I would like to be able to easily check which unique identifiers do not exist in a table, of those supplied in a query.

To better explain, here's what I would do now, to check which IDs of the list "1, 2, 3, 4" do not exist in a table:

  1. SELECT * FROM dbo."TABLE" WHERE "ID" IN ('1','2','3','4'), let's say the table contains no row with ID 2.
  2. Dump the results into Excel
  3. Run a VLOOKUP on the original list that searches for each list value in the result list.
  4. Any VLOOKUP that results in an #N/A is on a value that did not occur in the table.

I'm thinking there's got to be a better way to do this. I'm looking, ideally, for something like

List to check -> Query on table to check -> Members of list not in table


3 Answers 3



  (values (1),(2),(3),(4)) as T(ID)

See SqlFiddle.

The values constructor will only work on SQL Server 2008 or later. For 2005, use

SELECT 'value'

as detailed in this SO answer.

  • Whoops, should have specified. What if ID is a varchar?
    – NReilingh
    Mar 26, 2013 at 20:52
  • 1
    @NReilingh then redesign your DB :) but it should work the same I think
    – JNK
    Mar 26, 2013 at 20:53
  • I keep getting Incorrect syntax near the keyword 'values'. when running SELECT * FROM (values ('search string'),('other string')) as T(ID)
    – NReilingh
    Mar 26, 2013 at 20:59
  • Your syntax works fine for me in SQL Server 2008r2 - I pasted your comment in and it ran.
    – JNK
    Mar 26, 2013 at 21:01
  • I'm on 2005. Christ.
    – NReilingh
    Mar 26, 2013 at 21:02

I would build up a table variable or temp table containing the IDs that you're searching for... then use Remus's solution, minus the 2008 syntactic sugar:

declare @t table (ID int)
insert into @t values (1)
insert into @t values (2)
insert into @t values (3)
insert into @t values (4)
insert into @t values (5)

select ID from @t
select ID
from [Table];

I'm now a couple years wiser (and have a newer SQL Server) than when I asked this question, so to celebrate the Famous Question badge I got for asking this, here's what I would do now. (I don't think I've ever used the EXCEPT operator since.)

I would say the LEFT JOIN method below is more useful than EXCEPT since you can compose it with other joins without needing a CTE.

SELECT v.val
  FROM (VALUES (1), (2), (3), (4), (5)) v (val)
    LEFT JOIN dbo.SomeTable t
      ON t.id = v.val

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