How to Import a .BAK File into a Database in SQL Server Step by Step

By importing .BAK files, organizations can ensure data integrity, minimize downtime, and maintain business continuity in SQL Server environments. Let's learn the steps and solutions for importing.


By Crystal / Updated on June 25, 2023

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What Is a .BAK File SQL Server

When you create a backup of a SQL Server database, it creates a .BAK file that contains a copy of a database or a transaction log backup. The .BAK file extension stands for "backup" and is commonly used in the following scenarios:

  • Recovery: In the event of a disaster or system failure, you could restore SQL from a .BAK file easily.
  • Migration: Importing .BAK files facilitates database migration between SQL Server instances during upgrades or environment transfers.
  • Testing: Refreshing a database by replacing its content with data from a .BAK file is another common scenario when creating copies or clones of databases for testing or development.

Overall, importing .BAK files in SQL Server ensures data integrity, minimizes downtime, and supports business continuity. So this article will show you how to import a .bak file in SQL Server.


How to Import a .BAK File into a Database in SQL Server

The .bak file provide a crucial means of recovering data in case of emergencies, such as hardware failures, human errors, or system crashes. To import a .BAK file into a database in SQL Server, you can follow these steps:

1. Launch SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). Then connect to the SQL Server instance where you want to import the .BAK file, and complete authentication with server name, authentication method, and credentials.


2. Right-click on the Databases in the Object Explorer pane and select Restore Database.

restore database

3. In the Restore Database window, specify the following details:

  • In the Source section, choose Device and click on the ellipsis button (...).


  • In the Select backup devices window, click on Add and browse to the location of the .BAK file you want to import. Select the file and click OK.



  • The selected .BAK file will appear in the Backup media list. Click OK to close the window.

4. In the Destination section, specify the name of the database you want to create or overwrite with the backup data.

Note: By default, the restore operation will use the original file locations for the data and log files. If you want to change the file locations, click on the Files tab and modify the paths accordingly.

5. Click on the OK button to start the restore process. Once the restore process is complete, you can verify the imported database by expanding the Databases folder in the Object Explorer pane. The restored database should appear in the list.

Note: When to restore SQL databases, you may encounter an error stating "Exclusive access could not be obtained because the database is in use." This error occurs when the database you are trying to restore is currently being used by another process, and as a result, the database is marked as "restoring..." which restricts normal operations on it.

✐ Some users reported that they failed to restore SQL database when using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).

Reliable Alternative to Backup and Restore SQL database

In SQL Server, importing a .bak file allows you to restore the data in case of data loss, corruption, or other issues. So it's important to regularly create and store .BAK files as part of a comprehensive database backup strategy.

You could consider the easy and secure SQL database backup tool - AOMEI Cyber Backup to manage SQL database backup and restore smoothly. Its SQL Server backup feature supports SQL 2005-2022, and enables you to select multiple databases to backup or restore at once. As a centralized management solution, you can backup SQL database and restore to another server easily.

With its concise interface, any operation can be done via several simple steps. And not only SQL Server, it also supports VMware backup and Hyper-V backup.

You can download the 30-day free trial to proceed and get a time-limited discount:

Download Free TrialMicrosoft SQL Server 2005-2022
Centralized and Secure SQL Backup

🔹 Preparation before SQL database backup and recovery:

1. Download proxy program and install it on the device with SQL Server installed. Then, click Already installed proxy and select the device with SQL installed.

2. Next, click "icon" -> Authentication to validate the database instance. You can choose Windows Authentication or SQL Authentication.


🔹 Steps to backup SQL Server databases:

1. Run AOMEI Cyber Backup on the server machine, click Source Device -> Microsoft SQL -> Add Microsoft SQL.

2. Click Backup Task on the left menu bar, select Backup Task -> Create New Task to open the task creating page. Choose backup type as Microsoft SQL Backup, and set the Task Name as you like.

select SQL Backup

3. Click on Device Name to specify the SQL instances and databases you need to back up. You can select one or multiple databases flexibly.

4. Select Target to save backups. You can specify a local or network path.

5. Set up a Schedule to run the SQL database backup automatically. Meanwhile, you can select the backup method as Full, Incremental or Differential Backup.


6. (Optional) Backup Cleanup: automatically remove history backup versions based on a rule to save your storage space.


7. (Optional) Email Notification: receive email notifications when the task is abnormal or successful.

A completed task will be listed in the Backup Task tab. Then you can edit or restore from SQL database from it when you need.

🔹 Steps to restore SQL database from backup:

1. Click Backup Task on the left menu bar, locate the task you want to restore, and click "icon" - Restore.

2. Select a backup version that you want to restore.

select sql backup to restore

3. Select the target location that you want to restore to.

If you want to Restore to new location, you need to select target and specify the name of the new database. You can also modify the storage location.


Overwrite the database with the same name: If you tick this option, the backed-up databases will overwrite the target databases of the same names. If you leave it unchecked, the target databases with same names will be omitted during restoring.

When the restore is complete, you can see the restored database in Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.

"Restore to original location" must confirm the original location exist. Or else, you can only select "Restore to new location".
"Restore to original location" will overwrite or delete the original database data, if the original database has important data, it is recommended to choose "Restore to new location".


Importing a .BAK file in SQL Server is a crucial process for database management. It allows for database restoration, migration, creation of duplicates, refreshing of data, and recovery from disasters. This article offers detailed steps to import a .BAK file to SQL Server step by step. Hope it could help you restore your databases efficiently and ensures your business continuity in SQL Server environments.

Crystal · Editor
Crystal is an editor from AOMEI Technology. She mainly writes articles about virtual machine. She is a positive young lady likes to share articles with peolpe. Off work she loves travelling and cooking which is wonderful for life.