Zhixian's Tech Blog


How to connect to Microsoft Sql Server from Ubuntu using pyODBC

This is continuation of my previous 3-part blog post that list out the steps carried out to establish a connection to Sql Server via ODBC on Ubuntu.


  1. The version of Ubuntu used in this guide is Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS (Precise Pangoline) 32-bit.
  2. unixodbc is installed on the Ubuntu system.
  3. freetds is installed on the Ubuntu system.
  4. You are trying to connect to Microsoft Sql Server 2008 or later.
  5. You know how to use a terminal session in Ubuntu.

Required materiels

  1. pyODBC (latest version is 3.0.6 as of writing)
    (downloadable from http://code.google.com/p/pyodbc/downloads/list)

Download source vs apt-get

The apt-get utility in Ubuntu does have a version of pyODBC. (version 2.1.7)
However, it is badly out-of-date (2.1.7 vs 3.0.6) and may not work well with the newer versions of unixODBC and freetds.
This is especially important if you are trying to connect to later versions of Microsoft Sql Server (2008 onwards).
It is recommended that you use the latest versions of unixODBC, freetds and pyODBC when working with the latest Microsoft Sql Server instead of relying on packages in apt-get.

PyODBC Installation Overview

The steps for installing pyODBC are as follows:

  1. Download the source zip file. (I’m assuming you know how to do this)
  2. Extract the contents of the package.
  3. Install the contents of the package.
  4. Configure your system environment variables.

Extracting contents from pyODBC zip file

1) Assuming you downloaded the pyODBC zip into the Downloads folder of your Home directory, you should see a screen like the below on your file browser.


2) To extract the contents of the package, right-click on it. A popup menu should appear.
Select the menu item “Extract Here”.


3) After you extracted the contents, your file browser should look like the below:



Installing pyODBC

1) Start a new terminal session.
Navigate to the location where you extracted the pyODBC source files by typing cd ~/Downloads/pyODBC-3.0.6/ at the command line.


2a) Proceed to install pyODBC by typing python ./setup.py install on the command line.


If you received a screen like the below, it means that your user account do not have the necessary permissions to install pyODBC onto the system.
Type sudo python ./setup.py install on the command line to use a superuser account to perform the installation.


3) If the installation succeed, you should see a screen like the below:



Configure system environment variables

pyODBC has a dependency on the file libodbc.so.
This is the library of functions that pyODBC use to perform ODBC operations.
If pyODBC cannot find this file, you may see the following message:

ImportError: <libodbc.so name> cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

The actual name <libodbc.so name> may varied from system to system. A sample screen is as follows:


To help pyODBC find the library, we need to declare an environment variable LD_LIBRARY_PATH and specify the location of the libodbc.so in this variable.

Assuming my libodbc.so is located at  the directory /usr/local/lib

1) Type the following at the command line, to set the variable:


2) Type the following to set the variable as a global variable so that the executing environment can access this variable.




The changes made in the previous step are not persistent.
This means you need to carry out the same steps every time you start a new terminal session.

To make this change persistent, I recommend you put these 2 commands in your shell’s startup file.
If you are using the default bash shell, this would be your ~/.bashrc file.
Put the following 2 lines at the bottom of the file and save the file.



Testing pyODBC

For testing pyODBC, I have the following python script:

import pyodbc

database = pyodbc.connect('DRIVER=FreeTDS;SERVER=SARA\\SQLEXPRESS;UID=dbadmin;PWD=password;DATABASE=Arbalest;TDS_Version=8.0;',unicode_results=True)
cursor = database.cursor() encoding = 'utf-8' sql = "SELECT * FROM Arbalest.dbo.test;" cursor.execute(sql) for row in cursor:     print row


This python script assumes:

  1. I am trying to connect to the “SQLEXPRESS” Sql Server instance on a machine with the hostname of SARA
  2. The user account that I am using to log into the database is “dbadmin”
  3. The password to my user account is “password”
  4. The database that I am connecting to is “Arbalest”

For Sql Server later than 2005, having the parameter TDS Version=8.0 is recommended.

If this parameter is not defined in the connection string, the pyODBC may work correctly.

Assuming I save this script to a file call “test.py”, I would be able to run the script by typing the following on the command line:

python test.py


Note that the connection string that I used above in the pyodbc.connect statement is what is referred to as DSN-less connection string.

With this you should be able to connect to Sql Server from python using pyODBC.



How to connect to Microsoft Sql Server from Ubuntu via ODBC using FreeTDS

Filed under: computing — Tags: , , , , , , , — Zhixian @ 22:08:06 pm

This post describes the steps carried out to test my connection to Microsoft Sql Server from Ubuntu using ODBC.
This is part of my “How to connect to Sql Server from Ubuntu” series of blog post.


  1. The version of Ubuntu used in this guide is Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS (Precise Pangoline) 32-bit.
  2. You are trying to connect to Microsoft Sql Server 2008 or later.
  3. You know how to use a terminal session in Ubuntu.
  4. You have installed unixodbc.
  5. You have installed freetds.

Note: Some of configuration files may be sitting in folders where your default user account may not have permission to edit them.
It is assume that that you will use “sudo” to gain the necessary elevated permission to edit the file if this happens.

Information required

  1. Location of odbcinst.ini file.
    This file is where you will be placing configuration details of any ODBC drivers that you will be using.
    If you have followed the steps in the previous blog post, this file should be at /usr/local/etc/odbcinst.ini
  2. Location of the freetds drivers.
    If you have followed the steps in the previous blog post, this file should be at /usr/local/lib/libtdsodbc.ini

Configuration overview

  1. Add driver configuration information for freetds
  2. Test freetds
  3. Configure freetds.conf for Sql Server connectivity testing
  4. Test connection
  5. Troubleshooting notes

Add driver configuration for freetds

1) Edit your /usr/local/etc/odbcinst.ini.
It should be blank. Add the following lines to the file and save the file.

Description    = FreeTDS unixODBC Driver
Driver        = /usr/local/lib/libtdsodbc.so
Setup         = /usr/local/lib/libtdsodbc.so

Test freetds

After you have configure the driver, you can test the connection to your Sql Server.
We will use the tsql command to test the connection.

1)  Start a terminal session. Type tsql –C on the command line.

This command displays some of freetds configuration.
You should see results like the below.


Of note is the freetds.conf directory. This file is used to define Sql Servers aliases as well as freetds driver default settings.

2) Assuming you manage to display the configuration information, this means that your freetds setup correctly.
The next thing to try to do is probe for your Sql Server.
You do thing by typing the command tql –LH <machine_hostname>

<machine_hostname> can be hostname or an IP address.
In the screen below, the machine that host my Sql Server is SARA, so I typed tsql –LH SARA


From the above results, I can see that I have 2 instances of Sql Server installed on the host SARA.
It is important to note the TCP port number used by the server instance.
For the remainder of this post, we will try to connect to the SQLEXPRESS instance.
But prior to that, we will need to add a configuration setting in order to use the tsql command to connect to Sql Server.


Configuring freetds.conf

1) Remember the freetds.conf  file that you noted in step 1 of under test freetds? The one located at /usr/local/etc/freetds.conf ?
There are content in this file. But you don’t really need them at this stage. What you really need are just the following lines:

tds version = 8.0

Save the file.
The reason this step is required is because the tsql command utility do not have any parameters that allow you to specify the TDS version that it should use to connect to Sql Server. This is a problem when trying to connect to Sql Servers 2005 or later.
Hence, we set it as a global setting so that the default TDS version that driver will revert to is version 8.0

Test connection

1) Now you can use the tsql command to connect to your Sql Server.

Assuming my database user account is dbadmin, I would connect to the server by typing the following at the command line:
tsql –S SARA\\SQLEXPRESS –U dbadmin

If you get a screen like the below, it means you have successfully connected to your Sql Server.


You can run sql statements in this shell.
Type quit in the shell to exit.



Troubleshooting notes

Problem 1)

If you get a message like “There was a problem connecting to the server” as per the screen below, check your freetds.conf file and make sure tds version is set to 8.0 under global settings section.



Problem 2)

Another problem you might encounter when test is the following.
You appear to have logged in successfully, but you get a  running numeric prompt that starts from 1, 2, 3, …until such a time it timed out.


Essentially, it means tsql was not able to locate the server.

Checkpoints for this problem are:

  1. Is this correct server?
    If you are trying to connect to a database instance, you should specify tsql –S SARA\\SQLEXPRESS –U dbadmin
  2. Is the server running on default port?
    Note the TCP used by Sql Server by using the tsql –LH <machine_hostname> command. Then try the tsql command again by specify the port number with –p parameter. That is to say:
    tsql –S SARA\\SQLEXPRESS –U dbadmin –p 1433


Hope this helps anyone who had trouble setting up connection to Sql Server from their Ubuntu boxes.

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