Data Warehousing and Data Science

28 January 2019

SSIS: Numeric Column Loaded as NULL

Filed under: Data Warehousing — Vincent Rainardi @ 6:08 am

Why SSIS loads a numeric column in Excel as NULL?
(only applies to Excel 97-2003 files, does not apply to Excel 2013 files)

What Happened

I have an Excel 97-2003 file containing a numeric column. The first 10 rows of this column are blank. There are numbers from row 11 onwards. When SSIS loads this file, all columns are imported correctly into the target table, except this one column which is imported as NULL.

Left: Excel 97-2003 source file, right: target table in SQL Server
excel 97-2003
Figure 1. Loading an Excel 97-2003 file

Why It Happened

Why Column2 is loaded as NULL, but Column3 is loaded ok?

This has nothing to do with SSIS. It is because of Microsoft Excel Driver. The Excel driver checks the first 8 rows of that column to find out the data type. Because they are blank, the Excel Driver (not SSIS) sets the expected data type to Text. And because the actual data is a Number, it is set as NULL.

How It Happened

Here is how it happened (the detailed mechanics).

When we setup the Excel Connection Manager in SSIS (see below), the Excel Driver installed in our PC does these steps:

excel source editor
Figure 2. Setting up Excel source

Step 1. The Excel Driver looks at the TypeGuessRows and ImportMixedTypes registry setting: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Access Connectivity Engine\Engines\Excel

registry settings
Figure 3. Registry Settings

Note: The branch in the registry is different for each Office version and 32/64 bit, see list here.

Step 2. The Excel Driver reads the first N rows from the Excel file to determine the data type, where N is the TypeGuessRows.


  • The default for TypeGuessRows is 8.
  • If the TypeGuessRows is set to 0, it reads the first 16384 rows (2^14).
  • To check all rows, the TypeGuessRows needs to be set to 1,048,576 (2^20), the maximum number of rows allowed in Excel.

Step 3. The Excel Driver sets the expected data type for that column as follows:

  • If the value of the ImportMixedTypes is “Text”, the expected data type is set based on the majority of the N rows where N the value of TypeGuessRows. There are 5 possible data types: Text, Number, Date, Currency, Boolean.
  • For example, if in the first 8 rows there are 4 dates, 3 texts, 2 number and 1 currency, the expected data type will be set to Date.
  • Another example: if in the first 8 rows there are 5 text and 3 numbers, the expected data type will be set to Text.
  • If there is a tie like (4 and 4) or (3,3,2) or (2,2,2,2) then the Number wins, followed by Currency, Date, Text and the last one is Boolean.
  • If the first 8 rows are all NULL the expected data type is set to the ImportMixedTypes.
  • In the above case, Column1 is set to Number (majority of 8), Column2 to Text (all NULL), Column3 to Number (majority of 1), Column4 to Text (all NULL).

Step 4. When we click the Preview button (see Appendix 1), the Excel Driver reads the first 200 rows from the Excel file and display the values on the screen. If the value from the file does not match the expected data type, the Excel Driver returns NULL to SSIS.
This is why in the above case Column2 is shown as NULL in the Preview screen.
The same happens during the actual load process.

Excel 2007 or Excel 2013

What happens if we import an Excel 2007/2013 file?

If we import an Excel 2007 or Excel 2013 the numeric column is loaded correctly, see Column2 below.

excel 2007 or 2013
Figure 4. Loading Excel 2007 or 2013

When loading an Excel 97-2003 file we get the same result as above if we set the Excel version on the Excel Connection Manager to “Microsoft Excel 2007”, like this:

set excel version
Figure 5. Changing the Excel Version

So when we face a problem with numeric column being null when loading from Excel 97-2003, we can set the Excel version to 2007 in Excel Connection Manager and SSIS will load it correctly.


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