How to use dBASE data with Access and Jet

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This article was previously published under Q230125
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Novice: Requires knowledge of the user interface on single-user computers.

This article applies to a Microsoft Access database (.mdb)
The dBASE database driver works in one of the following two modes:
  • The latest Microsoft Jet 4.0 service pack or the Borland Database Engine (BDE) is installed.
  • Neither the latest Jet 4.0 service pack or the BDE is installed.
The dBASE data is only updateable when the latest Jet 4.0 service pack or the BDE is installed. Without the latest Jet 4.0 service pack or the BDE, dBASE data can be read, imported and exported, or linked to read-only.

There may be incompatibilities with certain versions of the BDE. The symptoms of the incompatibilities vary, depending on the version of the BDE. Microsoft recommends version 5.01 of the Borland Database Engine. The following table lists the behavior that is supported for each of the dBASE file formats:
dBase 3, 4, 5 ISAM OnlyImport\Export\Link-Read Only
dBase 3, 4, 5 ISAM w/Jet 4.0 latest service packImport\Export\Link-Read Write
dBase 3, 4, 5 ISAM w/BDEImport\Export\Link-Read Write
dBase 7-8No support provided
To be able to write data to a linked dBASE file from within Access or from within a Jet 4.0 application, install the latest Jet 4.0 service pack or install the BDE.

The latest Jet 4.0 service pack

For more information about how to obtain and install the latest Jet 4.0 service pack, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
239114 How to obtain the latest service pack for the Microsoft Jet 4.0 Database Engine

Borland Database Engine

Contact Inprise Inc. or a third-party vendor to obtain the BDE. Obtain licensing and run-time distribution requirements for the BDE from Inprise.

Third-party dBASE ODBC driver vendors include Merant (, Borland.Com (

For information about how to contact your hardware vendor, visit the following Microsoft Web site: For more information about a hotfix, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
263561 Non-BDE Paradox and dBase ISAM drivers
  • If neither the latest Jet 4.0 service pack nor the BDE is installed:
    • The dBASE ISAM will place an exclusive lock upon opening dBASE files. This includes opening linked dBASE tables or dBASE tables opened via DAO.
    • Multi-user capability is no longer supported.
    • Concurrent ODBC connections to the same table, from the same computers, or from multiple computers is no longer supported.
    • APPEND, UPDATE, and DELETE are no longer supported.
    • Microsoft Access will not allow you to sort fields in table Datasheet view. If you try to do so, Access returns the following error message:
      The database engine can't lock table <tablename> because it is already in use by another user or process
  • The dBASE ISAM only supports the 8.3 naming convention as in earlier version of Microsoft Access.
  • dBASE extensions are not supported via the Microsoft dBASE IISAM, regardless of whether a version of the BDE is installed that supports it.
  • When using the dBASE ISAM with the BDE for dBASE III, you must have an INF file defined to associate the indexes with the DBF file. For dBASE IV and dBASE 5, the INF file is optional.
  • If the BDE is not installed Microsoft Access will not prompt for, use, or maintain dBASE indexes as in earlier versions of Microsoft Access. If the BDE is installed, Access will use and maintain the indexes via the BDE.
  • When using the dBASE ISAM to link to a table in Access, you must be able to exclusively lock the table to create the link. If any other application has the .dbf open, the attempt to create the link in Access will fail.
For more information about using the dBASE Database driver, click Microsoft Access Help on the Help menu, type initializing the dbase database driver in the Office Assistant or the Answer Wizard, and then click Search to view the topic.
For more information about other drivers that use the latest Jet 4.0 service pack or the BDE in a similar way, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
230126 You cannot update a Paradox database in Access 2000 and other Jet Applications
The third-party products that this article discusses are manufactured by companies that are independent of Microsoft. Microsoft makes no warranty, implied or otherwise, regarding the performance or reliability of these products.
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Article ID: 230125 - Last Review: 12/05/2015 14:19:05 - Revision: 5.4

Microsoft Office Access 2003, Microsoft Access 2002 Standard Edition, Microsoft Access 2000 Standard Edition

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