Help on hand for risky, obsolete, Access 97 databases

Converting Access 97 Databases

Information and guidance on the conversion of Access 97 databases (mdb file format) to Access 2013 and 2016 (accdb file format).

Last updated on 2018-03-19 by David Wallis.


Microsoft has not provided support for Microsoft Access 97 for some years. No longer do you find tools for converting your Access 97 databases included in the latest versions of Microsoft Office.

DMW intends to continue to offer Access 97 conversion services for the foreseeable future — complete conversions or assistance to you as you attempt them yourself.

Slow-running Converted Access Databases

Some clients have been disappointed with the speed of their databases following conversion to Access 2010, 2013 and 2016.

DMW has built up experience of what should be taken into account if your converted database suffers from this problem.

Converting Access 97 Databases to
Access 2010, 2013 or 2016

Access 2013 and 2016 have a feature to save a database in an earlier version:

Access Save Database As

But they lack features for converting for their own use databases created in formats earlier than Access 2007's accdb file format.

So, to get an Access 97 mdb file up to an accdb format that Access 2013 and 2016 will recognise, you need to adopt an intermediate step. That is, in either Access 2007 and 2010, open your Access 97 mdb and you are presented with the Database Enhancements options:

Convert Access 97 DB

Conversion Errors

In DMW’s experience, Access 2010 rarely completes the conversion of an Access 97 database without some errors:

Access Conversion Errors

Not all errors get logged for attention as part of any conversion process. DMW has examples of errors coming to light only when supposedly successfully converted databases crashed during use.

If you plan to continue using Access 2010 for the foreseeable future, or to complete the move to Access 2016 — Microsoft recommend conversion to the latest version — then please contact DMW if you need assistance in preventing errors permeating conversions from earlier versions.

An Opportunity to Improve Usability

If now you are upgrading to Access 2013 or later, then your database must have been in use for many years. So you will have had time to identify improvements you would like to make and to assess the relevance of some bits that nobody uses any longer.

Also, users will have views on what would make their database more relevant to their work than it is in its current form.

Probably, therefore, this is the best time to mount a review with a mind to redeveloping sections on the database as part of the upgrade.

An Opportunity to Gain Business Advantage

A long-standing database — in which a lot of time and effort has been invested collecting and inputting information — may not be yielding nearly enough return on all that investment.

For example, a company created their own database for recording orders received. The database held over seven years’ worth of orders. The company approached DMW to learn how they might take full advantage of all this information — reporting on, for example:

  • Patterns of seasonal variations in orders
  • Products with high levels of returns
  • Products yielding exceptional profit
  • Predicted stock levels
  • Products that could be dropped from the catalogue without harm to the bottom line
  • Patterns of delayed delivery due to insufficient stock
  • Problematic customers
  • Lapsed customers with who we could re-establish contact
  • Most profitable market sectors.

As part of your conversion process you might consider adding beefed up reporting to increase returns on investment in your database. Please contact DMW if you want someone with ideas from the outside to brainstorm the possibilities.

Help Converting Access VBA

There are changes in the Access VBA as you move up through the versions. Some of these changes are quite major ones. Some offer increased functionality that you may wish to exploit as part of a conversion upgrade.

The convert-database feature takes a stab at converting your VBA code. In DMW’s experience, conversion are very far from perfect. You might want to talk to us before you press the button or if you want Access VBA help in general.

Converting Access MDE Files

If your database is in MDE file format, there are utilities advertised that claim to unlock MDEs. Once unlocked, so the claim goes, you can make changes to your MDE.

DMW have tried one unlocker program that gets mentioned a lot on the Web. In those Access 97 MDEs that DMW have 'unlocked' using it, the majority of forms and reports will not go into design view. Furthermore, none of the VBA modules is rendered accessible.

So a conversion may be the best time to review the functionality of your database prior to offering to tender for the rewrite.