Update Your SQL Server Data with Ease: A Guide to Replacing Text in Columns


Here's how it works:

  1. The REPLACE Function:

  2. Example: Imagine you have a table named "Products" with a column "Description" containing product details. You want to replace all instances of "v1.0" with "v2.0" in the descriptions.

    Here's the SQL statement:

    UPDATE Products
    SET Description = REPLACE(Description, 'v1.0', 'v2.0')
    • This UPDATE statement modifies the "Products" table.
    • It sets the "Description" column to a new value.
    • The new value is created by using the REPLACE function on the existing description.
    • REPLACE replaces all occurrences of "v1.0" with "v2.0" within the description text.
  3. Important Notes:

    • REPLACE performs a case-insensitive search by default. So, "v1.0" and "V1.0" will both be replaced with "v2.0".
    • To perform a case-sensitive search, you can use functions like UPPER or LOWER before using REPLACE.
  4. Additional Considerations:

By understanding the REPLACE function, you can efficiently update and modify text data within your SQL Server tables.

Replacing a specific string:

This example replaces "USA" with "US" in the "Country" column of the "Customers" table:

UPDATE Customers
SET Country = REPLACE(Country, 'USA', 'US');

Replacing a string at the beginning/end:

This example removes leading and trailing spaces from the "Name" column of the "Employees" table:

-- Remove leading spaces
UPDATE Employees
SET Name = LTRIM(Name);

-- Remove trailing spaces
UPDATE Employees
SET Name = RTRIM(Name);

Replacing multiple occurrences:

This example replaces both "sql" and "SQL" (case-insensitive) with "database" in the "Content" column of the "Articles" table:

-- Replace both lowercase and uppercase "sql"
UPDATE Articles
SET Content = REPLACE(REPLACE(Content, 'sql', 'database'), 'SQL', 'database');

Replacing based on a condition:

This example replaces "shipped" with "pending" only for orders with a "status" of "backordered" in the "Orders" table:

SET Status = REPLACE(Status, 'shipped', 'pending')
WHERE status = 'backordered';

These are just a few examples, and you can adapt the REPLACE function depending on your specific needs. Remember to test your queries on a development environment before running them on your main database.


This approach involves breaking down the string manipulation into smaller steps.

  • SUBSTRING: This function extracts a portion of a string based on starting position and length.
  • CONCAT: This function combines multiple strings into a single string.

Here's an example:

Imagine you want to replace "v1" with "v2" at the beginning of product codes in the "ProductCode" column.


UPDATE Products
SET ProductCode = REPLACE(ProductCode, 'v1', 'v2');
UPDATE Products
SET ProductCode = CONCAT('v2', SUBSTRING(ProductCode, 2, LEN(ProductCode) - 1));
  • This approach extracts everything except the first character (v1) using SUBSTRING.
  • It then combines "v2" with the remaining substring using CONCAT.

This method offers more control over the replacement logic, especially for complex scenarios.


The CASE WHEN statement allows for conditional replacements based on specific patterns.

Suppose you want to replace different abbreviations for "United States" in the "State" column:

UPDATE Customers
SET State = 
       WHEN State = 'US of A' THEN 'US'
       ELSE State

This statement checks for specific values ("USA" and "US of A") and replaces them with "US". It leaves other state values unchanged.

This method is useful when you have multiple replacement rules based on different conditions.

  1. Regular Expressions (SQL Server 2016+):

For advanced string manipulation needs, SQL Server 2016 and later versions offer regular expressions. These powerful patterns can match complex text patterns and perform replacements accordingly.

Note: Regular expressions can have a steeper learning curve, but they offer unmatched flexibility for intricate string manipulations.

Remember, the best approach depends on the specific task and the complexity of your replacement needs. Consider factors like performance, maintainability, and the level of control required when choosing between REPLACE and alternative methods.

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