March 30, 2018

Sreekanth B

Difference between DateTime and DateTime2 DataType In SQL Server

Which one:

datetime
datetime2

is the recommended way to store date and time in SQL Server 2008+?

I'm aware of differences in precision (and storage space probably), but ignoring those for now, is there a best practice document on when to use what, or maybe we should just use datetime2 only?

The MSDN documentation for datetime recommends using datetime2. Here is their recommendation:

Use the time, date, datetime2 and datetimeoffset data types for new work. These types align with the SQL Standard. They are more portable. time, datetime2 and datetimeoffset provide more seconds precision. datetimeoffset provides time zone support for globally deployed applications.

datetime2 has larger date range, a larger default fractional precision, and optional user-specified precision. Also depending on the user-specified precision it may use less storage.

Here is an example that will show you the differences in storage size (bytes) and precision between smalldatetime, datetime, datetime2(0), and datetime2(7):

DECLARE @temp TABLE (
    sdt smalldatetime,
    dt datetime,
    dt20 datetime2(0),
    dt27 datetime2(7)
)

INSERT @temp
SELECT getdate(),getdate(),getdate(),getdate()

SELECT sdt,DATALENGTH(sdt) as sdt_bytes,
    dt,DATALENGTH(dt) as dt_bytes,
    dt20,DATALENGTH(dt20) as dt20_bytes,
    dt27, DATALENGTH(dt27) as dt27_bytes FROM @temp

which returns

sdt                  sdt_bytes  dt                       dt_bytes  dt20                 dt20_bytes  dt27                         dt27_bytes
2015-09-11 11:26:00  4          2015-09-11 11:25:42.417  8         2015-09-11 11:25:42  6           2015-09-11 11:25:42.4170000  8

So if I want to store information down to the second - but not to the millisecond - I can save 2 bytes each if I use datetime2(0) instead of datetime or datetime2(7).

Almost all the Answers and Comments have been heavy on the Pros and light on the Cons. Here's a recap of all Pros and Cons so far plus some crucial Cons (in #2 below) I've only seen mentioned once or not at all.

PROS:

1. More ISO compliant (ISO 8601) (although I don’t know how this comes into play in practice).

2. More range (1/1/0001 to 12/31/9999 vs. 1/1/1753-12/31/9999) (although the extra range, all prior to year 1753, will likely not be used except for ex., in historical, astronomical, geologic, etc. apps).

3. Exactly matches the range of .NET’s DateTime Type’s range (although both convert back and forth with no special coding if values are within the target type’s range and precision except for Con # 2.1 below else error / rounding will occur).

4. More precision (100 nanosecond aka 0.000,000,1 sec. vs. 3.33 millisecond aka 0.003,33 sec.) (although the extra precision will likely not be used except for ex., in engineering / scientific apps).

5. When configured for similar (as in 1 millisec not "same" (as in 3.33 millisec) as Iman Abidi has claimed) precision as DateTime, uses less space (7 vs. 8 bytes), but then of course, you’d be losing the precision benefit which is likely one of the two (the other being range) most touted albeit likely unneeded benefits).

CONS:

1. When passing a Parameter to a .NET SqlCommand, you must specify System.Data.SqlDbType.DateTime2 if you may be passing a value outside the SQL Server DateTime’s range and/or precision, because it defaults to System.Data.SqlDbType.DateTime.

2. Cannot be implicitly / easily converted to a floating-point numeric (# of days since min date-time) value to do the following to / with it in SQL Server expressions using numeric values and operators:

3. add or subtract # of days or partial days. Note: Using DateAdd Function as a workaround is not trivial when you're needing to consider multiple if not all parts of the date-time.

4. take the difference between two date-times for purposes of “age” calculation. Note: You cannot simply use SQL Server’s DateDiff Function instead, because it does not compute age as most people would expect in that if the two date-times happens to cross a calendar / clock date-time boundary of the units specified if even for a tiny fraction of that unit, it’ll return the difference as 1 of that unit vs. 0. For example, the DateDiff in Day’s of two date-times only 1 millisecond apart will return 1 vs. 0 (days) if those date-times are on different calendar days (i.e. “1999-12-31 23:59:59.9999999” and “2000-01-01 00:00:00.0000000”). The same 1 millisecond difference date-times if moved so that they don’t cross a calendar day, will return a “DateDiff” in Day’s of 0 (days).

5. take the Avg of date-times (in an Aggregate Query) by simply converting to “Float” first and then back again to DateTime.

NOTE: To convert DateTime2 to a numeric, you have to do something like the following formula which still assumes your values are not less than the year 1970 (which means you’re losing all of the extra range plus another 217 years. Note: You may not be able to simply adjust the formula to allow for extra range because you may run into numeric overflow issues.

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