Converting an Excel Spreadsheet to an Access 2013 Database

Make a database from an existing worksheet

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Do you have a huge Excel spreadsheet that you can't make heads or tails of?
It's time to organize your contact list into a Microsoft Access database. It's much easier than you may imagine and you'll definitely be pleased with the results. This tutorial will walk you through the entire process step-by-step.
If you don't have your own spreadsheet and want to follow along with the tutorial, you can download the sample Excel file used to generate the tutorial.

Instructions in this article apply to Access 2013. If you are using an earlier version of Access, read Converting an Excel Spreadsheet to an Access 2010 Database or Converting an Excel Spreadsheet to an Access 2007 Database.

01
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Create a New Access 2013 Database

Screenshot of create a new Access 2013 database

Unless you have an existing database that you use to store contact information, you're probably going to want to create a new database from scratch. To do this, select the Blank Desktop Database icon on the Getting Started with Microsoft Office Access screen. You'll be presented with the screen above. Provide your database with a name, select the Create button and you'll be in business.

02
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Begin the Excel Import Process

Screenshot of External Data tab

Select the External Data tab at the top of the Access screen and double-click the Excel button to begin the Excel import process.

03
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Select the Source and Destination

Screenshot of browsing for Excel file

Next, you'll be presented with the screen shown above. Select the Browse button and navigate to the file you'd like to import. Once you've located the correct file, select the Open button.

On the bottom half of the screen, you're presented with import destination options. In this tutorial, we're interested in converting an existing Excel spreadsheet to a new Access database, so we'll choose Import the source data into a new table in the current database
Other options on this screen allow you to:

  • Link your database to an Excel sheet so that changes in the source sheet are reflected in the database.
  • Import data into an existing database table.

Once you've selected the correct file and option, select OK to continue.

04
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Select Column Headings

Screenshot of Import Spreadsheet Wizard

Ensure that the First Row Contains Column Headings box is selected if the first row of the spreadsheet has column names for the data, such as Last Name, First Name, and Address. This will instruct Access to treat the first row as names, rather than actual data to be stored in the list of contacts.

Select Next to continue.

05
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Create Any Desired Indexes

Screenshot of Indexes in Import Spreadsheet Wizard

Database indexes are an internal mechanism that can be used to increase the speed at which Access can find information in your database. You can apply an index to one or more of your database columns at this step. Simply select the Indexed pull-down menu and select the appropriate option.

Keep in mind that indexes create a lot of overhead for your database and will increase the amount of disk space used. For this reason, you want to keep indexed columns to a minimum. In our database, we'll most often be searching on the Last Name of our contacts, so let's create an index on this field. We might have friends with the same last name, so we do want to allow duplicates here. Ensure that the Last Name column is selected in the bottom portion of the windows and then select Yes (Duplicates OK) from the Indexed pull-down menu.

Select Next to continue.

06
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Select a Primary Key

Screenshot of Primary Key in Import Spreadsheet Wizard

The primary key is used to uniquely identify records in a database. The easiest way to do this is to let Access generate a primary key for you. Select the Let Access add primary key option and press Next to continue. If you're interested in choosing your own primary key, you might want to read our article on database keys.

07
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Name Your Table

Screenshot of Table Name in Access Wizard

You need to provide Access with a name to reference your table. Enter this into the appropriate field and select the Finish button.

08
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View Your Data

Screenshot of Save Import Steps

You'll see an intermediate screen asking you if you'd like to save the steps used to import your data. If not, go ahead and select Close.

You'll then be returned to the main database screen where you can view your data by simply double-clicking on the table name in the left panel.

Congratulations, you've successfully imported your data from Excel into Access!