Installing SQL Server Express to set up an Azure database locally

Installing SQL Express:

  1. Download SQL Express installer
  2. Switch to an account with full local admin permissions (our regular accounts don’t have these so I had to use a global admin account instead) and install SQL Express with that account
  3. Once installation completes, make a note of the connection string you’re given on the final page of the installer
  4. Open SSMS and connect to the database - default name is localhost\sqlexpress
  5. Navigate to Security -> Logins -> New Login
  6. Add the regular (non-admin) domain account that you’ll be using most of the time
  7. Once added, open that account under the Logins section and then open the “Server Roles” page
  8. Add the account to the “sysadmin” role

Obtaining the Azure database:

  1. Open the database and select the “Export” option at the top of the “Overview” page
  2. Choose a storage account and container to drop the export file in and enter the server admin creds
  3. Once the file has been created, access that storage container and download the db export file

Restoring the export file

  1. Back in SSMS, connect to your local SQL express server instance again (if it isn’t still connected), right-click on the “Databases” node and select “Import Data-tier Application"
  2. Select the db export file, give the database a name, click “Next"
Don’t forget to update connection strings in your applications ;)  If they’re running under your normal account (i.e. not a separate app pool account etc), it should look something like “Server=localhost\sqlexpress;Database=[your database name];Trusted_Connection=True;“

(This is obviously for local development and testing only; if you set up a real server like this, you’re insane)