Best Ways to Open MDF File – Detailed How to Guide for MDF File Opener

Written By Chirag Arora
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh  
Published On March 31st, 2024
Reading Time 7 Minutes Reading

MDF File Opener

Before learning how to open MDF file, let’s go though a little introduction. As most of us know MDF (also known as Master Database File) is the primary database file of Microsoft SQL Server used to store all the crucial data of the database. The MDF file stores all the data in relational databases that include Tables, Rows, Columns, Fields, Indexes, etc.

Although it is a primary database file of SQL Server, most users think that it can only be opened in SQL Server but are not aware of the exact procedure to open an MDF file. Thus, we are here to provide you with a comprehensive guide for the same MDF File opener tool.

Additionally, we also get queries about how to open MDF files when they don’t have the SQL Server environment. So, we will also discuss a free solution for those users as well.

SQL File formats

Storage Location of MDF File for Opening

If you don’t know the default location of your SQL MDF file, then you can find the files in the following locations depending on the SQL Server version that you are using.

Default Location of MDF Files in Different SQL Servers

SQL Server 2019 – C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL15.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA

SQL Server 2017 – C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL14.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA

SQL Server 2016 – C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL13.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA

SQL Server 2014 – C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL12.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA

SQL Server 2012 – C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL11.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA

SQL Server 2008 – C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA

Now, that we are aware of the location of MDF file, let’s quickly have a look at the most asked user queries to open .mdf file. this can help us understand everything from the users’ point of view.

User Query-1.

user query 1

User Query-2.

user query 2

Now, based on the user queries we are going to explain the quick solution followed by the detailed process in this article. Users mustpay attention here to not miss out on any crucial information.

5 Quick Steps for MDF File Opener

  • Step-1. Launch Tool to Open MDF File of SQL in System
  • Step-2. Add MDF File using the Add File Button
  • Step-3. Select Quick or Advance Scan Option
  • Step-4. Open and View MDF Files in System
  • Step-5. Close the MDF File Opener Finally

How to Open SQL MDF File Using SQL Server Management Studio

SSMS Method to open MDF

When we try to open an MDF file in SQL Server, then we don’t actually open the file. The actual process is known as attaching the MDF file with the SQL Server. Once the MDF file is attached, the database objects can be seen in the object explorer of SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).

  • Launch SQL Server Management Studio and connect to the SQL Server Instance.
  • Once connected, you will see the SQL Server Instance.
  • Now go to the Object Explorer >> right click on the Databases >> Attach.
  • Click on Add button in the Attach Databases window.
  • Following that, locate the MDF file on your system and click on the OK button.
  • Click on the OK button again and the database will be attached.

There are the steps to open the MDF file for free on your system. Despite being free, the major limitation of this process is the requirement of the SQL Server environment to open the file. Thus, any user who doesn’t have the Live SQL Server environment cannot implement the aforementioned process.

Moreover, if any user has a damaged MDF file and wants to open it in SQL Server, then the above procedure will fail to open it.

So, users who want to open their MDF files without any SQL server or have a damaged MDF file can go for the advanced solution discussed below.

Best Way to Open MDF File – Tried and Tested Solution

Many times, there are situations where a user has an orphan MDF file that he/she wants to open to check the contents within the file. That’s exactly when users need MDF file opener software. Evidently, the unavailability of SQL Server makes it impossible for them to open the MDF file and check the data in it. the automated tool here becomes a huge benefit.

So, we have come up with an SQL MDF File Viewer Software that allows users to open corrupted/damaged or orphaned MDF files without any issue. Additionally, the software is completely free of cost and doesn’t require any license. It is a tried and tested solution and ensures that no data is lost and altered when you open the MDF file in the software.


The software will provide a complete preview of your database file including, tables, columns, triggers, keys, classes, indexes, etc. Furthermore, the software will also preview the deleted items in red color.

If you want to recover deleted records in SQL Server, then you can upgrade the software to the Pro version and extract the data items easily.

Step by Step Guide for MDF File Opener Tool

Step-1. Free Download the software to open MDF files and click on Add button.

Step-2. Choose the Scan mode, detect the SQL version of the MDF file or let the tool detect it automatically and enable the Preview Deleted Records option if you want to.

Step-3. The software will then start scanning the MDF file and will provide you with the details of the MDF file.

Step-4. The software will finally provide you with a preview of MDF file contents.

Tips & Tricks for Users to Make the Process of Viewing MDF Smooth

tips to view sql MDF

There are a few helpful tips that users can consider for their operation. This can help them in getting the desired results. moreover, it can prevent unwanted mishappenings.

  1. Pre-Define the Goals: Before starting the operation, make sure to define your objectives. This should be crystal clear before executing the very first step. This will keep users stuck to the core.
  2. Backup MDF File Data: Always have a backup of the entire database, if users opt for the manual method. This can act as a safety measure to recover the database in case of any errors in the server.
  3. Verify Data Compatibility: Make sure that the SQL Server as well as MDF file are of the same SQL Server version. Different versions in the MDFFile & SQL Server can cause data compatibility issues.
  4. Get An Expert Advice or Tool: In case, users are beginners, not confident, or having trouble, they must seek help from experts or use the automated software mentioned above.

Final Words

MDF files are significantly important for the users/organizations due to the crucial data stored in the database file. However, to open MDF file, the process can be a tricky task if you don’t know the right procedure for it. Thus, we have discussed a step-by-step guide to opening the files in a seamless manner.

The users who don’t have an SQL Server environment on their system can go for the free MDF file opener utility provided by us and open healthy, orphaned, or damaged files without any issue.


By Chirag Arora

Having around 9+ years of experience in technical writing. Knows about the core technical areas. Also, provides easy and reliable solutions to resolve difficulties faced by users while working with different platforms.