What Is an MDE File?

several MDE files in Windows 10

A file with the MDE file extension is a Compiled Access Add-in file used to store a Microsoft Access MDA file in binary format (or might be an add-in file used with architectural design software ArchiCAD to extend the program's functionality).

Advantages of MDE files include compacted file size, VBA code that can run but can't be changed, and the ability to edit data and run reports while shielding the user from having full database access. What do you do if you need to open an MDE file? Below are some suggestions to help out.

Instructions in this article apply to Access 2019 and 2016.

How to Open an MDE File

MDE files can be opened with Microsoft Access and probably some other database programs as well. Here's how to open one in Access 2019.

  1. Go to File > Open.

    The Open menu in Access.
  2. Select Browse if you don't see your file listed.

    Selecting Browse to open a database in Access.
  3. Search for your file that you want to open.

    Looking for a database file to open in Access.
  4. Select the file you want to open, then select Open.

    Selecting a file to open.
  5. You will be warned of a potential security concern. If you know the source of the file, select Open, otherwise Cancel.

    A security warning opening an MDE file in Access.

Import Your MDE File Into Excel

Microsoft Excel will import MDE files, but that data will then have to be saved in some other spreadsheet format like XLSX or CSV. Here's how to import an MDE into Excel.

  1. Open or create a new spreadsheet in Excel.

    An Excel spreadsheet.
  2. Select Data.

    Selecting the Data tab in Excel.
  3. Under Get & Transform Data, select Get Data.

    Selecting Get Data in Excel.
  4. Select From Microsoft Access Database.

    Selecting to get data from a MS Access database.
  5. Select the file you want to import, then select Import.

    Opening a database file in Excel.
  6. In Navigator, select the item(s) you wish to import. If you need more than 1 file, make sure to select Select multiple items.

    Selecting items to load into Excel.
  7. Select Load.

    Loading items from Access.
  8. Your data from the MDE will now be imported.

    Data has been successfully imported from Access to Excel.

If you find that an application on your PC does try to open the MDE file but it's the wrong application or if you would rather have another installed program open MDE files, you can change the default program in Windows.

How to Convert an MDE File

While there is some older information on how to convert an MDE to a MDB, Microsoft itself doesn't support this process. There is at least one company that will do the conversion for you at a cost.

Once the information in the MDE file is in the MDB format, you can convert the MDB file to ACCDB or ACCDE using Microsoft Access.

Alternatively, you can open the MDE file in Access then copy the data into a new MDB file.

Still Can't Open Your File?

If the programs above aren't working to open your MDE file, it's possible that you're misreading the file extension, and you don't actually have an MDE file. 

For example, an Amiga MED Sound file and RSView Development Project file both use the MED file extension, which is really similar to MDE but not the same. Even though they look like they might be related to Microsoft Access or ArchiCAD, they instead open with ModPlug Player and RSView, respectively. 

The same is true for other file extensions that might sound or look like "MDE," like MME, which belongs to the Multi-Purpose Internet Mail format, or MDD, which might be a Point Oven Deformation Data file or an MDict Resource file.