How to Create a Temp Table in SQL: A Quick Guide

By Cristian G. Guasch •  Updated: 06/02/23 •  19 min read

Efficient data manipulation in databases often requires temporary storage, which can be achieved using temp tables. In SQL, creating a temporary table lets users hold intermediate results, allowing the processing of complex queries in a more manageable way. This article will guide you through the process of constructing a temp table in SQL by employing simple yet powerful techniques.

To create a temp table in SQL, one typically use the CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE statement, specifying the table’s structure and data types for each column. These tables are utilized for an assortment of purposes, such as optimizing performance, breaking down intricate queries into comprehensible pieces, or handling results not stored in the main tables of a database. Remember that temp tables are session-specific, meaning they’ll be discarded when the given session ends.

In fact, temp tables offer intriguing advantages over traditional tables, as they’re more resource-efficient and provide better query optimization. Consequently, a well-designed temp table can significantly improve performance and maintainability in SQL database operations. So, let’s dive deeper into the process of creating one and explore the potential benefits it can bring to your database management tasks.

Understanding Temp Tables in SQL

Temp tables are a powerful tool in SQL, allowing developers to store intermediate results, improve query performance, and simplify complex queries. Also known as temporary tables, they’re created and populated on-the-fly and automatically cleaned up when the session or connection ends. This section aims to highlight some key aspects of temp tables and their role in SQL.

To create a temp table in SQL, the typical syntax involves using the CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE statement, followed by the desired table structure. However, SQL Server users need to use CREATE TABLE along with the # prefix for the table name – a unique feature of SQL Server. Here’s an example for SQL Server:

CREATE TABLE #ExampleTempTable (
    Name NVARCHAR(50),
    Age INT

One noteworthy advantage of temp tables is their support of all DDL (Data Definition Language) and DML (Data Manipulation Language) operations, just like regular tables. This means that you can Insert, Update, Delete, and Select data, as well as create indexes, constraints, and apply modifications to the table structure.

A potential downside of temp tables is that they’re created in the tempdb database, shared by all users in a server. This can cause resource contention and performance issues on busy servers. It’s essential to only use temp tables when required, and utilize other optimization techniques when possible.

Temp tables can be either local or global, depending on their intended use:

In conclusion, temp tables offer an effective approach for SQL developers to temporarily store and manipulate data. These tables can significantly enhance query performance and facilitate complex query management within a session. However, be mindful of the potential drawbacks, especially in high-traffic environments, and employ temp tables judiciously.

Choosing Between Local and Global Temp Tables

When working with SQL, there might be instances where you need to create temp tables to store and manipulate temporary data efficiently. Temp tables come in two types – local and global. Understanding the difference between these two types can help you make a well-informed decision on which one to use in your SQL queries.

First, let’s dive into local temp tables. These tables are specific to the current user session, meaning they’re automatically destroyed once that session ends. An excellent use case for local temp tables would be when you need to perform calculations in a stored procedure or during a specific user’s transaction. The syntax for creating a local temp table in SQL is straightforward:

CREATE TABLE #LocalTempTable (Column1 DataType, Column2 DataType);

Local temp tables have a couple of notable characteristics:

On the other hand, global temp tables have a broader scope. These tables are accessible to multiple users simultaneously, making them useful when you need to share your temporary data among several users or sessions. Here’s the syntax for creating a global temp table in SQL:

CREATE TABLE ##GlobalTempTable (Column1 DataType, Column2 DataType);

Global temp tables also come with specific attributes:

When choosing between local and global temp tables, it’s essential to consider the following:

In conclusion, the choice between local and global temp tables depends on your project’s requirements. Always weigh the data scope and resource management aspects for each situation to ensure a well-optimized SQL environment.

The Process of Creating a Temp Table

Creating a temp table in SQL provides you with an efficient way to store and manipulate temporary data. These tables are especially helpful when working on complex queries, allowing you to break down tasks into smaller, manageable parts. This section will guide you through the process of creating a temp table in SQL.

To begin, it’s crucial to understand that temp tables are created in the tempdb database. They exist solely for the duration of a session or until the connection is terminated. Once the session ends, the temp table is automatically deleted.

Here’s an outline of the process to create a temp table in SQL:

  1. Define a table name prefixed with # or ##.
    • Use a single # for locally-accessible tables.
    • Use double ## for globally-accessible tables.
  2. Specify the column names and data types of the table.
  3. Use an optional PRIMARY KEY and INDEX clause for indexing.

Now, let’s look at an example of creating a temp table. You can follow these simple steps:

-- Create a temp table
CREATE TABLE #TempStudents
    FirstName NVARCHAR(50),
    LastName NVARCHAR(50),
    Age INT

In the above example, a temp table named #TempStudents is defined with four columns: StudentID, FirstName, LastName, and Age. The StudentID column serves as the PRIMARY KEY.

To work with the newly created temp table, you can execute standard SQL operations, like INSERT, UPDATE, SELECT, and DELETE. For instance, to insert data into the #TempStudents table, run the following command:

-- Insert data into the temp table
INSERT INTO #TempStudents (StudentID, FirstName, LastName, Age)
VALUES (1, 'John', 'Doe', 20);

In some cases, you may want to create a temp table by selecting data from an existing table. To do this, use the SELECT INTO command:

-- Create a temp table from an existing table
INTO #TempStudents
FROM Students
WHERE Age >= 18;

The above query generates a #TempStudents table by extracting records from the Students table where the Age is greater than or equal to 18.

In summary, creating a temp table in SQL is a straightforward process that involves defining the table structure, specifying columns and data types, and optionally defining a PRIMARY KEY. Utilizing temp tables in your queries can greatly improve the efficiency and readability of your SQL scripts.

Defining Columns and Data Types

When working with temp tables in SQL, it’s crucial to define columns and their data types accurately. This section will cover the essentials of defining columns and data types when you create temp table sql.

Before diving into the specifics, let’s first understand the concept of data types in SQL. In a relational database, data types are used to define the kind of data that a particular column can hold. Common data types include:

When creating a temp table, it’s essential to specify each column’s name and data type. If necessary, you can also define constraints, such as NOT NULL, to ensure data integrity.

To demonstrate how to define columns and data types when creating a temp table in SQL, let’s consider a practical example. Suppose we want to create a temporary table to store information about employees, including their employee ID, first name, last name, hire date, and salary.

Here’s a sample SQL script to create the temp table:

CREATE TEMP TABLE employees_temp (
  employee_id INT PRIMARY KEY,
  first_name VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,
  last_name VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,
  hire_date DATE NOT NULL,
  salary FLOAT

In this example, we’ve created a temporary table called employees_temp with five columns:

By specifying the data types and constraints as shown in the example, we can ensure that the temp table will only accept data that meets the defined criteria. This helps maintain data consistency and makes it easier to work with the temporary table in subsequent queries.

In summary, defining columns and their data types is an essential step when creating temporary tables in SQL. It helps maintain data integrity, ensures consistent data storage, and simplifies querying the temporary table for further analysis.

Indexing Temp Tables for Improved Performance

When working with temp tables in SQL, optimizing their performance is crucial for the efficiency of your database queries. One effective method to achieve this is by indexing temp tables. Indexing can dramatically speed up your queries by reducing the time it takes to search and sort data, making it an invaluable tool in the world of SQL.

Creating a temp table in SQL typically begins with the CREATE TABLE statement. When building these temp tables, it’s essential to determine which columns will be most frequently accessed or searched upon, as these columns should be indexed for improved performance.

There are a few key reasons why indexing temp tables can significantly improve your query speed:

To create an index on a temp table, follow these basic steps:

  1. Create the temp table using the CREATE TABLE statement.
  2. Use the CREATE INDEX statement to build an index on one or more columns of the temp table.
  3. Run your queries.

It’s important to note that while indexing temp tables offers numerous benefits, there are some drawbacks to be aware of:

To achieve the best results, consider these best practices for indexing temp tables:

Optimizing the performance of temp tables in SQL is a crucial component of effective database management. By employing indexing strategies and best practices, you’ll be able to enhance your queries and significantly improve the overall efficiency of your SQL operations.

Joining Temp Tables and Permanent Tables

When working with SQL databases, you may often need to create temp tables and join them with existing permanent tables. Combining temp tables and permanent ones can streamline queries, improve performance, and enable complex data operations to be more manageable.

To create a temp table in SQL, use the CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE statement. Once created, it’s possible to use standard SQL JOIN statements to combine these temp tables with permanent tables. There are four types of joins available in SQL:


Each type of join determines how the tables are combined based on matching, or non-matching, data in the specified columns. Here’s a brief explanation of each type:

Below are examples of how to create temp tables in SQL and join them with a permanent table. Suppose you have a permanent table named employees and a temporary table named temp_salaries:

-- Create a temp table for salaries
  employee_id INT PRIMARY KEY,
  salary DECIMAL(10, 2)

-- Insert sample data into the temp table
INSERT INTO temp_salaries (employee_id, salary)
VALUES (1, 5000.00), (2, 6000.00), (3, 5500.00);

-- INNER JOIN example: Retrieve employee information with matching salaries
SELECT employees.*, temp_salaries.salary
FROM employees
INNER JOIN temp_salaries ON = temp_salaries.employee_id;

-- LEFT JOIN example: Get all employee data and matching salary data if available
SELECT employees.*, temp_salaries.salary
FROM employees
LEFT JOIN temp_salaries ON = temp_salaries.employee_id;

-- RIGHT JOIN example: Get all available salary data and matching employee information
SELECT employees.*, temp_salaries.salary
FROM employees
RIGHT JOIN temp_salaries ON = temp_salaries.employee_id;

-- FULL OUTER JOIN example: Combine all employee data with corresponding salary data
SELECT employees.*, temp_salaries.salary
FROM employees
FULL OUTER JOIN temp_salaries ON = temp_salaries.employee_id;

These examples showcase how to create temp tables in SQL and join them with permanent tables. By understanding the available join types and their appropriate use, you can optimize queries and perform complex data analysis more effectively.

Modifying Temp Tables

Creating a temp table in SQL allows users to store and manipulate intermediate results within a database session. Once the temporary table is established, modifying its structure can be essential, depending on the user’s requirements. In this section, we’ll explore how to make alterations to temp tables, including adding and removing columns, and updating data.

To modify a temp table, SQL offers the ALTER TABLE statement. This command allows users to make changes to the table’s structure, including adding and deleting columns. The syntax for adding a new column is as follows:

ALTER TABLE #TempTableName
ADD ColumnName DataType;

For instance, let’s say we have a temp table named #Orders and we want to add a new column called OrderStatus with varchar data type. The code would look like this:

ADD OrderStatus VARCHAR(50);

In case the user needs to remove a column, they can use the DROP COLUMN statement. The syntax for this command is:

ALTER TABLE #TempTableName

For example, to remove the OrderStatus column from the #Orders temp table, the code will be:

DROP COLUMN OrderStatus;

On occasion, users may need to update data within the temp table before retrieving the final result. The UPDATE command allows for precisely that:

UPDATE #TempTableName
SET ColumnName = NewValue
WHERE Conditions;

Assume we want to change the status of a specific order in the #Orders temp table. The following code changes the OrderStatus of the order with OrderID equal to 101:

UPDATE #Orders
SET OrderStatus = 'Complete'
WHERE OrderID = 101;

In summary, when working with temp tables in SQL, you can easily modify their structure and update data using various SQL commands. The ALTER TABLE statement offers options for adding and removing columns, while the UPDATE command provides efficient data manipulation. These utilities ensure users maintain full control over their temporary tables throughout the database session.

Deleting Temp Tables

When working with temp tables in SQL, it’s crucial to understand how to delete them once they’ve served their purpose. Deletion is an essential process that helps maintain an optimized and efficient database system. In this section, we’ll explore various methods to delete temporary tables and why it’s important.

Temporary tables can be removed from the database either automatically or manually. Let’s examine these two options:

  1. Automatic Deletion: SQL Server automatically removes temp tables when the user disconnects or the session ends. Depending on the method used to create the temp table, the clean-up process might differ. Here’s an overview of how it works:
    • Local Temp Table: Created using a single ‘#’ (hash) symbol in the table name, local temp tables are deleted as soon as the session disconnects from the database.
    • Global Temp Table: Identified by using two ‘##’ (hash) symbols in their table names, global temp tables are deleted when the last session referencing them is closed.
  2. Manual Deletion: Instances might arise where a user prefers to delete a temp table before disconnecting or the session ending. To do this, the DROP TABLE command is used. Here’s how to manually delete a temp table in SQL:
    • Local/Global Temp Table: To delete them manually, execute the following command: DROP TABLE #TempTableName; -- for local temp table DROP TABLE ##TempTableName; -- for global temp table

It’s essential to delete temp tables as they consume memory resources, and having many unused tables can lead to wasted storage space and inefficient querying. Properly managing temp tables ensures an optimized database environment, enabling faster query execution and better performance. Keeping temp tables around for longer periods might also cause conflicts with other tables, create maintenance difficulties, or run the risk of mistakenly including outdated data in new queries.

In summary, the removal of temp tables can be achieved automatically when sessions end or manually through the DROP TABLE command. Styling issues aside, either method is suitable, and it’s crucial to maintain a well-organized and efficient database system.

Common Temp Table Use Cases

Creating a temp table in SQL is often necessary for performing various database operations. Temp tables can be extremely useful in many scenarios, allowing users to store intermediate results, simplify complex queries, and optimize processing time. This article will explore some common use cases for temp tables in SQL to provide insight into when they can be most effective.

One prevalent use case for temp tables is when dealing with large datasets. It can be challenging to process and analyze massive amounts of information within a single query. Temp tables serve as a helpful tool in breaking down large datasets into smaller, more manageable portions. By doing so, intermediate results can be stored, and queries can then be simplified and executed more efficiently.

Another common scenario in which temp tables prove invaluable is when combining data from multiple sources. In instances where data must be collected and combined from different tables or databases, using a temp table can streamline and organize the process. By creating a temp table, collected data can be inserted into it from various sources, allowing for easier manipulation and analysis.

Temp tables are also instrumental in storing calculations or aggregates. Sometimes, calculating aggregates, such as the average, sum, or count, for specific portions of a dataset needs to be done multiple times. By storing these values in a temp table, users can avoid doing redundant calculations, ultimately reducing processing time and improving overall performance.

When dealing with recursive operations, temp tables can be a lifesaver. Recursive operations often require complex, nested queries that can be difficult to manage and maintain. By using a temp table, recursive operations can be performed iteratively, making it more efficient and easier to troubleshoot.

Lastly, temp tables can be exceptional tools for testing and development. When developing new queries or making changes to existing ones, testing with a subset of data is often necessary. Temp tables allow developers to create a smaller, controlled dataset for testing purposes, enabling them to better evaluate functionality and performance before implementing changes on production data.

In summary, common temp table use cases in SQL include:

Temp tables offer numerous advantages that make managing and processing data easier in a variety of scenarios. By understanding their potential uses, SQL users can better leverage temp tables’ power to improve efficiency and enhance overall database performance.

Conclusion: Mastering Temp Tables in SQL

Mastering the art of creating temp tables in SQL can significantly boost a database professional’s efficiency when working with large data sets. Temp tables provide a practical solution for storing intermediate results, and they play a crucial role in optimizing query performance. By understanding when and how to create temp tables, SQL users can simplify complex queries, analyze data more efficiently, and improve the overall performance of their database operations.

Here’s a recap of the essential ideas covered throughout the article:

By mastering these fundamental aspects of using temp tables in SQL, database users can expect the following benefits:

In conclusion, creating temp tables in SQL is a powerful technique that can streamline database operations and lead to a more efficient workflow. By making the most use of this functionality, SQL users can experience the optimal performance their databases can offer and maintain a more organized codebase.

Cristian G. Guasch

Hey! I'm Cristian Gonzalez, I created SQL Easy while I was working at StubHub (an eBay company) to help me and my workmates learn SQL easily and fast.

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