Limiting Result Sets Using TOP and PERCENT
The TOP clause limits the number of rows returned in the result set.
TOP n [PERCENT]
n specifies how many rows are returned. If PERCENT is not specified, n is the number of rows to return. If PERCENT is specified, n is the percentage of the result set rows to return:
TOP 120 /*Return the top 120 rows of the result set. */
TOP 15 PERCENT /* Return the top 15% of the result set. */.
If a SELECT statement that includes TOP also has an ORDER BY clause, the rows to be returned are selected from the ordered result set. The entire result set is built in the specified order and the top n rows in the ordered result set are returned.
The other method of limiting the size of a result set is to execute a SET ROWCOUNT n statement before executing a statement. SET ROWCOUNT differs from TOP in these ways: