Error Log Management

Thought I’d write a quick post about managing error logs within SQL Server. Good error log management is essential for investigating issues that occur in SQL Server. The last thing you want is a very large error log file that takes ages to open when you are trying to determine the cause of a problem.

I always change the maximum number of error logs to 30 (at a minimum) and then recycle the error log each night. This way I can keep a month’s worth of logs in easily manageable portions (this does depend on the system but one day’s worth of logs in each file is generally OK).

So to change the maximum number of error logs, go to Management > SQL Server Logs and right-click and select Configure. Change the maximum number of error logs (I changed it to 30) and then hit the script button which will give you the following:-

USE [master];

EXEC xp_instance_regwrite 

Microsoft has provided the stored procedure sys.sp_cycle_errorlog so this can be setup to run nightly as a SQL Server Agent job. However I have found that the following error can occur on busy systems (running SQL Server 2005 I’m afraid):-

“Unable to cycle error log file from ‘…\ERRORLOG’ to …\ERRORLOG.1′ due to OS error ’32(The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process.)”

When this happens the old log is archived but the new log is not initialised, meaning that no information will be written to the log until it is recycled manually (once you’re in the office). Not good, especially if an issue has occurred in that time.

So to try and combat this, I created the following stored procedure to try to recycle the error log a maximum of three times if an error occurs:-

CREATE PROCEDURE [dbo].[RecycleErrorLog]

SET @Tries = 1
WHILE @Tries <= 3


		EXEC master.sys.sp_cycle_errorlog

		SET @Tries = @Tries + 1



I set the maximum number of re-tries to 3 as if the job fails three times in a row I would say that there is something more severe going on which would need to be investigated.

So I’m feeling pretty clever, the stored procedure is running fine until one day:-

“Unable to cycle error log file from ‘…\ERRORLOG’ to …\ERRORLOG.1′ due to OS error ’32(The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process.)”

Ah, it’s no problem I tell myself. The error will be generated but the procedure will re-run and recycle the SQL Server Error Log. So…..I stroll into work, check the logs and…..they haven’t recycled. Not only that, nothing has been recorded since the attempt to cycle, I’m back to where I started!

I check the SQL Server Agent Job’s history and the job is telling me that it has run successfully. It seems that the error is not returned to the procedure, there’s a record in the SQL Server Error Log:-

“Attempting to cycle error log. This is an informational message only; no user action is required.”

I look back at the original error, there was an important part that I missed!

“…due to OS error ’32…”

It’s an OS error, it’s not going to be recorded in SQL. The only place the error is recorded is in the Application Event Log. So it looks like I’m going to have to run the stored procedure and then check the Application Event Log for errors. The best way I can think of doing this is using powershell, so here’s the script I wrote:-

#Set variable values to zero
$MaximumRetries = 0
$ErrorChecker = 0

#Open connection to SQL Server
$SQLDBName = "master"

$SqlConnection = New-Object System.Data.SqlClient.SqlConnection
$SqlConnection.ConnectionString = "Server=$SQLServer;Database=$SQLDBName;Integrated Security=True"

$SQLCmd = new-Object System.Data.SqlClient.SqlCommand("sp_cycle_errorlog", $SQLConnection) 
$SQLCmd.CommandType = [System.Data.CommandType]'StoredProcedure' 

#Run sp_cycle_errorlog

#Check application log for errors
$datetime = (Get-Date).AddSeconds(-5)
$events = get-eventlog application -EntryType Error -After $datetime | where-Object {$_.source -like "MSSQL*"}	

	#If the application log has an error
	if ($events)
			#Set maximum retries to 3
			if ($MaximumRetries -lt 4)
					#Re-execute stored procedure
					#Check application log
					$datetime = (Get-Date).AddSeconds(-5)
					$events = get-eventlog application -EntryType Error -After $datetime | where-Object {$_.source -like "MSSQL*"}	
					$MaximumRetries = $MaximumRetries + 1		
	#If the application log has no errors, close connection			
	elseif (!$events)
			$ErrorChecker = 1
while ($ErrorChecker = 0)

I saved this as a .ps1 file and then created a SQL Server Agent Job to run it. I still get alerts for the error but each time the script has done its job and re-run.

Has anyone else seen this behaviour? If so, I’d be interested in hearing how you dealt with it, my email is