Mixing VARCHAR And NVARCHAR

Solomon Rutzky walks through some of the nuance of mixing VARCHAR and NVARCHAR data types with respect to your collation:

There are two types of Collations in SQL Server: SQL Server Collations and Windows Collations:

  • SQL Server Collations (those starting with SQL_) are older Collations that were the only ones available prior to SQL Server 2000. These Collations use simplistic sort orders, and do not handle the great variety of linguistic rules defined by Unicode. In fact, they do not have any Unicode rules defined at all, so N[VAR]CHAR data in these Collations will actually use OS-level Collation rules.

  • Windows Collations (those not starting with SQL_) were introduced in SQL Server 2000. These Collations not only have the Unicode rules defined, but they also apply those same linguistic rules to [VAR]CHAR data. While this does come at a slight cost to performance, it also allows for consistency of behavior. And it is this consistency that helps out greatly when there is a mismatch of datatypes (as we will see in a moment).

The simple advice to avoid mixing NVARCHAR and VARCHAR data types is still sound, but do read the whole thing.

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