Locating Columns: Discover Tables with a Specified Name in T-SQL



We can't directly search all tables for columns. Instead, we use system catalog views that store information about the database structure. In SQL Server, these are sys.tables and sys.columns.


  1. Join the Views: We use an INNER JOIN to connect the sys.tables and sys.columns views. This joins them based on a common field: object_id. This field uniquely identifies a table in sys.tables and relates to the table the column belongs to in sys.columns.

  2. Select Columns: We select the specific information we want:

    • t.name AS table_name: Selects the table name from sys.tables and renames it to "table_name" for clarity.
    • SCHEMA_NAME(schema_id) AS schema_name: Gets the schema name where the table resides using a function and renames it to "schema_name".
    • c.name AS column_name: Selects the column name from sys.columns and renames it to "column_name".
  3. Specify Column Name: We add a WHERE clause to filter the results. Here, we specify the desired column name using a comparison operator (e.g., =).


USE YourDatabaseName  -- Replace with your actual database name

SELECT t.name AS table_name,
       SCHEMA_NAME(schema_id) AS schema_name,
       c.name AS column_name
FROM sys.tables AS t
INNER JOIN sys.columns c ON t.OBJECT_ID = c.object_id
WHERE c.name = 'SpecificColumnName';

Run the query:

Execute this query in your SQL Server Management Studio to see a list of tables containing the specified column name, along with their schema names.

Additional Notes:

  • For case-insensitive search, use LOWER or UPPER functions on both the column name and the specified value in the WHERE clause.
  • This approach works for most SQL databases with variations in view names (e.g., INFORMATION_SCHEMA.COLUMNS in MySQL).

USE YourDatabaseName  -- Replace with your actual database name

SELECT t.name AS table_name,
       SCHEMA_NAME(schema_id) AS schema_name,
       c.name AS column_name
FROM sys.tables AS t
INNER JOIN sys.columns c ON t.OBJECT_ID = c.object_id
WHERE LOWER(c.name) = LOWER('SpecificColumnName');

This code uses the LOWER function on both the column name (c.name) and the specified column name ('SpecificColumnName'). This ensures the search is not case-sensitive, so "SpecificColumnName" will match "SPECIFICCOLUMNNAME" or any other capitalization variation.

Information_Schema Views (Limited Functionality):

Some databases, like MySQL, offer INFORMATION_SCHEMA views that provide metadata about the database. You can use these views for a similar purpose, but functionality might be limited compared to system catalog views specific to a particular database engine.

Here's an example for MySQL:

WHERE COLUMN_NAME = 'SpecificColumnName';

Note: This approach might not provide schema information or be as performant, so it's recommended for simple searches and might require adjustments depending on the database system.

User-Defined Functions (Advanced):

For more complex scenarios, you could create a user-defined function (UDF) that iterates through tables and checks for the desired column. This approach offers greater control but requires more development effort and might not be the most efficient for large databases.

Here's a basic concept (implementation details would vary):

CREATE FUNCTION FindColumnInTables (@columnName NVARCHAR(MAX))
  WHERE COLUMN_NAME = @columnName

Important Considerations:

  • The alternate methods might have limitations compared to system catalog views.
  • Complexity increases with UDFs.
  • Always prioritize the recommended method using system catalog views for better performance and reliability.

sql sql-server t-sql

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