T-SQL Tutorial

How to convert String to INT

In the world of databases, handling and processing data types is a daily task for developers, data analysts, and administrators. One common requirement is converting data from one type to another. In SQL Server, converting a string to an integer is a frequent operation, particularly when dealing with numerical data stored as text. This article will guide you through understanding why such conversions are necessary, the available conversion methods, potential pitfalls, and best practices.

In SQL Server, you can convert a string to an integer using the CAST or CONVERT functions. Both functions allow you to convert data from one data type to another. Here's an example of how to convert a string to an integer:

DECLARE @stringValue NVARCHAR(10) = '123';

-- Using CAST function
DECLARE @intValue1 INT;
SET @intValue1 = CAST(@stringValue AS INT);
SELECT @intValue1 AS ResultUsingCast;

-- Using CONVERT function
DECLARE @intValue2 INT;
SET @intValue2 = CONVERT(INT, @stringValue);
SELECT @intValue2 AS ResultUsingConvert;

In the above example, @stringValue is a variable containing the string representation of an integer ('123'). The CAST function and the CONVERT function are then used to convert this string to an integer.

It's important to note that if the string contains non-numeric characters, or if the conversion is not possible for any reason, you may encounter an error. To handle such scenarios more gracefully, you can use the TRY_CAST or TRY_CONVERT functions, which will return NULL instead of raising an error if the conversion fails. Here's an example using TRY_CAST:

DECLARE @stringValue NVARCHAR(10) = '123abc';

-- Using TRY_CAST function
DECLARE @intValue INT;
SET @intValue = TRY_CAST(@stringValue AS INT);

-- Check if conversion was successful
IF @intValue IS NOT NULL
SELECT @intValue AS ResultUsingTryCast;
PRINT 'Conversion failed.';

In this example, the TRY_CAST function is used to attempt the conversion, and it returns NULL if the conversion cannot be performed successfully. This way, you can check whether the conversion was successful and handle it accordingly.

Errors in Conversion

When converting SQL strings to integers, you may encounter conversion errors. These could be due to:

Non-Numeric Characters: A string like 'abc123' or '12.34' cannot be converted directly to an integer.
Empty or Null Strings: Trying to convert an empty string or a NULL can lead to unexpected results if not handled correctly.
Overflow Errors: A value too large for the target integer type will cause an overflow error.

Best Practices

To ensure efficient and safe conversion of SQL string to integer, consider the following best practices:

Validate Data
Ensure that the data is validated at the application or database level to minimize conversion errors. For instance, if data is entered via a web form, use regular expressions to ensure that only numeric input is accepted.

Choose the Right Data Type
Select a data type that aligns with the expected range of values. SQL Server has various numeric data types like INT, BIGINT, SMALLINT, etc. If a column will store small integers, using SMALLINT can save space.

When working with user-entered data or importing from external systems, use TRY_CAST or TRY_CONVERT to avoid runtime errors. This approach also allows for easier debugging and helps identify invalid data entries.

Handle NULL and Empty Strings
Explicitly handle NULL and empty string values in your SQL logic. For instance, replace them with default values or handle them in subsequent queries.


Converting strings to integers in SQL Server is a routine task that often arises due to inconsistent data formats. With the functions provided by SQL Server, such as CAST, CONVERT, TRY_CAST, and TRY_CONVERT, you can convert data smoothly while ensuring robust error handling.

Being aware of common pitfalls and adhering to best practices like validating data, using the right data types, and handling special cases ensures that your data conversion processes remain error-free and efficient.