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This topic describes the different methods you can use to open existing Access databases. You can open databases from Windows Explorer or from within Access itself. You can open multiple databases at once, and you can also create desktop shortcuts that open database objects directly.

What do you want to do?

Open an Access database from Windows Explorer

  • In Windows Explorer, navigate to the drive or folder containing the Access database file you want to open and double-click the database.

    Access starts and the database is opened.

Open a database from within Access

If Access is already running, use the following procedure to open a database. Note, the steps vary slightly depending upon your version of Access.

  1. On the getting started page of Access, Click Open Other Files.

  2. On the Open area of the Backstage view, click Browse.

  3. Click a shortcut in the Open dialog box, or in the Look in box, click the drive or folder that contains the database that you want.

  4. In the folder list, browse to the folder that contains the database.

  5. When you find the database, do one of the following:

    • Double-click the database to open it in the default mode specified in the Access Options dialog box or the mode that was set by an administrative policy.

    • Click Open to open the database for shared access in a multi-user environment so that you and other users can read and write to the database.

    • Click the arrow next to the Open button and then click Open Read-Only to open the database for read-only access so that you can view but not edit it. Other users can still read and write to the database.

    • Click the arrow next to the Open button and then click Open Exclusive to open the database with exclusive access. When you have a database open with exclusive access, anyone else who tries to open the database receives a "file already in use" message.

    • Click the arrow next to the Open button and then click Open Exclusive Read-Only to open the database for read-only access. Other users can still open the database, but they are limited to read-only mode.

If you cannot find the database that you want to open

  1. In the Open dialog box, click the This PC or My Computer shortcut on the left side (or in the Look in box, click My Computer).

  2. In the list of drives, right-click the drive that you think might contain the database, and click Search.

  3. Enter your search criteria and press ENTER to search for the database.

  4. If the database is found, double-click it in the search dialog box to open it.

  5. Since the search was initiated from the Open dialog box, you must click Cancel in that dialog box before the database will open.

Note: You can directly open a database file in an external file format, such as dBASE, Paradox, Microsoft Exchange, or Microsoft Excel. You can also directly open any ODBC data source, such as Microsoft SQL Server. Access automatically creates a new Access database in the same folder as the data file and adds links to each table in the external database.


  • To open one of the last several databases you had open, click the file name in the Recent list on the getting started page. Access opens the database with the same option settings it had the last time you opened it. If the list of recently used files is not displayed:

    1. Click File > Options.

    2. In the Access Options dialog box, click Client Settings or Advanced.

    3. Under Display, type a number in the Show this number of Recent Databases box.

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Open multiple databases at the same time

In a single instance of Access, you can have only one database open at a time. In other words, you cannot start Access, open one database, and then open another database without closing the first database. However, you can run multiple instances of Access at the same time, each with a database open in it. Each time you start Access, you open a new instance of it. For example, to have two Access databases open at the same time, start Access and open the first Access database, and then start a new instance of Access and open the second database.

Note:  The number of instances of Access that you can run at the same time is limited by how much memory is available. Available memory depends on how much RAM your computer has and how much memory is being used by the other programs running at the time.

Each instance of Access runs in a separate window. If you have more than one instance of Access running and you want to view them simultaneously, you can tile the windows.

Create a desktop shortcut to open a database object

You can create a desktop shortcut to open an Access database object (for example, a form or report). The database may be stored locally on your computer, remotely on a network file server, or in a shared directory.

  1. Open the database containing the object for which you want to create a shortcut.

  2. Resize the Access window and minimize any other open windows so that you can see the desktop behind the Access window.

  3. In the Navigation Pane, find the object for which you want to create the shortcut.

  4. Drag the object from the Navigation Pane to the desktop. When you release the mouse button, the shortcut is created on the desktop.

  5. If you want the shortcut in a location other than the desktop, use Windows Explorer to move the shortcut to the location you want.

When you double-click the shortcut, Access opens the database in which the object is stored and displays the object. If Access is already running and the object associated with the shortcut is in a database other than the currently open database, a new instance of Access is started. To open the object in a specific view in Access, right-click the shortcut and then click the view you want.


  • If you move the database after you create the shortcut, delete the shortcut and create a new one.

  • To delete a shortcut, click it and then press the DELETE key. Deleting the shortcut does not delete the object that the shortcut opens.

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