Archive for February 22, 2009

SQL Basics – Difference between TRUNCATE, DELETE and DROP?

February 22, 2009 23 comments

DELETE and TRUNCATE are two SQL commands used to remove records from a particular table. But they differ in how they execute and operate.


1. Removes Some or All rows from a table.

2. A WHERE clause can be used to remove some rows. If no WHERE condition is specified, all rows will be removed.

3. Causes all DELETE triggers on the table to fire.

4. It removes rows row-by-row one at a time and records an entry in the Transaction logs, thus is slower than TRUNCATE.

5. Every deleted row in locked, thus it requires more number of locks and database resources.

6. According to MS BOL, if a table is a Heap or no Clustered index is defined than the row-pages emptied are not de-allocated instantly and remain allocated in the heap. Thus, no other object can reuse this associated space. Thus to de-allocate the space a Clustered index is required or TABLOCK hint should be applied in the DELETE statement.

7. This is a DML command as it is just used to manipulate/modify the table data. It does not change any property of a table.



1. Removes All rows from a table.

2. Does not require a WHERE clause, so you can not filter rows while Truncating.

3. With SQL Server 2016 you can Truncate a Table Partition, for more details check [here].

4. IDENTITY columns are re-seeded on this operation, if no seed was defined then the default value 1 is used.

5. No Triggers are fired on this operation because it does not operate on individual rows.

6. It de-allocates Data Pages instead of Rows and records Data Pages instead of Rows in Transaction logs, thus is faster than DELETE.

7. While de-allocating Pages it locks Pages and not Rows, thus it requires less number of locks and few resources.

8. TRUNCATE is not possible when a table:
a. is reference by a Foreign Key or tables used in replication or with Indexed views.
b. participates in an Indexed/Materialized View.
c. published by using Transactional/Merge replication.

9. This is a DDL command as it resets IDENTITY columns, de-allocates Data Pages and empty them for use of other objects in the database.

Note: It is a misconception among some people that TRUNCATE cannot be roll-backed. But in reality both DELETE and TRUNCATE operations can be COMMITTED AND ROLL-BACKED if provided inside a Transaction. The only method to Rollback a committed transaction after DELETE/TRUNCATE is to restore the last backup and run transactions logs till the time when DELETE/TRUNCATE is about to happen.



1. The DROP TABLE command removes one or more table(s) from the database.

2. All related Data, Indexes, Triggers, Constraints, and Permission specifications for the Table are dropped by this operation.

3. Some objects like Views, Stored Procedures that references the dropped table are not dropped and must be explicitly dropped.

4. Cannot drop a table that is referenced by any Foreign Key constraint.

5. According to MS BOL, Large tables and indexes that use more than 128 extents are dropped in two separate phases: Logical and Physical. In the Logical phase, the existing allocation units used by the table are marked for de-allocation and locked until the transaction commits. In the physical phase, the IAM pages marked for de-allocation are physically dropped in batches.