sql server – SQL Transactions (b)locking Selects – is my understanding correct – Education Career Blog

We are using ADO.NET to connect to a SQL 2005 server, and doing a number of inserts/updates and selects in it. We changed one of the updates to be inside a transaction however it appears to (b)lock the entire table when we do it, regardless of the IsolationLevel we set on the transaction.

The behavior that I seem to see is that:

  1. If you have no transactions then it’s an all out fight (losers getting dead locked)
  2. If you have a few transactions then they win all the time and block all others out unless
  3. If you have a few transactions and you set something like nolock on the rest then you get transactions and nothing blocked. This is because every statement (select/insert/delete/update) has an isolationlevel regardless of transactions.

Is this correct?


The answer to your question is: It depends.

If you are updating a table, SQL Server uses several strategies to decide how many rows to lock, row level locks, page locks or full table locks.

If you are updating more than a certain percentage of the table (configurable as I remember), then SQL Server gives you a table level lock, which may block selects.

The best reference is:

Good luck.


Your update statement (i.e one that changes data) will hold locks regardless of the isolation level and whether you have explicitly defined a transaction of not.

What you can control is the granularity of the locks by using query hints. So if the update is locking the entire table, then you can specify a query hint to only lock the affected rows (ROWLOCK hint). That is unless your query is updating the whole table of course.

So to answer your question, the first connection to request locks on a resource will hold those locks for the duration of the transaction. You can specify that a select does not hold locks by using the read uncommitted isolation level, statements that change data insert/update/delete always hold locks regardless. The next connection to request locks on the same resource will wait until the first has finished and will then hold its locks. Dead locking is a specific scenario where two connections are holding locks and each is waiting for the other connection’s resource, to avoid the engine waiting forever, one connection is chosen as the deadlock victim.

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