A Beginner's Guide to Using SQL Server in a Ruby on Rails Application

In this guide, we will explore the basics of using SQL Server in a Ruby on Rails application, including installation, setup, and common database operations.

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Microsoft SQL Server, commonly referred to as SQL Server, is a robust and enterprise-level relational database management system (RDBMS) known for its performance, security, and scalability. Ruby on Rails, often called Rails, is a powerful web application framework that simplifies web development. In this guide, we will explore the basics of using SQL Server in a Ruby on Rails application, including installation, setup, and common database operations.


Before we dive into using SQL Server with Ruby on Rails, ensure you have the following prerequisites in place:

  1. Ruby: You should have Ruby installed on your system. You can download it from the official Ruby website.

  2. Ruby on Rails: Install Ruby on Rails using the following command:

    gem install rails
  3. SQL Server: Install SQL Server if you haven’t already. You can download it from the official SQL Server website.

  4. ODBC Driver: SQL Server on Linux requires an ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) driver for connection. Install the ODBC driver for SQL Server by following the official installation instructions.

  5. FreeTDS: On Linux systems, you may need to install FreeTDS, which is a set of open-source libraries that implements the Tabular Data Stream (TDS) protocol used by SQL Server. You can install it using your system’s package manager.

  6. TinyTDS Gem: You’ll need the tiny_tds gem, which is a Ruby interface for connecting to SQL Server. Install it using gem:

    gem install tiny_tds

Setting Up a Rails Application

Let’s start by creating a new Ruby on Rails application that will use SQL Server as its database.

rails new my_rails_app -d sqlserver

In the above command:

  • my_rails_app is the name of your Rails application.
  • -d sqlserver specifies that we want to use SQL Server as the database.

Database Configuration

Rails uses a configuration file located at config/database.yml for SQL Server configuration. Open this file and replace its contents with the following:

default: &default
  adapter: sqlserver
  host: localhost
  port: 1433
  username: your_sql_server_username
  password: your_sql_server_password
  database: myapp_development

  <<: *default
  database: myapp_development

  <<: *default
  database: myapp_test

  <<: *default
  database: myapp_production

Replace your_sql_server_username and your_sql_server_password with your SQL Server credentials. You can also adjust other settings as needed, such as the host, port, and database.

Database Migration

In Rails, database migrations are used to create and manage database tables and schema changes. Let’s create a simple example to demonstrate this:

rails generate model User name:string email:string

This command generates a User model with name and email attributes. Now, run the migration to create the corresponding table in the SQL Server database:

rails db:migrate

Performing Database Operations

With your Rails application set up and the SQL Server database configured, you can now perform common database operations.

Inserting Data

To insert data into the SQL Server table, you can use the Rails console:

rails console

In the console, you can create and save new records:

user = User.new(name: 'John Doe', email: '[email protected]')

Querying Data

To query data from the SQL Server table, you can use Rails ActiveRecord queries. For example, to retrieve all users:

users = User.all

Updating Data

Updating data in Rails is straightforward. For example, to update a user’s email:

user = User.find_by(name: 'John Doe')
user.update(email: '[email protected]')

Deleting Data

To delete a record:

user = User.find_by(name: 'John Doe')

Handling Errors

In a real application, it’s crucial to handle errors gracefully. Ensure that you use error handling techniques, such as rescue blocks, to handle exceptions that may occur during database operations.


SQL Server is a powerful and enterprise-level RDBMS that pairs well with Ruby on Rails for web application development. In this guide, we’ve covered the basics of using SQL Server in a Ruby on Rails application, from installation and setup to common database operations. As you continue to develop your Rails application, you can explore more advanced features and optimizations provided by SQL Server to create efficient and scalable web applications in an enterprise context.