[Best Practices] SQL Server Installation

SQL Server installation does not often repeat, especially if you are using on-premises servers.

In this article, you will see a few settings that are recommended to be reviewed after the SQL Server installation checklist.


  • If possible, start with a freshly installed OS and install the latest drivers.
  • Check if BIOS power management is disabled or set to OS control.
  • Validate hardware compatibility with SQL Server prerequisites:
    • Allocate an adequate amount of CPUs and RAM based on your estimated workload.
  • Provision adequate disk space and set up correctly the Storage:
    • Ensure that you plan for the right disk capacity for your data, logs, backups, and tempdb files.
    • Format drives with allocation unit size set to 64K.

Installation Process

Selection of the features is the first step when you begin the SQL Server installation process.

In the windows above, make sure to install only the features you will use.  Most of these are services that automatically start and use system resources.

The C drive can be used for the above paths (Instance root directory, Shared feature directory, Shared feature directory (x86)).

 Instance Configuration

The next step is the instance configuration options.

In the dialog above, you will have 2 options:

  • Default Instance:
    • You connect to SQL Server by only specifying the server name or IP.
  • Named Instance
    • You connect to SQL Server by specifying the server name or IP and the instance name (Example: Server01/instance1).

If you use only one instance on the server, you can use the default Instance option; otherwise, use named instances.

Validate the software requirements. Some applications that run on SQL Server need to be on the default instance, so the database’s connection uses only the machine name.

Service accounts

Use domain users (not admin) account for Database Engine and Agent. Some people use a domain admin account as the service account, which can cause severe security problems.

On the other hand, we need to ensure that the SQL Server service account has “full control” permissions on data, log, and backup directories for read and write activities.

Grant perform Volume task privilege

This option allows using the database “Instant File Initialization” option, which allows faster database creation, reduce SQL Server start time and restoring.

The more obvious performance improvement can be seen in size growth operations on larger databases.

There is a potential security risk to using this feature,  so make sure to take adequate mitigation actions.

Post-Installation Initial Setup

Check the best practices after the SQL Server installation. It should help you know that they were not left as defaults that may hurt performance.

Pushing SQL Server to the limits and taking everything it can give requires more in-depth investigation, and those settings may have different values specifically on your environment.

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Mark Varnas

Mark Varnas

Hey I'm Mark, one of the guys behind Red9. I make a living performance tuning SQL Servers and making them more stable. I channel my SQL into our SQL Managed Services, SQL Consulting and our internal database products.

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