I'm using Azure VMs with a SQL Server Availability Group, and Ola Hallengren' scripts. Backups are working without issues, however I've noticed that old backup files are not being removed from the server.

To remove the files, I'm running this command;

DECLARE @BackupDir NVARCHAR(4000) = (SELECT BackupDir = dbo.fn_SQLServerBackupDir())

EXECUTE [master].[dbo].xp_delete_file 0, @BackupDir, 'bak', @Date, 1;

Note: The function gets the default backup location for the SQL Instance.

Whenever I run this command, it completes successfully, but no files are removed. The Cleanup process that is included in the Ola Hallengren script is also unable to remove files.

In other environments, that are not AGs, the above command, plus the Cleanup in Ola Hallengren' script, work without issues.

This leads me to think the issue is either environment related or has something to do with the fact the backups where performed on databases in an AG.

Has anyone else encountered something like this before and might be able to offer some insight?

Backups are stored on the F:\ drive, which is a local disk on the server. I have also confirmed that the correct permissions have been set. At the moment, I've set full control for Everyone. (Environment is not live yet).

I tried modifying the function to add the \ at the end of the backup path, but this did not fix the issue. I've confirmed that there are backups which meet the date requirement, too.

EDIT 1: Here is the backup command that's running, which includes the @Cleanup parameter, that doesn't remove the files;

EXECUTE dbo.DatabaseBackup
@Databases = 'USER_DATABASES',
@BackupType = 'Log',
@Verify = 'Y',
@Checksum = 'Y',
@Compress = 'Y',
@LogToTable = 'Y',
@CleanupTime = 0,
@AvailabilityGroupDirectoryStructure = '{DatabaseName}',
@AvailabilityGroupFileName = '{DatabaseName}_{BackupType}_{Partial}_{CopyOnly}_{Year}_{Month}_{Day}_{Hour}{Minute}{Second}_{FileNumber}.{FileExtension}',
@Encrypt = 'Y',
@EncryptionAlgorithm = 'AES_256'
, @ServerCertificate = 'Cert_Name'

2 Answers 2


Since you mentioned this is in an AG, are you sure you're running the command and checking the backup folder on the same server?

If you are connecting to the Availability Group primary through the AG listener, then running the xp_delete_file command will run on whichever physical server happens to be the primary replica at that time.

Try running SELECT @@SERVERNAME to verify which server you're connected to when you run the backup deletion command, then check that server's F:\ drive to see if backups were deleted or not.

You should also verify that you are getting a 0 as the return code from the extended stored procedure:

DECLARE @ReturnCode int;
EXECUTE @ReturnCode = [master].[dbo].xp_delete_file 0, @BackupDir, 'bak', @Date, 1;
IF @ReturnCode <> 0 PRINT @ReturnCode;

Note that the example call to xp_delete_file you provided is targeting files with a .bak extension. The example call to Ola's backup script is targeting log backups, which will have an extension of .trn by default. This may be contributing to the discrepancy you're seeing.

By the way, I would strongly recommend that you take backups to somewhere other than the local drive. Not only does it represent a single point of failure for your SQL Server instance and critical database backups, but it can actually be pretty confusing with an AG when doing restores.

In particular, if your transaction log backups are being taken to two different locations (local folders on each replica), restoring to a point in time over a period that includes an AG failover will be tough. You'll have to get the log files from both servers and make sure they get restored in the right order. The process is much simpler if they all go to a network location like \\servername\backups\MyAgListenerName\DatabaseName\LOG.

  • 1
    Hi Josh, thank you for the tips. I've already checked that the command was running on the correct server. I checked it just now to be 1000% sure, and it's the correct one. When using the @ReturnCode code you provided, I get "Commands Completed Successfully". I assume that is what you'd expect? Good point about the network location too, at the moment we aren't using one, but it's on my list of things to correct :) Aug 28, 2019 at 13:14
  • @Tom_W "I assume that is what you'd expect?" - yep! If the PRINT statement doesn't run, all you see is that "Commands completed..." message. This is a real puzzler! Aug 28, 2019 at 13:53

Okay, so I have now managed to "solve" this issue.

After failing to work out why my backup files were not being removed, I decided to test this scenario on my Replica. I copied over a backup file to the Replica and ran the delete command;

DECLARE @BackupDir NVARCHAR(4000) = (SELECT BackupDir = dbo.fn_SQLServerBackupDir())

EXECUTE [master].[dbo].xp_delete_file 0, @BackupDir, 'bak', @Date, 1;

It worked! The delete process was successful and the backup file was removed as expected.

I failed over my AG, ran some additional tests and was able to confirm all delete commands were working as expected.

I plan on adding a shared network location for this AG's backup files next. Once done I will attempt to run these commands again on the (now Replica) server. If they still fail, I'll bin the Replica and build a new one to replace it.

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