Skip To Content

Add a database server to ArcMap

Install the SQL Server client on the ArcMap machine, start ArcMap, add the database server to the Catalog tree, and connect to the database server.

Install a SQL Server client

When you connect to a database server (SQL Server Express instance) from an ArcGIS client, you use SQL Server's connection mechanism. You must install that mechanism: the SQL Server client.

You can obtain and install the SQL Server client from the Microsoft Download Center provided it is a version supported by ArcGIS. Alternatively, you can download and install the SQL Server client from My Esri. Install the client on all computers where ArcMap is installed.

If you are installing the client on a 64-bit operating system, run the 64-bit executable; it installs both 32- and 64-bit files. If you run the 32-bit SQL Server client installation on a 64-bit operating system, it will fail.

Add a database server

Add a database server connection in the Catalog tree in ArcMap if you need to perform administrative tasks on a Microsoft SQL Server Express instance or the geodatabases it contains.

Adding a database server creates a database server connection file (a .gds file) in your user folder and an icon in the Database Servers folder for that connection.

To add a database server, you must have permission to access the database server.

Just as with connections to any data source, connections to database servers must be created for each client who needs to manage database servers and their geodatabases.

When you first add a database server connection in the Catalog tree, you are automatically connected to the database server. If you leave the connection open when you close the Catalog window, you are automatically connected when you reopen it.

  1. Start ArcMap, open the Catalog window, and expand the Database Servers folder in the Catalog tree.
  2. Double-click Add Database Server.
  3. On the Add Database Server dialog box, provide the name of the database server. This is in the form <server_name>\<instance_name>, where the server name is the name of the server on which SQL Server Express is installed and the instance name is the name of the SQL Server Express instance.

    For example, if a database server is named SOPHIE\SQLEXPRESS, SOPHIE is the server name and SQLEXPRESS is the instance name.

    If you are unsure of the name to use, contact the administrator of the database server for this information.

  4. Click OK.

The server icon appears under Database Servers in the Catalog tree.


If you add the database server and the icon appears in the Catalog tree with a blank white square on it, the database server has been added but its status is unknown. Try double-clicking it to connect. If you are unable to connect, contact the administrator of that database server to find out if the SQL Server Express instance is running and connected to the network and what type of permission you have on that database server.

Connect to the database server

If you disconnected from the database server, you can double-click the database server in the Catalog tree to connect to it.

Next steps

Add logins to the database server.