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How to View or Open MDF File without SQL Server

Written by Mithilesh Kr Tata

SQL stands for Sequential Query Language. It helps in the retrieval and management of data using relational databases. SQL Server database stores the data in an MDF file. It is the Master Database File that contains all the user data. The MDF file is stored in the relational database in the form of columns, rows, indexes, fields, tables, and views.

To view and open MDF files without SQL Server, we either need SQL Server Management Studio or any other third-party software. These MDF files are binary files that cannot be opened using Word, or Notepad. First of all, to open MDF files, we have to go to the location where the file is saved.

  • SQL Server 2019-

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL15.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA\TechForums19.mdf

  • SQL Server 2017-

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL14.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA\TechForums19.mdf

  • SQL Server 2016-

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL13.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA\TechForums19.mdf

  • SQL Server 2014-

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL12.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA\TechForums19.mdf

Reasons for MDF file corruption

Some of the important reasons that lets MDF files be corrupted are as follows:

  • Power failure: Power failure is the lead cause of the corruption of the MDF file. Failure to save the data in the meantime damage the MDF file.
  • Storage full: Storage full also leads to file corruption. The files are overwritten due to no space and hence creates an inaccessible MDF file.
  • Hard disk corruption: A hard disk is a place that saves all the files and folders of a database. A slight error or corruption in the hard disk might damage the MDF file.
  • Virus attack: A virus attack renders the whole system corrupted. These attacks make the files incomprehensible beyond repair.

Manual Solution to View or Open MDF File

SQL Server database files are stored as MDF files. The related log files are LDF files. However, they cannot be “opened.” You must “connect” to them instead. After attaching, the database will be visible in SSMS’s object explorer.

If you’re wondering why the Backup and Restore procedure wasn’t utilized instead of sending these database files around, you’re not alone. It’s a good question, but it doesn’t assist the reader who is gazing at.MDF and.LDF files and has no idea how to open them. If you need to relocate a database, use your favorite search engine to look for “backup restore attach detach SQL server” (without the quotes). You’ll receive a variety of different perspectives to help you determine what’s best.

There are a few distinct approaches. I’ll show you the “simple” technique using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), and then direct you to additional methods that use T-SQL queries.

Steps to Open MS SQL Database MDF File

  • Start SSMS.
  • Establish a connection to your SQL Server instance.
  • In the Object Explorer, right-click on Databases.
  • Attach the file by clicking the Attach button.
  • Click the Add button in the Attach Databases window.
  • Navigate to the location where the.MDF and.LDF files are stored.
  • Choose the .mdf file and click OK.
  • To attach the database, press OK once again.

Professional software to view and open MDF files without SQL Server

There are very few ways to open an MDF file without SQL Server. One such method is by using Aryson SQL Viewer. This software helps in opening, reading, and viewing MDF files. You can open corrupted, inaccessible, and encrypted SQL files in a very simple manner. Some of the features of SQL viewer are as follows:

  • Support viewing of all your tables, columns, classes, triggers, keys, indexes, etc.
  • Support viewing of data from corrupt SQL server data.
  • Let users preview and open corrupt MDF and NDF files.
  • No file size limitation.
  • Let users scan corrupt SQL database files and view them.
  • Dual recovery modes to handle different kinds of corruption: Standard & Advanced.
  • Show tree-structure preview of the recovered SQL files.

Simple Steps to Open SQL Database MDF File without SQL Server

The working of SQL MDF Viewer is described in few simple steps:

  • Launch SQL MDF Viewer and click on the ‘Browse’ button to select the SQL files.
  • Now from the list select the files that you want to view.
  • Here, select the recovery mode: Standard or Advanced and click ‘Ok’.
  • Wait till the scanning process gets over.
  • Now you can view and read your MDF files in the given tree structure preview.

Conclusion

The above article describes ways to read or view MDF files without the use of SQL Server. There is no direct way of doing so hence a third-party tool is a must for viewing the files. Aryson SQL Viewer is one such tool available online for free that will help you to achieve your goal.

About the author

Mithilesh Kr Tata

Mithilesh Tata is Technical Analysts in the field of Data & Email Management. He writes technical guides on the latest trends, news, and other topics in the field of technical communication.

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