If you do not already have a database in mind, there are plenty
of free databases you can download from the Internet to play with.
Express * Recommended Download
I have a preference for
Oracle. It is a robust, stable
and powerful database. You can get the free Express Edition (XE) directly from
Oracle. Oracleoffers plenty of tutorials on the
Network. Oracle XE is a limited database. That
means that you can run it on any computer but it will only take advantage of 1
CPU, 1GB of RAM and will only access up to 4GB of disk. There are also some
enterprise features missing. For a learning database though, I fully recommend
The Oracle documentation is excellent. Support via multiple
community forums, email lists and wikis.
Oracle 10g Express Edition Home Page
Oracle 10g Express Edition Download
Express Edition Documentation
Oracle 10g Express Edition: Not Just For Learners
(written by me)
MySQLis a widely used open source database. It has a very low cost of
entry and a very high ease of use factor. As a matter of a fact, I believe it
has the market share that it does strictly because it is so easy to install and
use. For someone new to databases, MySQL is a very good choice.
Documentation is decent. Community and forum support is
MySQL Community OurDelta - OurDelta.com provides downloadable binaries that
inlcude patches from third parties such as Google and Percona. These patched
binaries may be more stable and/or performant than the community version
avaialable from MySQL.
OurDelta.com Home Page
Postgres is another, less widely used, open source
database. It is fairly easy to install and use, although no where near as easy
as MySQL. It is a more enterprise-class database than MySQL but as a learning
database, it falls short.
Postgres documentation is decent but community support is via
Postgres Home Page
MS SQL Server
Microsoft's SQL Server is
the database many people are referring to the SQL database. Microsoft offers an Express edition much like Oracle's (with the same limitations).
Microsoft, love them or hate them, they are everywhere. If you are going to be
developing purely for windows (probably with .Net) and are planning to use
Visual Studio, SQL Server is a good choice. Otherwise, go with Oracle or an
open source database.
Server Express Edition Home Page
Server Express Edition Download
Express Edition Support
Not to be outdone, shortly
after Oracle released their
Express Edition, IBM followed suit with DB2
ExpressEdition (with limited CPU and memory but
unlimited disk space). Like Oracle and SQL Server, DB2 is not an open source database. Unless you are
working for a company that uses DB2 and want to be
completely compatible, there is really no good reason to use DB2. Oracle is a
more robust, reliable and scalable database that costs about the same (when you
move beyond express editions).
DB2 Express Home Page
DB2 Express Download
Db2 Express Documentation
To round out the open
source offerings, here is Firebird. Firebird is not nearly as common as MySQL but has a very strong
community of supporters. Enterprise features fall just short of Postgres but
Firebird is easier for new users.
Documentation is sparse and incomplete.
Firebird Home Page
And finally, Ingres. Ingres has been around for a
very long time and has changed hands multiple times. Its latest incarnation is
as an open source database. Ingres is probably the most advanced open source
database and offers some features that are normally only available in
commercial databases. Unfortunately, it is not used very extensively outside of
certain circles and still lacks some features I consider basic (although they
are working on that).
Ingres offers exceptional documentation and a very nice