How to properly license SQL Server for TFS use


(This post is machine-translated. A proper translation is in the works)

OK, I understand that in spite of everything I mentioned in my post about TFS and VSTS you can have their reasons for wanting to use TFS on-premises. When a company decides to use the TFS and prepares to do the installation, discovers that one of the prerequisites of the installation is SQL Server. This is where the question arises: “How do I properly the SQL Server that will be used by TFS?”

The answer is so complicated but, like everything that involves licensing, requires care and attention. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that we have made on this subject.

I need pay for SQL Server?

Usually not. TFS includes a SQL Server Standard license that can be used only for use of own TFS. In other words, there can be no other use – or database, or anything – other than of domestic own TFS.

Where the SQL Server TFS media?

Depends on how you obtained your license of the TFS: via “box”, through a volume license or through an MSDN Subscription:

  1. “Box” (retail): when you purchase a retail version (the “box”, with physical media and all), receives two DVDs – one of the TFS, another SQL Server. In this case it’s easy – just use this SQL Server media;
  2. Volume license: this scenario applies to those customers who purchased a license for TFS through a volume contract as Open or Enterprise Agreement (EA). In this case, both the TFS as SQL Server Standard can be downloaded from the website VLSC;
  3. MSDN subscription: This is the most common way – and cheaper – to obtain a license from the TFS. If you have a Visual Studio with an MSDN Subscription, you can download both the TFS as SQL Server from MSDN subscribers.
    IMPORTANT: you should always download SQL Server Standard from MSDN subscribers, even if you have SQL Server licenses available on the VLSC. Otherwise, you’re getting the wrong version and will not be properly licensed.

Can I install a dual-server?

You can install the TFS and SQL Server on separate servers, without paying for it, only if you have more than one license of TFS. The most common is: you have several licenses of Visual Studio with MSDN on your team. Each of these licenses entitles you to TFS. In this case, separate two licenses; each of these licenses a server (TFS on the other hand, SQL Server Standard on the other side).

Can I use the Enterprise version?

TFS includes as free version only SQL Server Standard. If you prefer to use the SQL Server Enterprise, you must license it separately.

Can I use the latest version of SQL Server?

Of grace. You can only use the version that is explicitly mentioned on Visual Studio Licensing White Paper. Therefore, if this document is saying (for example) that TFS is accompanied by SQL Server 2014, then it is not allowed to install the SQL Server 2016. The document is updated frequently; in a future update of the white paper version is updated and from here you can update your SQL Server.

Where can I get more details?

The official source of information is the Visual Studio Licensing White Paper. He will always have the last word with regard to licensing of Visual Studio and TFS.


A hug,

Author: Igor Abade

Igor Abade V. Leite ([email protected]) is a Visual Studio ALM MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional) since 2006. Speaker at various Software Development community events (TechEd Brasil, The Developers’ Conference, DevOps Summit Brasil, Agile Brazil, Visual Studio Summit, QCON among others), has also written articles in magazines and websites such as MSDN Brazil. Since March/2011 is one of the owners of Lambda3, a Brazilian consulting company specialized in ALM, software development and training. Visit his blog about VS ALM at and follow him on Twitter @igorabade.

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