About Personal ArcSDE (also called "Desktop Geodatabase" or "ArcSDE Personal Server" in some documents by ESRI):
I fully agree this is badly documented, but on the other hand, once you realize there is actually no real distinction between Personal, Workgroup, and Enterprise Geodatabases, except a licensing scheme determining the maximum no. of concurrent users for the geodatabase (Vince may protest here, but for the sake of this thread, I think it valid), it actually turns out to be surprisingly simple:
*** STEPS TO INSTALL "PERSONAL ARCSDE / DESKTOP GEODATABASE" ***
(E.g. with "ArcGIS for Home Use" license based on "ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced")
* EDIT: * It may be advisable to reboot in between / after some of these steps, e.g. installing SQL Server, so as to ensure all services are properly running and usable for the next step.
1) - Install SQL Server 2012 Expresss
I am not going to detail all steps of the SQL Server installation here, use the Microsoft documentation if in doubt. Basically, you can choose almost all defaults, as the 2012 version of SQL Server installation already sets it all up under restricted Windows accounts, so rather safe. The defaults will install "extra's" like the Reporting Services that aren't necessary for the functioning of an ESRI Geodatabase, so you may prefer to opt out on these "software developer / SDK options" of the installation.
NOTE: you can also use the ArcGIS for Desktop 10.2 installation to install SQL Server 2008 R2 Express, as it is included in the desktop installer, but since I guess you will want to use the "latest", install 2012.
2) - Create a new instance in the process of the installation of SQL Server. Record the name of the instance for later use.
3) - Ensure you are logged in as a full Windows Administrator on your PC.
This is very important, if you don't do this, the enabling of the database for geodatabase storage may fail. Make sure this administrative login is also registered with your SQL Server Express if you haven't already done so during the install of SQL Server Express (which is usually the case, so you can probably skip this).
4) - Start the ArcGIS for Desktop 10.2 installation.
NOTE: Yes, you need the installation for ArcGIS for Desktop, not ArcGIS for Server. So you can use the installation that is part of the 10.2 Desktop Advanced "ArcGIS for Home Use" program. It is downloadable from the Customer Care portal once you receive your license from ESRI.
5) - Once in the main screen, choose ArcSDE for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Express as the installation option.
NOTE: don't worry: it won't automatically overwrite or re-install your SQL Server 2012 Express, see next steps.
6) - Once the install wizard appears, choose Next
7) - In the next dialog that appears (Installation Options), deactivate the Microsoft SQL Server Express Edition option, since you already installed it in step 1). Leave the Enable geodatabase storage on SQL Server Express checked. You want your database to be enabled to use ESRI Geodatabases.
😎 - Click Next
9) - In the Choose a SQL Server Instance and add a Windows login dialog, choose under SQL Server instance name your instance created in step 1), e.g. YOUR_COMPUTER_NAME\YOUR_INSTANCE. Add a valid Windows Login who will administer the geodatabase, e.g. YOUR_COMPUTER_NAME\YOUR_LOGIN_NAME. Note the YOUR_COMPUTER_NAME, since we are using Personal ArcSDE on SQL Server Express, your local PC is likely the server.
10) - Click Next and finish the installation. You can also close the ArcGIS for Desktop installation window now, as you no longer need it. Your database should now be enabled for creating geodatabases
11) - To create a geodatabase, DON'T USE THE "Create / Enable Enterprise Geodatabase" TOOLS!!!
I can not emphasize this enough. As the name of the tools already indicates, these tools only work against "enterprise" databases, not on SQL Server Express!
12) - To create an ESRI Geodatabase on SQL Server Express, simply create a new Database Server(!) connection to the SQL Server instance in ArcCatalog using the Add Database Server option under Database Servers in the Catalog Tree of ArcCatalog.
NOTE: I wrote Database Server, not Database Connection. You must first create a Database Server connection, as only a Database Server connection contains the context menu option to create a New Geodatabase, as in step 13).
13) - Now right click the new Database Server connection, and choose New Geodatabase from the context menu.
Yes, it is that simple! No hassle with an authorization file as in the "Create / Enable Enterprise Geodatabase" tools. The authorization of ArcSDE Personal Server forms an integral part of your ArcGIS for Desktop license, and was applied in steps 4) to 10).
NOTE 1: In order for this step to work, you must have an ArcGIS for Desktop Standard or ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced license. This doesn't cost you anything extra with an ArcGIS for Home Use license, it is just another licensing scheme you need to activate / authorize from the ArcGIS Administrator included with ArcGIS for Desktop. In Desktop Basic the New Geodatabase option is disabled in the context menu.
NOTE 2: After you have created the geodatabase via the Database Server connection, you can now also use the Add Database Connection option in ArcCatalog, to create a new Database Connection to your geodatabase.
Congratulations, you have just created your Personal ArcSDE / Desktop Geodatabase in SQL Server 2012 Express!
I am following your instructions and thank you they have been very helpful. Just a question, I already have ArcGIS for Desktop installed, do I need to uninstall then reinstall to get the option for step 7? Right now, I am able to connect to my instance, but when I use the "new geodatabase" option then I get an error, so I wonder if it has to do with me skipping step 7. My license is "Advanced". [ATTACH=CONFIG]28981[/ATTACH]