Best Ways to Open MDF File – Detailed How-to Guide

Chirag Arora ~ Modified: April 13th, 2023 ~ SQL Server ~ 5 Minutes Reading

As most of us know that 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.

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.

Storage Location of MDF File

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

How to Open SQL MDF File Using SQL Server Management Studio

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 also 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. However, the unavailability of SQL Server makes it impossible for them to open the MDF file and check the data in it.

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.

SQL MDF Viewer

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.

Upgrade to Pro Version

Step by Step Guide

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.

Final Words

MDF files are significantly important for the users/organizations due to the crucial data stored in the database file. However, opening MDF files 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 utility provided by us and open healthy, orphaned, or damaged files without any issue.