It’s hard to believe, but SQL Server 2008 is almost a year old, and SQL Server 2008 R2 is just around the corner. In that time, Microsoft has created a boatload of useful web downloads for SQL Server 2008. Here are my top eight.

8. SQL Server 2008 Books Online (BOL)
Even if you’re not running SQL Server 2008, you should check out BOL. Updated May 2009, it’s an indispensible operations manual/planning guide.

7. SQL Server 2008 Upgrade Advisor
Planning an upgrade? The SQL Server 2008 Upgrade Advisor analyzes your current instance and reports on any system or database issues that might hinder your upgrade.

6. Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Update for SQL Server 2008 Support
For developers still using VS 2005, this important download enables Server Manager to connect to SQL Server 2008 and enables CLR development and debugging.

5. Visual Studio 2008 SP1
VS 2008 lacked full SQL Server 2008 support, but SP1 has it, including support for Reporting Services 2008. 

4. SQL Server 2008 Feature Pack
Tools in this pack include ADOMD.NET, sqlcmd, Data Mining Add-ins for Office 2007, the OLE DB Provider for DB2, and more.

3. SQL Server 2008 SP1
Already running SQL Server 2008? SP1 lets you slipstream SQL Server service packs as well as uninstall them.

2. SQL Server 2008 Express
It’s free, limited to 1 CPU and 1GB of RAM, and yet Express can provide departmental or small business database services.

1. SQL Server 2008 Trial Software Evaluation Edition
What download is better than SQL Server 2008 itself? Essentially the Enterprise Edition, this trial software is good for 180 days.