Can I install SQL Server Management Studio on my desktop to access a database on a SQL Server 2012 instance?

If so, where can I find the installer? Google searches only return 'express' versions whereas, I am looking for the full SQL Server Management Studio.

  • 2
    You can only download the Express version. If you need the full version, install it from the SQL Server install media you used to install SQL Server on your server machine.
    – Hannah Vernon
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 23:26
  • 5
    Also, 2014 works to manage 2012 and lower versions.
    – Hannah Vernon
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 23:27
  • 3
    SSMS with Express Edition as of SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 is full version as you would get with media of paid edition.
    – user507
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 2:00

4 Answers 4


If you want the shiny new 2016 monthly releases of Management Studio, which include a handy check for updates mechanism, negates the need for a full setup program and download (since it only retrieves the components you need), as well as a release cycle completely independent from SQL Server, go here (and you can read about it here and here).

If you use this new web installer, much of the below no longer applies. If you want to use previous versions (currently 2012 SP2 and 2014 SP1), they've made it easier to find and download (see this page), but much of the below will still apply.

Well, if you have a legal copy of SQL Server, you should be able to install Management Studio from that media wherever you need to manage SQL Server from.

That said, the Express version of Management Studio, since 2012 Service Pack 1, has been a fully functional product with absolutely no differences (except you can download it for free instead of finding your licensed media). I would recommend downloading the 2014 version, because why use an older version that will be out of support sooner? My philosophy is that SSMS should always be >= the highest engine version you need to manage.

Anyway, I found the link by searching - the hint to not jumping through hoops set up by Microsoft marketing or MSDN is to look for the page with download in the URL:

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This brings me here, where I click Download:

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Then pick either the 32-bit or 64-bit version, depending on your platform, and click Next:

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And success. I even get handy tips for installation if I need them.

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If you really, really, really want to use the 2012 version instead of the 2014 version, well first I'd be interested why, but the same process will work, just use this link instead. Note that the 2012 version is a 950 MB download vs. 684 MB for 2014.

Since a lot of people get confused on how to install JUST SSMS with this installer, here are some other things you'll want to follow once you launch the .exe. First it will open the installation center. You want Installation > New SQL Server stand-alone [blah blah]...

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Clicking that link will launch a new wizard, and leave the installation center open. Leave it open (see the end of this post for why). On the new screen, you may have product updates offered, and you definitely want to select them if so (currently this should only happen for 2012 SP1 or 2014, since 2012 SP2 was not affected by Security Bulletin MS14-044).

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Next, and this is where most people get confused, you want to choose Perform a new installation - even though you are not trying to install an actual instance of the SQL Server database engine.

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Then, you want to select both Management Tools options, basic and complete. From here you should be ok on your own.

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Regarding the installation center window above, you need to leave the "SQL Server Installation Center" window open during setup, or it will fail with an error like this (the actual folder name is some random GUID-based thing):

SQL Server Setup has encountered the following error: Could not find file 'c:\1d3c284ce0e72239e2f4e51c802d\MediaInfo.xml'

I filed a Connect item about it, but so far it remains active.

  • 1
    While I agree with your philosophy of SSMS >= the highest engine version you need to manage, we found that we couldn't edit a management package (don't hate me for it) on SQL2012 in SSMS 2014. It corrupted the file and SQL 2012 wasn't able to run it.
    – Greg
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 3:22
  • @Greg yes anything that uses SSIS packages under the covers will need to use caution. Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 3:54

You can download and install SQL Server Management Studio using the links provided in: Scott Hanselman's website

There are links to various SSMS versions (2012, 2014, for x86, x64), as well as links to various SQL-Server Express versions.

By the way, you can also use the latest SSMS 2014 to manage your 2012 database.

  • Link you posted has all SSMS express downloads
    – Shanky
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 8:48
  • @Shanky And what's the problem with it? There's a section "Here's just SQL Server 2014 Management Studio" with necessary links.
    – Marian
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 9:02
  • @Marian:There is no problem as such but answer says Download and install SSMS from link but the link has sublinks which points to express SSMS(not basic SSMS) install while OP is in search of basic SSMS not express and looking at answer it seems it will point to basic SSMS but it actually point to express SSMS. So again that is clearly not an answer
    – Shanky
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 9:18
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    @Shanky I think you're nitpicking.. maybe the article title is a bit misleading, but each edition has two sections - Express and SSMS alone. If you scan the paragraph you can easily go to where you want. Even I, a non English language native, could find the link in a heartbeat. And the whole purpose of Hanselman's article is to gather in one place what MS didn't. So it's more useful than a direct download link, but it's only my opinion.
    – Marian
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 14:26

You can use this link to download latest SSMS separately.

At the time of writing, this is SQL Server Management Studio July 2015 preview.


Its very difficult to find SQL Server management studio which is not express version because Microsoft only ships complete version with installable of Licensed version. If you have setup of any SQL Server 2012/2014 licensed version you can run the setup and install SSMS by selecting client tools. There is no addictional license for SSMS.

Other good point is you can use SQL Server 2012 express Management studio with SP1/SP2 to get all functionalities of SSMS which is shipped with licensed version. So you dont need to worry about simple SSMS an express SSMS2012 with SP1/SP2 would do all jobs for you. I would suggest you to install SQL Server 2012 SP2 management studio using This Link. The download would be SQLManagementStudio_x64_ENU.exe assuming you have 64 bit machine. You can manage previous versions(till 2005) as well as SQL Server 2014 using SSMS 2012 express management studio

  • 10
    Why offer 2012 Management Studio instead of the newer 2014 version? And I disagree that it is difficult to find at all. Also I think you'll find difficulties trying to manage a 2014 instance with the 2012 version of SSMS. Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 16:22
  • @Aron: because OP asked problem pertaining to SQL Server 2012.
    – Shanky
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 8:34

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