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This question came up today. When you add a column that accepts null values to the end of a table what exactly happens? Does the table get fully rebuilt similar to what happens when you change column order?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

No.

This is a metadata only change in SQL Server 2008. See Size-of-data operations when adding and removing columns

SQL Server 2012 can also add non nullable columns with a default without having to update all rows however there are also some circumstances in 2012 in which adding a nullable column is no longer just a metadata change.

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