respective database of your choice. Specify the operation that you are looking for and proceed.
  2. You will then see a lot of transaction IDs all for the specified operation
  3. Capture the preferred transaction ID based on the required AllocUnitName
  4. Use the transaction ID to find the exact LSN of the preferred operation
Why is 'fn_dblog' not a preferred way to read transaction log files?Apparently, the undocumented function ‘fn_dblog’ is not a preferred way to view transactions from a database log because:
  1. You need to specify the operation that you are looking for
  2. Details of only a specific operation can be searched at once
Moreover, besides complexity, length of the procedure is unsuitable for a DBA who may also have to perform the restoration of the involved database to a specific point in time. Therefore, a third party SQL Server transaction log reader is the only suggested method to go with so that desired results are attained within an instant.

Difference Made by SQL Log Analyzer

Method to view SQL logs query based manner is evidently a complex and lengthy procedure to follow every time you need to look at the transaction log records. Therefore, using a commercial tool is the best way to analyze SQL transaction log.SQL Log Analyzer software is programmed to render easy and instant readability of SQL Server transaction logs. Unlike ‘fn_dblog’ you get the following contrasting options to view transaction records in SQL Server:
  1. Load and preview SQL Server LDF file in an instant successfully
  2. Preview complete transaction records in a readable format
  3. know who changed what and when
  4. Auto-locate the corresponding MDF file for recovery, if required
  5. Analyze SQL log file and export into SQL DB, Script, or CSV file
  6. SQL Server connectivity is not required for analysis of Log file(s)
  7. Freeware trial available to review transactions for demonstration
Wrapping UpEvery SQL Server user has come to a point where they want to know how to view SQL logs containing database transaction records. This is a universally enquired query, which has been on the minds of plenty but not has been queried by all. Reading log files is possible with the Log File Reader provided in the management studio. However, these logs are a system, event, and application logs; not database transaction logs. Thus, SysTools SQL Log Analyzer is the recommended solution to analyze SQL transaction log. Besides all the required functions like; review of log files, quick and readable reading, the software also features recovery of the corresponding database at the same time. Therefore, you can analyze SQL logs and post reading the past transactions perform recovery of the associated database if required otherwise, proceed to export the record in a readable output for future use.
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