The sp_getapplock secret

sp_getapplock is not very well advertised in SQL Server 2005, however it is a good way to synchronize code in a stored procedure.

Before finding out about sp_getapplock, I would SELECT from a table with an exclusive lock, like so:

SELECT TOP 1 * FROM dbo.ATable with (tablockx, holdlock);
-- Do something while the lock is held, for instance:
UPDATE dbo.ATable SET FieldA = FieldA + 1 WHERE FieldB = 'something';

This blocks other users from entering the section of code until the lock is released (when the transaction is committed). Normally you couldn’t do FieldA = FieldA + 1, because other users might be updating the table, however with the lock on the table you could.

This approach has some downsides

  1. Other users can’t SELECT from the table.
  2. If you rebuild indexes on the table with the “online=on” option, it will want to put a schema lock on the table, to prevent other schema changes. The exclusive lock prevents the rebuild from starting.

sp_getapplock is the built-in way to allow only one user in a section of code at a time, for example:

EXEC @res = sp_getapplock @Resource = 'Lock ID', @LockMode = 'Exclusive';
IF @res >= 0
PRINT 'lock is held.';

@Resource can be used for different locks that don’t interfere with each other.

You have to be careful which database you are “use”ing. SQL Server assumes that different databases have nothing to do with each other and won’t block each other.

About Clay Lenhart

I am a DBA/Technical Architect for Latitude Group and love technology.
This entry was posted in SQL Server Development. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The sp_getapplock secret

  1. Yair says:


    Why don’t you release the transaction after the commit?


  2. Clay Lenhart says:

    Yair, I’m not sure how to answer your question. You could say that “releasing” the transaction is the same thing as “committing” the transaction.

    The way transactions work, “BEGIN TRAN” is committed with “COMMIT TRAN”.

    Let me know if this doesn’t answer your question.

  3. rob towne says:

    Clay, huge props, man.
    I was needing something just like this and have been going crazy trying some different workarounds. Thanks so much for sharing this..


  4. Greg Martin says:


    I think Yair meant you didn’t call sp_releaseapplock() after the COMMIT which might appear necessary at first glance at sp_getapplock().

    The reason it’s not is that an applock has by default transaction scope and is released automatically when the transaction is committed or rolled back.

    Had your code included the parameter @LockOwner=’Session’ then you would have had to explicitly call sp_releaseapplock().


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