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Converting Access Databases

Background information and guidance on the conversion of Access .mdb file format databases to Access .accdb file format.

Last updated on 2018-07-31 by David Wallis.


The conversion of an out-of-date database to the latest version of Microsoft Access is, very rarely, a straightforward or error-free process.

I can assess your Access databases for what it will take to convert them; can perform the conversion for you; and will be pleased to work with you if you want to include improvements as part of the process.

For my observations on the conversions of specific databases, please follow these links: converting Access 97 databases and converting Access 2003 databases.

Background to the Versions of Access

Microsoft ended mainstream support for Access 2010 in October 2015, but reports it will continue with extended support until October 2020.

April 2014 marked the end to Microsoft’s support for Access 2003.

January 2009 marked the very end of support for Access 2007.

Access 2000 and 2002 have not been supported for over a decade; and for even older versions, for much longer than that.

This means any database that has not been created using Access 2010 or later, or has not been converted accordingly, becomes a potential security risk.

Such a risk represents a failure to meet the requirements of certain auditing bodies — anything that relates to the Data Protection Act, for example (with the possible consequence of withdrawal or suspension of certification).

Microsoft recommends migration to the current version of Access before the end of their support period.

Converting Databases to Access 2010, 2013 or 2016

Access 2010 will recognise Access 2007 databases and provide for their conversion. Access 2013 and 2016 may not; but they will recognise Access 2010 conversions. So, if you need them there are stepping stones to bringing pre-Access 2010 databases up to Access 2013 or 2016.

So, if Access 2013/2016 won’t recognise your .mdb, a first possible conversion route from .mdb-type to .accdb-type database to try is this:

.mdb MSA 2007 .accdb MSA 2010 MSA 2013/2016.

Clients of DMW, who attempted conversions themselves, reported that the process did not complete without errors. In a number of cases Access froze during the conversion and refused to budge.

Even if you complete the process, not all conversion errors get logged as part of the process. So you are left not knowing exactly what might have gone wrong with the conversion. Some clients have told DMW of errors emerging after a converted databases had been in full use for a time.

Based on experience gained through numerous conversions, DMW has put together routines for trapping errors and dealing with them as part of the conversion process.

Menus, Toolbars and Ribbons

Access 97, 2000, 2002(XP) and 2003 had menus and toolbars.

Access 2007 replaced menus and toolbars with the user interface ribbon.


The ribbon features across Access 2010, 2013 and 2016.

If the database you are intending to convert has custom menus and toolbars, then be prepared to do some reading up on how to accommodate these.

Unless your converted database is for very short-term use only, DMW recommend going for a ribbon-only conversion, dispensing with menus and toolbars altogether.

User-Level Security

User-level security provided for permissions to be allocated to users of your database determining what rights they have to work with or change the Access objects that comprise the database, and the data it contains.

User-level security, included in many databases that DMW has seen and that were created using Access up to and including version 2003, was removed as a feature from Access 2007.

Access 2007 introduced new file formats — including “.accdb” — none of which would accommodate user-level security. So conversion of a secured database can throw up some challenges. DMW can help you address some of the resulting issues.

Improving Your Database and What You Get From It

If now you are upgrading to Access 2013 or 2016, or short-term to 2010, then you may have many ideas about improving it for its users and for gaining more out it in pursuit of improved business performance.

As part of your conversion process you might consider adding beefed up analysis and reporting in order to increase returns from your investment.

Perhaps, therefore, this is the best time to review the database with an upgrade in mind. Please contact DMW if you want someone with ideas from the outside to join in brainstorming the possibilities.

Help Converting Access Macros and VBA Code

There are changes in macro functionality, and in the Access Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programming language, 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.

Access’s convert-database feature takes a stab at converting your macros and VBA code. In DMW’s experience, conversions are very far from perfect. In many instances conversion errors result from poor implementation in the original database, something with which a push-button conversion is not going to cope.

You might want to talk to DMW before you press the button or if you want help with programming in general.

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Converting Access MDE Files

If your database is in the form of an MDE file, 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 and 2003 MDEs that DMW has 'unlocked' using it, the conversion did not go perfectly and none of the VBA code residing in modules became accessible.

So now may be the best time to review the functionality of your database prior to offering to tender for the rewrite. Please contact DMW if you want to discuss.

“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.”

Tim Berners-Lee