7 Ways to Open an MDB File Without Microsoft Access

So you’re here because you’re trying to open a file with the “.MDB” file extension, but don’t have a copy of Microsoft Access to reveal its mysteries. What is this file format and, for that matter, what is Microsoft Access?

The first question is related to the second, but let’s start with the MDB file itself. The extension is an abbreviation for Microsoft database and is the format Microsoft Access used until 2003. The new format, which long ago replaced MDB, is called ACCDB† If you have an MDB file, it is probably from an old source.

As for Access, it is the database component of the Microsoft productivity suite, which also includes applications such as Word and Excel† Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can open an mdb file without Access.

Consider buying access

Yes, this article is designed to tell you how to open an MDB file without Access. However, the reason many people still ask this question comes from a time when Access was a premium product that didn’t come with the standard Microsoft Office suite.

Things have changed drastically since those days. People no longer buy discrete versions of Office, but subscribe to the Office 365 service. Even the cheapest tier of the service includes the desktop version of Access.

It costs less than ten bucks for a single month of service, and you can get a one-month free trial with a new Microsoft account. So before you embark on your journey down the road of Access Free Ways to Open MDB Files, consider taking this obvious shortcut.

Import it with Excel

If you have access to a computer with Microsoft Excel, but not Access, you can open an MDB file and view its contents in a spreadsheet.

This doesn’t give you access to the file in its own database format, but at least you can see all the data in it and even export it as a spreadsheet or comma-separated text file. If that’s all you need, here’s a quick and easy way to see what’s in that MDB file.

Use an open source alternative to access

Microsoft Office isn’t the only game in town when it comes to productivity suites. There are plenty of free and Open Source alternatives to the industry standard Microsoft suite.

LibreOffice is a good place to start. It comes with an application called “base” and this can connect to Microsoft Database files. It is limited in several ways. Forms and queries in particular don’t work. However, you can still view the tables with their data using Base.

Use an online MDB opening service

If you don’t want to install anything to open an MDB file, you can use an online viewer that runs in a browser. This is especially useful when you want to use a public computer or a computer on which you do not have administrator rights and therefore cannot install anything.

One of those viewers that we tested successfully is: MDB opener† As the name suggests, you can upload or link to an MDB file and then open it on the web page. You cannot edit the file in any way, but you can export it to CSV or Excel format and download it to the local disk.

If your MDB file contains sensitive information, such as medical records, consider uploading it to an online service. You may be exposing that information to an insecure service, which may even be illegal depending on the type of information.

Using a third-party MDB viewer

Since there are plenty of people who need to open MDB files without a copy of Access nearby, there are also quite a few third-party MDB viewer applications to choose from. MDB Viewer Plus stands out from the pack for a number of reasons.

First of all, it’s completely free. Second, you can edit MDB files and ACCDB files. Even better, the application is portable, which means you don’t need to install it. However, this is just a Windows application that relies on several database-specific components built into Microsoft’s operating system.

Use a text editor

The simple text editor, such as Windows Notepad, can also be used to open MDB files under certain circumstances. Although we had no luck ourselves, some MDB files have only plain text. This means that a text editor will show you: something.

With the MDB files we opened with Notepad, most of the content was an unreadable mess. However, the snippets of plain text it contained provided clues as to what kind of database the file contained. It’s not a recommended method, but if nothing else works, it can’t hurt.

Convert it with (someone else’s) access

Boldly, we’re going to suggest using Access again in an article about not using Access. It’s especially worth asking someone who does have access to convert the file to a different format for you.

For example, if someone emailed you the MDB file, you can ask them to resend it as a spreadsheet after converting it with their copy of the application. Given how popular Office 365 is these days, there’s bound to be someone within screaming distance who has Access installed on their computer, so it’s worth a try at the very least.

It’s all about that (data)base

Access is no longer hidden behind a premium paywall like it used to be, but there are still plenty of people who can’t access (no pun intended) the software. Hopefully one of the above alternative solutions will work for you and put you in that old database of wonders that was previously closed to prying eyes.

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