Taming Text: Replace, Update, and Manipulate Strings in Your SQL Server Like a Pro

sql server Replacing Strings in SQL Server Table Columns: A Beginner's Guide


1. REPLACE Function:

This is the most common and straightforward approach. The REPLACE function takes three arguments:

  • String to modify: The column name containing the strings you want to modify.
  • String to find: The specific substring you want to replace.
  • String to replace with: The new substring you want to insert.


SET Name = REPLACE(Name, 'old_value', 'new_value')
WHERE Name LIKE '%old_value%';

This query replaces all occurrences of "old_value" with "new_value" in the "Name" column of "MyTable," only for rows where "Name" contains "old_value."

2. UPDATE with WHERE Clause:

For simple replacements, you can directly use the UPDATE statement with a WHERE clause.


SET Description = 'Updated Description'
WHERE Description = 'Original Description';

This replaces "Original Description" with "Updated Description" only in rows where "Description" equals "Original Description."

3. STUFF Function (Advanced):

This function offers more flexibility, allowing you to replace specific characters or substrings within a position. However, it's slightly more complex than REPLACE.


SET ProductCode = STUFF(ProductCode, 5, 3, 'XYZ')
WHERE ProductCode LIKE 'ABC%';

This replaces characters at positions 5 to 7 (3 characters) with "XYZ" in "ProductCode" only for rows where "ProductCode" starts with "ABC."

Related Issues and Solutions:

  • Case Sensitivity: REPLACE is case-insensitive by default. Use REPLACE(..., 'old_value', 'new_value', 1) for case-sensitive replacement.
  • Wildcards: Use % as a wildcard to match any character sequence. Be cautious to avoid unintended replacements.
  • Data Backup: Always back up your data before making modifications.
  • Performance: Larger datasets might require optimization techniques. Analyze your query execution plan to identify bottlenecks.


  • Choose the method that best suits your needs and complexity.
  • Test your queries on a non-production environment before applying them to live data.
  • For more advanced scenarios, explore other string manipulation functions like SUBSTRING, PATINDEX, and LEN.

I hope this explanation, along with the examples, helps you understand and implement string replacements in your SQL Server tables. Feel free to ask if you have further questions!