Beware of @@Identity Theft in SQL Server

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In T-SQL, you can use the @@IDENTITY keyword to obtain the value of the identity column when you insert a new record. For example, the following query inserts a record into an imaginary table and returns a result set containing the ID of the inserted column.

    SELECT Value1, Value2


There’s the potential for a subtle bug here. Suppose later on, a coworker realizes that any time a record is inserted into [SomeTable] a record should also be inserted into the table [SomeTableAudit]. The simplest solution would be to add a trigger to [SomeTable] that inserts a record to [SomeTableAudit]. But in doing so, your coworker introduces a case of @@IDENTITY theft. Your original query will now return the value inserted into the IDENTITY column of the tabel [SomeTableAudit] instead of the IDENTITY value of [SomeTable] as you intended.

At this point some of you are shaking your heads muttering  

Well I never use Triggers. Triggers are bad umkaaaay.  

That’s beside the point, you never know when someone else is going to apply that trigger resulting in this unintended consequence. It pays to program defensively. The issue here is that although @@IDENTITY is constrained to the current session, it is not constrained to the current scope. Instead, use the SCOPE_IDENTITY() function which will return the last IDENTITY column value inserted in the current scope, in this case the value inserted into [SomeTable].

    SELECT Value1, Value2


As an aside, I’m fine with triggers in certain cases. One of the primary complaints about triggers mirrors the complaints about Aspects in AOP. Namely that triggers provide for unintended consequences that aren’t visible when examining a stored procedure. However when used sparingly for cross-cutting functionality, I think they can add a lot of benefit. Much like Aspects.

UPDATE: Steven Campbell adds a great tip.


Another tip I can offer is that you should not use ADO in combination with SQLOLEDB to retrieve IDENTITY values. I refer specifically to the technique of: \ myRS.AddNew\ …\ myRS.Update\ myId = myRS(“ID”)\ \ This fails to retrieve the correct ID, because (internally) the SQLOLEDB driver issues a SELECT @@IDENTITY statement to retrieve the newly created ID.