Understanding Error Severity Levels in SQL Server (Severity Levels 0-25)

error severity levels in sql server

Error Severity Levels in SQL Server: Encountering errors within your SQL Server environment is inevitable. While frustrating, error messages serve a vital purpose – they pinpoint issues that could potentially disrupt functionality or impact data integrity. However, deciphering these messages can be overwhelming, especially for users unfamiliar with the cryptic codes and technical jargon.

This blog post delves into the world of SQL Server error severity levels, offering a comprehensive guide to understanding these messages and taking appropriate action. We’ll explore the different levels, their implications, and strategies for troubleshooting based on the severity. By the end, you’ll be equipped to interpret error messages more effectively and take the necessary steps to resolve them efficiently.

What is error severity levels in SQL Server?

SQL Server categorizes errors into different levels of severity, ranging from 0 to 25. The severity level of an error indicates the seriousness of the error and determines how the server responds to the error. SQL Server error messages typically consist of three key components:

  1. Error Number (Msg No.): This unique identifier pinpoints the specific error encountered.
  2. Severity Level: This number indicates the severity of the error, ranging from informational messages to critical issues that can halt database operations.
  3. Description: This section provides a brief explanation of the error, along with potential causes and troubleshooting tips.

While the error number and description offer valuable insights, the severity level plays a crucial role in determining the urgency of the issue and the appropriate course of action.

Read More: How to Create Logins in SQL Server with Examples?

Unveiling the Hierarchy: SQL Server Error Severity Levels

SQL Server error severity levels range from 0 to 25, categorized into three primary groups:

error severity levels in sql server - hierarchy

1. Informational Messages (Severity Levels 0-10):

Messages within this range are not actual errors. They typically communicate non-critical situations, such as:

a) Warnings: These messages highlight potential issues that could lead to problems in the future, like inefficient queries or missing indexes.

b) Informational Messages: These messages provide information about the successful completion of an operation or configuration settings.

While not requiring immediate action, it’s still beneficial to review these messages to maintain optimal database performance and identify potential areas for improvement.

2. User-Correctable Errors (Severity Levels 11-16):

Errors categorized in this range indicate issues caused by user actions or configuration mistakes. These could include:

a) Syntax Errors: Incorrectly written queries with typos or grammatical errors that prevent the database from understanding the intended operation.

b) Permission Issues: Users attempting to access data or perform actions beyond their permissions will encounter these errors.

c) Missing Objects: Trying to use a non-existent table, column, or stored procedure will result in such errors.

These errors are typically easy to resolve by revising the SQL statement, granting appropriate permissions, or creating the missing object. (Error Severity Levels in SQL Server)

3. System Errors (Severity Levels 17-25):

Errors within this range represent more serious issues potentially caused by software bugs, hardware malfunctions, or resource limitations. They can be categorized further:

a) Resource Limitations (Severity Levels 17-18): These errors indicate that the database has run out of a crucial resource, such as memory or locks. They might require adjustments to server configuration or query optimization techniques.

b) Internal Software Errors (Severity Level 18): These errors suggest problems within the SQL Server software itself. While less frequent, they might necessitate contacting Microsoft support or applying relevant hotfixes.

c) Non-Configurable Resource Errors (Severity Level 19): These errors indicate limitations imposed by hardware or system configuration that cannot be readily adjusted. They might require upgrading hardware or consulting a system administrator.

System errors often require more in-depth troubleshooting and might involve the assistance of database administrators or Microsoft support personnel.

Read More: 7 Best practices to secure SQL Server

4. Special Considerations: Severity Levels Above 20

Severity levels above 20 are rarely encountered but indicate critical system errors that can halt database processes. These might include:

  • Fatal Errors (Severity Levels 20-25): These errors cause the database connection or server process to terminate abruptly. Data recovery procedures might be necessary to restore functionality. (Error Severity Levels in SQL Server)

Troubleshooting Based on Severity Level

Here’s a quick troubleshooting guide based on the error severity level:

a) Informational (0-10): Review the message to identify potential areas for improvement but typically don’t require immediate action.

b) User-Correctable (11-16): Analyze the error message and revise your queries, adjust permissions, or create missing objects.

c) System Errors (17-25):

  • Resource Limitations (17-18): Optimize queries, adjust server configuration, or consider hardware upgrades if necessary.
  • Internal Software Errors (18): Apply relevant hotfixes or contact Microsoft support.
  • Non-Configurable Resource Errors (19): Investigate hardware limitations and consider upgrades

d) System Errors (17-25) – Continued:

  • Fatal Errors (20-25): These require immediate attention. Utilize database recovery procedures, consult a database administrator, or contact Microsoft support.

Beyond the Basics: Advanced Tips for Error Management

error severity levels in sql server - error management

a) Utilize Error Messages Effectively: Pay close attention to the error message details. Often, they pinpoint the exact line of code causing the issue or offer specific suggestions for resolution.

b) Leverage System Logs: SQL Server logs all errors and events. These logs can provide valuable insights, especially when troubleshooting complex system errors.

c) Error Handling in Applications: For applications interacting with SQL Server, implement proper error handling mechanisms. This allows applications to gracefully handle errors and provide meaningful feedback to users.

d) Consider Third-Party Tools: Several third-party tools specialize in SQL Server error analysis and troubleshooting. These tools can automate tasks like parsing error messages and suggesting potential solutions. (Error Severity Levels in SQL Server)


Understanding SQL Server error severity levels empowers you to interpret error messages more effectively and take appropriate action. By following the best practices outlined above, you can minimize downtime, optimize database performance, and ensure the smooth operation of your SQL Server environment. Remember, a proactive approach to error management is key to maintaining data integrity and user experience within your critical database applications.


What do the different severity levels in SQL Server error messages mean?

SQL Server error messages have a severity level ranging from 0 to 25. Levels 0-10 are informational and might suggest areas for improvement. Levels 11-16 indicate user-correctable errors like syntax mistakes or permission issues. Levels 17-25 are system errors and can be more serious, requiring adjustments or potentially involving Microsoft support.

How should I react to an error message based on its severity level?

Informational messages (0-10) can be reviewed later for optimization. User-correctable errors (11-16) usually involve revising queries, adjusting permissions, or creating missing objects. System errors (17-25) might require troubleshooting server configuration, applying hotfixes, or consulting a database administrator.

Are there any tools to help me understand and troubleshoot SQL Server errors?

Absolutely! SQL Server logs all errors, offering valuable insights. Additionally, error messages themselves often pinpoint the issue and suggest solutions. Consider third-party tools that specialize in parsing error messages and recommending potential fixes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top