In Search of an Embedded DB for a Windows Forms Application

So I am in the middle of building a pretty substantial Windows Forms application in .Net 2.0/C#, which will rely very heavily on database integration. Currently development is proceeding using Sql Server Express 2005 for the database server. It is a very robust product that supports anything that you can do on the full edition of SQL Server, and is freely distributable. Stored procedures, triggers, the works.

However, when making the first internal release intended to be installed by other people, I ran into some problems, specifically related to the way that SQL Express works. As it is really the same thing as the full version of SQL Server (with limits put on DB size and other licensing issues), it requires a big download (around 35mb), large db file footprint (around 20mb) separate installation, and runs as a service on the client machine. Though the install can be packaged as part of your overall distribution and set to install “silently”, it is still an issue that requires ongoing support and trouble-shooting. Additionally, you can sometimes run into problems with the SQL Express service, permissions, problems attaching the database to the server, etc. It is a robust solution, but the potential problems involved in installing SQL Express on thousands of client machines and getting it to run flawlessly all the time is enough to give me pause.
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