Lesson Learned #418: Understanding SQL Events: Attention Signal and User Error Message
Published Aug 18 2023 06:38 AM 1,316 Views

Several days ago, I got a service request where we had a conversation about the differences about SQL Server Events: Attention Signal and User Error Message. In the realm of SQL Server, a well-rounded understanding of various events is crucial for optimizing performance, troubleshooting issues, and maintaining a robust database environment. In this article, we'll delve into three important events: "Attention Signal," "User Error Message," and "Command Timeout." We'll explore their significance, scenarios where they occur, and provide a practical script to simulate and capture these events. Let's dive in!


Attention Signal Event


The "Attention Signal" event in SQL Server signifies the abrupt cancellation of a running command on the server due to a signal sent by the client. This signal is commonly initiated in response to certain conditions, often when a command is taking too long to execute, resulting in a need for immediate termination.

Scenario: Command Timeout

One common situation where the "Attention Signal" event occurs is during a "Command Timeout." When a command initiated by a client surpasses the defined timeout period without completion, the client may send an attention signal to halt the command's execution. This action helps manage resource consumption and prevent excessive delays.


In this script, we initiate a command timeout by using the WAITFOR DELAY statement, which delays the execution for a specified duration. We intentionally set a short timeout of 5 seconds to demonstrate the event.


User Error Message Event


The "User Error Message" event pertains to messages generated by the user or the application, often in response to exceptional conditions or errors encountered during execution. This event is distinct from system-generated errors and provides valuable information for diagnosing issues.

Scenario: Syntax Error

Let's reproduce a "User Error Message" event by introducing a syntax error in a query.


In this scenario, the query contains a deliberate syntax error, causing the SQL Server to generate a "User Error Message." This event aids developers in identifying and rectifying issues in their queries or applications.


Scenario: User Message Generated by User

Let's reproduce a "User Error Message" event by introducing a error message generated by the client application. 


In this script, the "RAISERROR" statement is utilized intentionally to generate an error message signal when executed. While the attention signal commonly accompanies command timeouts, it can also be triggered by various client-side actions that require an immediate command cancellation.



Understanding the intricacies of SQL Server events is paramount for efficient database management and troubleshooting. By comprehending the "Attention Signal," "User Error Message," and "Command Timeout" events, database professionals can proactively address issues, optimize performance, and ensure the seamless operation of their systems. 


PowerShell Script


# Connection details
$serverName = "servername.database.windows.net"
$databaseName = "dbname"
$userId = "username"
$password = "Password123"

$connectionString = "Server=$serverName;Database=$databaseName;User Id=$userId;Password=$password;"

# Function to execute and handling errors
function ExecuteQueryAndHandleError {
    try {
        $connection = New-Object System.Data.SqlClient.SqlConnection
        $connection.ConnectionString = $connectionString

        $command = $connection.CreateCommand()
        $command.CommandText = $query
        $command.CommandTimeout = $CommandTimeout

        $result = $command.ExecuteReader()
    catch {
        Write-Host "Error: $_"
    finally {
        if ($connection.State -eq 'Open') {

# Scenario 1: Command Timeout
$queryTimeout = "WAITFOR DELAY '00:00:35';"
ExecuteQueryAndHandleError -query $queryTimeout -errorType "Command Timeout" -CommandTimeout 5

# Scenario 2: Syntax Error
$querySyntaxError = "SELECT * FROM MyTable WHERE columna_invalida = 1"
ExecuteQueryAndHandleError -query $querySyntaxError -errorType "Sintaxis" -CommandTimeout 30

# Escenario 3: Error de atención (Attention)
$queryAttention = "RAISERROR ('Error Message', 16, 1) WITH NOWAIT;"
ExecuteQueryAndHandleError -query $queryAttention -errorType "Atención" -CommandTimeout 30



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‎Aug 18 2023 06:38 AM
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