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Do we need to install SQL Express edition prior installing SharePoint 2010 server? Or the Standalone approach by default installs SQL Express DB ?

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If you select standalone installation option then it will automatically install the Sql server express edition along with it.

Read this http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1644831&seqNum=4

Also

http://sharepointwings.blogspot.com/2012/11/sharepoint-2010-standalone-vs-farm.html?m=1

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I did not try to install SP2010 standalone but SP2013 installs SQL Server 2008 R2 Express by default when you install SP2013 only. I guess SP2010 does same.

Also found this link

enter image description here

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Yes, you need to install SQL Express.

You can refer to the following article:

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb677368(v=sql.105).aspx

This is a reference about how to install the SQL server express:

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms143722%28v=sql.90%29.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396

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