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I need to look at the contents of sysdatabases from an older backup of master, but I do not want to overwrite my master databse. Can I use the rename option of the restore command to restore master as something else ('MyDB')?

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Please clarify, which Database Management System you use? –  Oleg Tsarev Aug 8 '12 at 16:34
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Yes, as long as you are restoring it to a server instance that is the same build number that it came from originally you should be fine. If you try to restore a system database on an instance with different build number it will fail.

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