I received a comment asking about this, so I’ll write a short note on the subject.

The QP will take and expand all *’s early in the pipeline and bind them to objects (in this case, the list of columns).  It will then remove unneeded columns due to the nature of the query. 

So for a simple EXISTS subquery like this:

SELECT col1 FROM MyTable WHERE EXISTS (SELECT * FROM Table2 WHERE MyTable.col1=Table2.col2)

The * will be expanded to some potentially big column list and then it will be determined that the semantics of the EXISTS does not require any of those columns, so basically all of them can be removed.

“SELECT 1″ will avoid having to examine any unneeded metadata for that table during query compilation.

However, at runtime the two forms of the query will be identical and will have identical runtimes.

As such, I typically use SELECT 1.  In my blog post I didn’t.