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Our developers have been using a cursor within a stored procedure to delete old password history. The number of records to delete is being passed by variable.

    SELECT history_nr   FROM usr_pwd_hist   WHERE usr_id = @usr_id
    ORDER BY    history_nr ASC

OPEN hist_cursor

WHILE @to_delete > 0
    FETCH NEXT FROM hist_cursor INTO @hist_val

    DELETE FROM usr_pwd_hist WHERE CURRENT OF hist_cursor

    SET @to_delete = @to_delete-1

CLOSE hist_cursor; 
DEALLOCATE hist_cursor;

I would like to replace this with a set based approach. I can't do a simple top statement because the number of records to delete is a variable. I can't use a top with a variable without dynamic sql and by policy we don't allow dynamic sql in production.

I'm considering this approach below but it makes me nervous as I know that Microsoft is planning on changing the way ROWCOUNT affects return results. By putting the delete targets in a subquery I should be ok with future SQL versions, but I'm still wondering if there is a better way to delete a variable number of records by a chronological order.

SET ROWCOUNT @to_delete;  /* limit records to be deleted */
DELETE FROM usr_pwd_hist WHERE history_nr IN
    SELECT history_nr 
    FROM usr_pwd_hist
    WHERE usr_id = @usr_id
    ORDER BY history_nr ASC  
SET ROWCOUNT 0;  /* return rowcount to default setting */
share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can use TOP with a variable. You just need to put it in parentheses.

     AS (SELECT TOP (@to_delete) *
         FROM   usr_pwd_hist
         WHERE  usr_id = @usr_id
         ORDER  BY history_nr ASC)
share|improve this answer
Apparantly I didn't get the memo about using parenthesis. Thank you SQL2005. Awesome. – RThomas Mar 8 '13 at 18:18
Also, I was trying to get around deprecation with the sub select but it's a nil issue now. Thanks again. – RThomas Mar 8 '13 at 18:19
`@RThomas - Yes I deleted the bit about deprecation as I saw you had already mentioned this and was aware of it. – Martin Smith Mar 8 '13 at 18:20

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