We have a 2008R2 production DB in full recovery mode.

To produce a minimised dev version, for SQL Server 2014, the following steps are run:

MOVE N'BigDB_Data' TO N'C:\Database\BigDB_Data',  
MOVE N'BigDB_Audit]' TO N'C:\Database\BigDB_Audit',  
MOVE N'BigDB_Log' TO N'C:\Database\BigDB_log.LDF',  NOUNLOAD,  REPLACE,  STATS = 5

alter database BigDB set recovery simple with NO_WAIT
alter database BigDB set compatibility_level = 120


-- {truncate / delete statements.. with no additional 'go'}

DBCC SHRINKFILE (N'[BigDB_Audit]' , 500)
DBCC SHRINKFILE (N'BigDB_Data' , 1000)
DBCC SHRINKFILE (N'BigDB_Data' , 1000) -- Without this repeat, file remains same
DBCC SHRINKFILE (N'BigDB_Log' , 1000) -- Without this repeat, file remains same

I've observed that without the repeat of the shrinkfile on the main data file, and the log, one or both does not actually shrink.

Can this behaviour be expected, and if so why?

  • Based on more reading, I'm speculating that ghost cleanup is somehow involved here. I'm now retesting, this time I will allow some time to pass after the deletes, before then running a single shrinkfile for each file. – Paul Holmes Oct 12 '17 at 12:00
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    If you're switching into SIMPLE recovery you may also need to run a manual CHECKPOINT. – Erik Darling Oct 12 '17 at 12:20
  • I have a database that was archived a couple weeks ago and couldn't get the log file to shrink for anything. Simple mode, checkpoint, etc.--nothing worked. I tried NUMEROUS times. Some comments on posts indicated that after the db gets backed up a few times it somehow resolves the issue. I just tried again and after doing a checkpoint the log finally shrunk. I can find no rhyme or reason. An alternative for the log is to create another file and have it move data, then shrink it, then move it back and remove the other log.... – Tony Hinkle Oct 12 '17 at 14:45
  • Some additional info for context: We are trying to automate CI/CD. Nightly restore of production, then - for devs local machines - offer a minimised version. It's a process that Tobias Ternstrom (SQL Server Program Manager, MS) has recently outlined as an example CI/CD process that MS recommend. (The process also accommodates having a full size prod DB, with sensitive data anonymised, for dev/test performance evaluation). – Paul Holmes Oct 12 '17 at 16:18
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    When you truncate tables that are bigger than a few extents, the operation returns immediately but what really happens is something called a deferred allocation drop. This happens in the background and may take time to process depending on the size of the objects. technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms177495(v=sql.105).aspx – Sean Gallardy Oct 12 '17 at 17:13

There is likely not enough time passed between your truncates/deletes and the shrink operations. While I droned on and on and on about why you shouldn't shrink and what it means to have a too big log file in another answer, here's a situation where it makes sense to shrink.

I would suggest either building a pause in between the truncates and deletes or simply add a CHECKPOINT command within that database between the deletes and shrink. That will likely give you the desired results without the second shrink.

  • I've since added a checkpoint after the deletes, and before the shrink. It helps, but the shrink, when done just once, doesn't quite achieve the target size. With a second run of shrink, the exact target size is achieved. Possibly the execution of the checkpoint is simply giving ghost cleanup more time to do it's job, but in this case, not quite enough. I could add a fixed delay, but that feels like a flimsy solution. Assuming this is related to ghost cleanup, ideally I could add something to delay the shrink until ghost cleanup has exhausted it's work. – Paul Holmes Oct 12 '17 at 16:00
  • Is it just the database or the log that needs the second? – Mike Walsh Oct 12 '17 at 16:05
  • Without the checkpoint, both data and log hit target with a second shrinkfile on each. If only one was done, the other would fall short. Later I'll have some more detail on results with the checkpoint. The tear-down steps take awhile ;) – Paul Holmes Oct 12 '17 at 16:22

I Find Shrinking in Small Increments Works Best for Me

I have had issues like this many times. I've found that the SHRINK may work "as is" but it's very inconvenient waiting for those super long pauses or failures. And my additional concern is how the SHRINK may affect production databases. I've used the following code to "chunk" the shrinkage in smaller more manageable amounts--as show in Listing A.

Code wise in Listing A, @next refers to the largest database file size (MB) and @last refers the minimum size (MB) you want to go to. You'll need the correct database name and associated datafile name as well that you want to shrink. And, select @next=@next-50 specifies 50 MB chunks. You can increase or decrease that amount to your liking. I put SELECT @DELAY='WAITFOR DELAY ''000:00:10''' in there as well to avoid hitting production databases too often. Increase or decrease this 10 second amount as desired. My apologies for the code, it's over ten years old and not too elegant but it always seems to work for me.

Running the code won't start the shrink process but rather print out the shrink T-SQL statements. Cut and paste those resulting statements, from running the code in Listing A, into your query window.

Listing A: T-SQL Code to shrink database files throughout the day

declare @next int, @last int, @DELAY VARCHAR(255), @SHRINK VARCHAR(1000)
select @next=93000, @last=50000
while(@next >=@last)
--print @next
SELECT @SHRINK ='use [MyDatabase] DBCC SHRINKFILE (N''MyDatabase_Data'','+convert(varchar(255),@next)+ ')'
print @shrink
print @DELAY
print 'go'
select @next=@next-50

An example of the first two lines, of multiple lines, of output that you'd want to run would be:

use [MyDatabase] DBCC SHRINKFILE (N'MyDatabase_Data',93000)
WAITFOR DELAY '000:00:10'
use [MyDatabase] DBCC SHRINKFILE (N'MyDatabase_Data',92950)
WAITFOR DELAY '000:00:10'


Don't worry if you overshoot maxes, or undershoot your mins. DBCC SHRINKFILE won't throw an error, and will quickly pass to the next line of code. However, if you underestimate the beginning maximum file size, mine is 90000, DBCC SHRINKFILE will have to work a lot harder to remove any margin in excess of 50 MB--for my example anyway. Also, use a smaller WAITFOR DELAY if it's a non-production database--(i.e. something like WAITFOR DELAY '000:00:01').


"Can this behaviour be expected, and if so why?"


Ghost records can affect shrink. They can be generated by deletes, but not truncates. The ghost cleanup task happens in background.

The count of remaining records can be measured using a dmv:

select sum(ghost_record_count)
from sys.dm_db_index_physical_stats(db_id(),null,NULL,NULL,'DETAILED')

Articles about ghost records, by Paul Randal:




dbcc forceghostcleanup('YourDBName')

This is the fastest way to minimise ghost records, ahead of doing a shrink.

This is an undocumented command, and could be a resource intensive task, so it should not be used on a host with production workload without some appropriate testing.

Solution #2: Wait for 'some time'

This works, but may not be durable. There is no guarantee of when the ghost cleanup task will exhaust its workload. Nonetheless, it may be preferable to FORCEGHOSTCLEANUP (e.g. being run on a host with other workloads)

(In my tests, a one minute WAITFOR was insufficient, vs. 6 seconds FORCEGHOSTCLEANUP to achieve a guaranteed shrink target)

Checkpoint Is Not a Solution

Based on my observations, the number of ghost records may either marginally reduce, or even increase, using a checkpoint command. The following shrinkfile statements, for all DB files, may not all achieve their target.

Dropped Pages are Not a Factor

This page describes page level operations (eg. drop/truncate table) https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms177495(v=sql.105).aspx

It makes reference to sys.allocation_units, which can measure dropped pages.

In my tests, the number of dropped pages - whether very high, or zero - had no effect on the result of the shrink.

Shrink with emptyfile?

It's possible this will achieve the same result, but I've not tested this

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