Opening a .mdb file

Copper Contributor

Hi. I havea .mdb file that I need to open. When I try to open it using MS access 2003 or 2007, I get "unrecognized database format.." error. I do not know what version was used to create that file. Is there a way to open it or extract data from it?

13 Replies

That means it was created in Access 97 or earlier. .. possibly all the way back to v1.0. To open it, you need to use an earlier version that supports that format then convert it to Access 2000 or later. This may need to be done in several steps depending on the version used originally.


As I have all Access versions, I may be able to assist. If interested, you can contact me via the contact form at the end of my Web article A Trip Down Memory Lane 



Also asked on Microsoft Answers where the OP revealed in a follow up response that it is an mdb distributed with and for a third-party application. It may well be an older version, such as 97 or earlier. But given that provenance, I'm not willing to bet on much of anything without seeing it.

whether the db was created in Old or New version of MS Access, you can view the data using Excel.
Use Data->Get Data->From Database, and select your .mdb.
There is a slim chance that you can extract your data by using my utility
Check here for my EE article :

The email link in my article worked when I just tried it.

Anyway, I tried opening your file by several methods including Access v1.0 , Access 2.0, my own recovery software & the utility in the EE article by @tsgiannis.

All of those failed stating that the file was in an unrecognised format

Next I tried opening in a text editor and could read a lot of data from the file

However doing that also confirmed it isn't an Access MDB file


This is the start of the file in Notepad



Suggest you do the same using Notepad or a hex editor to recover whatever data is useful to you


Just as an experiment I used your utility to successfully extract all the data from the Access 1.0 version of the Northwind database

It took a bit of time but seemed to work perfectly. 

Excellent. Very impressive



Interesting...I think the oldest I had was '97 ...but 1.0... !!
For the author it seems that once upon a time was a converter that could convert Access from 2.0 and up to 2003
This tools is long long gone but thankfully Internet Archive (after a good search) still has it
Test it and report back If this fails I guess it's corrupt and you need to check some of the Access specialized people to restore it.

I remember using that many years ago.
Just tried to install it in Win 10 (using compatibility settings then in WinXP but both attempts failed

I believe modern versions of Excel have the same limitations as Access. Anything created before A2000 cannot be opened. Just tested with valid A95 & A97 files



However, if saved as a .txt file you can import it (tested successfully). My advice is:

1. Save a copy as a text file

2. Open in Excel and import as fixed width. Set suitable break points. You will then see much usable data (and lots of junk). For example, see attached screenshot






I do not know which version of office you're referring to, but I tried Excel 2003> Data> Import External Data> Import Data. Then it asks credentials to connect to the database with username Admin set as default with blank password. When I click test connection, it shows "unrecognized database format" error. It worked when I changed the extension to "txt" instead of "mdb" and imported it successfully, but the data are not organized. It spreads data in a number of columns.
I tried it before, but as you can see, the data are not organized at all. Can not ACCESS files be opened in a text editor like that?

You cannot import from the MDB file as it is not a valid MDB database file
As already stated, saving a copy as a .txt file will allow you to import it into either Excel or Access using the fixed width option.
The data is organised but the usable data is split into several fields as it would have been initially (see my earlier screenshot)
There are almost 60 fields, most of which you can probably delete after inspecting them yourself

You have the closest thing to an answer here. This is not a standard mdb file. We don't know what it is exactly. If you can retrieve the data, following Colin's suggestion of saving a copy as a .txt file, that's the closest you are probably going to get.

Please don't pursue this in both forums any longer as it's a waste of your time and ours to try to track it in two places.

I'm still not 100% convinced it is appropriate to try to extract data from a vendor's tool this way. They went to some trouble to obscure it by renaming it with the .mdb extension which probably suggests they don't anticipate their data being used outside their application. That said, you know what you can do now.