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Posted Dec 30, 2004

SQL Server: Updating Integer Status Columns

By Gregory A. Larsen

In my first article in this series, I discussed how to store different statuses in a single integer column. In this article, I will expand on the topic of using integer columns for storing statuses and will discuss how to update the integer status column to change or remove any given status.

Prior to getting into how to update a status column, let us first review how an integer column actually stores multiple statuses. The numerical value of an integer column can be represented a number of ways. One of those ways is to represent an integer as a series of 1's and 0's; I refer to this as the binary format of an integer. An integer is 4 bytes long, and each byte can contain up to 8 bits. Therefore, a single integer column can represent 31 different status values. Let us look at a simple example. Say an integer column contains the integer value 140. The binary representation of this number is 0000000000000000000000010001100. This binary number has 3 bits that are set to 1, and 28 bits that are set to 0. Each bit that is set to 1 indicates that the status associated with that bit is set to TRUE, where as if the bit is set to 0 then the status for that bit is set to FALSE. Each one of the 31 different bits of the above binary value would represent a different status.

Now that we know how an integer value can store different statuses using a binary string of 1's and 0's, let us look at an actual table that will store multiple records, where each record will contain an integer status column. I am going to use the same table and statuses as in my first article. Here is the code to create my table:

create table Student (StudentName varchar(10), Status int)

Here is a matrix that represents all the possible statuses for a given student:


Integer Value

Late Arrival


Early Dismissal


Honor Society Member


Member of the Band


Member of the Choir


Teachers Aid


Student Mentor


Running Start


I will need to populate my Student table with some records so I can use these records later on to perform updates. The matrix below shows the different statuses for each student record that I will be inserting into my Student table:




late arrival, early dismissal


honor society member, member of the band, Running Start


member of the choir, teachers aid, student mentor


member of band


Here is the code I use to add these Student records:

insert into Student values ('Fred',1|2)
insert into Student values ('Barney',4|8|128)
insert into Student values ('Wilma',16|32|64)
insert into Student values ('Dick',8)
insert into Student values ('Jane',0)

Now that I have my "Student" table populated, we can start looking at how to update statuses.

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