SQL Foreign Key

SQL Foreign Key constraint is used to implement the relationship between SQL tables. To normalize the data, we split the tables using this SQL Server Foreign key relation. While splitting the data, we need a reference, and we call it as a foreign key relationship. The list of points you should remember before going to the example of Foreign Key in SQL Server.

  • You can link a SQL Server Foreign key column with a Primary Key constraint in another column, or a Unique Constraint column in another column.
  • Values you enter in the Foreign key column should match with the referenced column. Otherwise, SQL Server will throw an error.
  • You can define the SQL Server foreign key relationship with tables that are present within the same database and same server. You can use Triggers to provide cross referential integrity.
  • SQL allows you to define the foreign key relationship with another column present within the same table. This type of relationship is self-reference.
  • You can’t delete a table that has the foreign key relationship

For example, the Employee table has Employee ID, and Orders table has Orders information along with Emp ID. Remember, this Emp ID holds a Foreign Key relationship with the Employee ID column in the Employee table. For this SQL foreign key demonstration, we are using the Department table.

SQL Foreign Key 1

Create SQL Foreign Key

We can create a SQL Server Foreign key using the Transact SQL query, and the SQL Management Studio.

Create SQL Foreign Key using T-SQL

How to create a Foreign Key in SQL server using Transact SQL statement?. Here, we will create a Foreign key that will connect with the tblDepartment at the creation of a table.

-- Creating SQL Server Foreign Key
USE [SQLTEST]
GO

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[tblEmployee](
	[EmpID] [int] IDENTITY(1,1) NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
	[FirstName] [nvarchar](255) NULL,
	[LastName] [nvarchar](255) NULL,
	[Education] [nvarchar](255) NULL,
	[YearlyIncome] [float] NULL,
	[Sales] [float] NULL,
	[DeptID] [int] NULL,
	CONSTRAINT [FK_tblDepartment_tblEmployee_DeptID] FOREIGN KEY([DeptID])
		REFERENCES [dbo].[tblDepartment] ([ID])
) 
GO

We added the CONSTRAINT statement at the end of the table creation. CONSTRAINT Constraint_Name FOREIGN KEY (Column_Name of tblEmployee) REFERENCES PrimaryKey_Table (Key Column). Refer to Create Table, Primary Key, Unique Constraint, Triggers, and referential integrity in SQL Server.

Let me use the SP_HELP procedure to check the table definition and the constraints

SQL Foreign Key 3

See our newly created foreign key. You can also use the Object Explorer to achieve the same. To do so, Expand the tblEMployee, and expand Keys folder

SQL Foreign Key 4

Create SQL Foreign Key on Existing table

In this example, we show you the steps to add Foreign Key in SQL Server on an existing table. For this, we are going to create a new table.

-- Sql Server Foreign key example
USE [SQLTEST]
GO

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[tblEmployee](
	[EmpID] [int] IDENTITY(1,1) NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
	[FirstName] [nvarchar](255) NULL,
	[LastName] [nvarchar](255) NULL,
	[Education] [nvarchar](255) NULL,
	[YearlyIncome] [float] NULL,
	[Sales] [float] NULL,
	[DeptID] [int] NULL
) 
GO

Output

Messages
--------
Command(s) completed successfully.

Now let me add the Foreign key constraint. Here, we use the Alter Table to alter the table content, and then used the ADD Constraint statement to add the Foreign key constraint.

USE [SQLTEST]
GO
ALTER TABLE [dbo].[tblEmployee]  
ADD CONSTRAINT [FK_tblDepartment_tblEmployee_DeptID] FOREIGN KEY([DeptID])
			REFERENCES [dbo].[tblDepartment] ([ID])

Output

Messages
--------
Command(s) completed successfully.

Create Foreign Key using SSMS

In this example, we will show you how to create a Foreign Key in SQL Server using the SQL Server Management Studio. To do so, please go to the Object Explorer. Next, please Expand the Database folder, and select the table on which you want to create a Foreign key. Next, Right-click on it will open the context menu. Please choose the Design option.

SQL Foreign Key 11

It will open the corresponding table in design mode. Right-click on the DeptID column and select the Relationships option.

SQL Foreign Key 12

As you can see, there are no existing relationships. Please click on the Add button to add a new relation.

SQL Foreign Key 13

Once you select the Add option, SSMS will create a Foreign key for you.

SQL Foreign Key 14

Next, click on the Browse button beside the Tables and Columns Specification option. This property is used to specify the relation between the two tables.

SQL Foreign Key 15

We selected the Primary Key table as the tblDepartment, and Column as ID.

SQL Foreign Key 16

Next, we selected the Foreign key table as tblEmployee, and key column as the Dept ID

SQL Foreign Key 17

Modify Foreign Key

To modify SQL Server foreign key, go to the Database folder and select the table on which your Foreign key holds, then go to the Keys folder. Next, Right-click on the key name and select the Modify option

SQL Foreign Key 19

Clicking the Modify option will open the corresponding table in design mode, along with the Foreign Key Relationships window.

SQL Foreign Key 20

Delete Foreign Key using Query

Remember, You can’t alter the foreign constraint using the query. To modify the existing foreign key, you have to drop (or delete) and recreate it. Please use the DROP Constraint statement along with the ALTER TABLE Statement to delete or drop Foreign key in Sql Server

USE [SQLTEST]
GO
ALTER TABLE [dbo].[tblEmployee]  
DROP CONSTRAINT [FK_tblDepartment_tblEmployee_DeptID]

Output

Messages
-------
Command(s) completed successfully.

Delete Foreign Key Constraint using SSMS

Expand the Database folder, and choose the table on which your Foreign key holds, then go to the Keys folder. Next, Right-click on the key name and select the Delete option

SQL Foreign Key 8

Once you select the Delete option, Delete Object window will open. Click OK to delete the foreign key constraint.

SQL Foreign Key 9

You can see that there is no Foreign Key in the Object explorer

SQL Foreign Key 10

Delete Foreign Key Constraint using SSMS 2

To delete SQL foreign key, Within the object explorer, Expand the Database folder and Right-click on the table name, and click the Design option. Next, select the Relationships option to open this window. Now, Please select the Foreign Key, and click on the Delete button.

SQL Foreign Key 18