There are two options for installing SQL Server 2008 Express.

1. Basic: Choose this option to install SQL Server Express with minimal effort by using the Web Platform Installer and a pre-defined defaults. Visit SQL Server Express download page to perform a basic install. 

The Microsoft Web Platform Installer will only perform an installation will all features with an Instance Name called “SQLExpress”. 

2. Customize: If you need to customize the installation or install on a Domain Controller, you can obtain SQL Server Express from the Microsoft Download Center.

Here are the Express editions available for manual download:

Express Package

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Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Express Edition with Service Pack 1




Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Express with Tools




Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Express with Advanced Services




Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Management Studio Express





More details on when I need to perform a customized installation

It is only necessary to perform a customize install under the following scenarios:

What if I want to customize the installation:

If you need to install differently than the defaults provided in option #1, you will need to perform a custom install. Here are the defaults that are used in option #1.

Option Description
Features Installs the Database Engine, Reporting Services, and Management Tools if available
INSTANCE NAME Installs a named instance called “SQLExpress”
Database Engine Service Account Configures the Database engine Service account to run under Network Service. This account is not supported on a Domain Controller, therefore it is necessary to perform an custom install on a Domain Controller.
Reporting Services Service Account Configures the Reporting Services Service account to run under Network Service, if available. This account is not supported on a Domain Controller, therefore it is necessary to perform an custom install on a Domain Controller.
SQL Server Database Admin Account Gives the user that installed SQL Server the ability to connect to the database engine.
ENABLE RANU Enabled User Instances


If you are upgrading from SQL Server 2000 or SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2008 a custom/advanced installation is required.

For more information, see “How to identify your SQL Server version and edition”.

Specifying an Instance Name other than SQLEXPRESS

SQL Server 2008 Express uses the default instance name of “SQLEXPRESS”. Changing the instance name or installing additional instances requires a custom installation. You cannot change instance names once the installation is complete. There are several scenarios of when you would to provide your own instance name.

  • The default instance name has already been used (installing multiple instances)
  • Your environment (application or standards) requires the use of an alternate instance name. For example, you may use instance names to segment groups or organizations within the company, i.e. Sales, Operation, Finance, etc.
  • You want to provide a higher level of abstraction from the underlying database software.


If you develop software applications that embed SQL Server 2008 Express, custom installations are typically required. For more information, see Embedding SQL Server 2008 Express  in an Application.

Installation on a Domain Controller

If you would like to install SQL Server Express on a Domain Controller, you need to perform an advanced installation since the default account  (Network Service) specified by the Web Platform Installer is not supported on a Domain Controller.  See SQL Server support on a Domain Controller for more information.

Further Setup Customization

Some SQL Server configuration settings can only be set during install. Once the installation is complete, you cannot change these settings. Any change to the configuration settings would require a new installation of the product. Some settings directly impact how data is stored and organized so changing the configuration setting would require significant data manipulation work in order to preserve the data.

Setting the non-Default Collation

Collations effect how characters (data) for a language or alphabet are recognized and sorted. A majority of SQL Server installations use the default collation. There are some situations where the use of a collation other than the default collation setting would be required.

  • Select a BINARY2 collation if binary code point based ordering is acceptable.
  • Select a Windows® collation for consistent comparison across data types.
  • Use new 100 level collation for better linguistic sorting support. For more information, see Collation and Unicode Support.
  • If you plan to migrate a database to the upgraded instance of ssNoVersion, select the collation that matches your existing collation of the database.

For more information, see Collation Settings in Setup.

Enabling Filestream

The Filestream configuration setting specifies where to store unstructured data such as text documents, images or videos. You can store this unstructured data inside the database or outside the database in the NTFS files system. The default setting is to store the data inside the database. Storing outside the database can cause data management complexities. You should consider enabling FILESTREAM if:

  • Objects being stored are, on average, larger than 1 MB.
  • Fast read access is important.
  • You are developing applications that use a middle tier for application logic.

For smaller objects, storing unstructured data in the database often provides better streaming performance.

For more information, see FILESTREAM Overview and FILESTREAM Storage in SQL Server 2008.

Enabling Error Reporting

Enabling the Error Reporting setting allows you to report Windows and SQL Server errors to Microsoft via the internet. Microsoft uses these error reports to improve future releases of SQL Server. Error reports contain only technical data. All error reports are confidential and anonymous.

Customizing Installation Directories

Installation directories are unique folder locations used for placement of:

  • Program software
  • System database
  • User databases and logs
  • Temp DB and log
  • Backups

During installation, you have the option to changing the default directories for some or all of the folders. Business requirements or environmental factors may dictate specifying directories other than the default.

Configuring SQL Server Service Accounts

SQL Server includes many services ranging from tools such as SQL Server Browser service to major product components such as Analysis services and Reporting services. During installation, you can specify which services to install and the account in which they run under. By default, most SQL Server services run under the Network Service account during initial setup. For better manageability and a more secure environment, it is recommended you:

  • Use separate accounts for each SQL Server service.
  • Configure service accounts to use the lowest possible permissions. This can reduce surface area for attacks.
  • Associate SQL Server services with low privileged Windows local user accounts, or domain user accounts.

For more information, see Setting Up Windows Service Accounts.