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SQL Server: Cursors - Basics and Example of Cursors

SQL Cursor is a database object used by applications to manipulate data in a set on a row-by-row basis; it’s like recordset in the ASP.
SQL Server Cursor is a row base operator but cursor is not recommended because of performance issue as it create different execution plan for each rows. So one should look out for other i.e. try to implement logic with the help of while loop or CASE statement or JOIN, SELECT, GROUP etc. statements.

But few times the cursor is recommended and useful, for example if you just need to update your DB only once through Query Analyzer and don’t really bothered about performance, then cursor can be handful;

SQL Server Cursor Basics: Before jumping to example, let’s see basics of SQL Cursor statements.

Declare variables used in the code block
Initialize the variables to a specific value
Populate the cursor with values that will be evaluated. There are an equal number of variables in the DECLARE <Name_Of_Cursor>
Open the cursor to begin data processing
Assign the specific values from the cursor to the variables; This logic is used for the initial population before the WHILE statement and then again during each loop in the process as a portion of the WHILE statement
Condition to begin and continue data processing
Start and end of the code block. There can be multiple BEGIN...END statements.
Processing of Data
Any DML statement or query logic you want to process.
Releases the current data and associated locks, but permits the cursor to be re-opened
Destroys the cursor

Cursor Example: For of all let’s create one table; we’ll use this table in our example cursor.

/***** Create Table: CountryTable *****/

/***** INSERT Into: CountryTable *****/
INSERT INTO CountryTable VALUES(1,'India')
INSERT INTO CountryTable VALUES(3,'Australia')
INSERT INTO CountryTable VALUES(4,'Germany')

Now we’ll create a simple cursor that’ll iterate over this table and show all Id and Name of each country.

DECLARE @CountryId INT, @CountryName NVARCHAR(50)
/***** Declare Cursor *****/
DECLARE @GetCountryDetail CURSOR

/***** Set Cursor *****/
SET @GetCountryDetail = CURSOR FOR
SELECT Id, Name FROM CountryTable

/***** Open Cursor *****/
OPEN @GetCountryDetail
      FROM @GetCountryDetail INTO @CountryId, @CountryName
            /***** Print Result *****/
            PRINT 'Country Id: ' + CAST (@CountryId AS NVARCHAR(10))
                  + ' And Country Name: ' + @CountryName

            FETCH NEXT
            FROM @GetCountryDetail INTO @CountryId, @CountryName

/***** Close Cursor *****/
CLOSE @GetCountryDetail

/***** Deallocate Cursor *****/
DEALLOCATE @GetCountryDetail

Output will be:

Country Id: 1 And Country Name: India
Country Id: 2 And Country Name: USA
Country Id: 3 And Country Name: Australia
Country Id: 4 And Country Name: Germany
Country Id: 5 And Country Name: UK

Few points one should keep in mind regarding cursor:
·         Cursor is an actual object inside the database engine, there is a little overhead involved in creating the cursor and destroying it.
·         Majority of cursor operations occur in tempdb, so a heavily used tempdb will be even more overloaded with the use of cursors.
·         Once cursor is opened we have to close the cursor
·         After the usage cursor should be deallocated from the memory.

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