What Is an MDE File?

This is an add-in file used by MS Access and Archicad

What to Know

  • Most MDE files are Access add-ins that store the compiled version of an MDA file.
  • You can open an MDE file in Access, or import the data into Excel.
  • Other MDE files are add-ons for the Archicad architectural design software.

This article describes two ways MDE files are used, plus how to open and convert both types.

What Is an MDE File?

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.

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.

MDE files in Windows 10

If your file isn't associated with MS Access, it might be an add-in file used with Archicad to extend the program's functionality.

MDE is also short for a number of technology terms that have nothing to do with these file formats, like mobile data entry, managed desktop environment, and meta data explorer.

How to Open an MDE File

Compiled Access add-in files can, of course, 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 the MDE file that you want to open, select it, and then choose Open.

    Selecting a file to open.
  4. You'll 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.

    An Excel spreadsheet.
  2. Select the Data menu at the top of Excel and choose Get Data from the Get & Transform Data section.

    Selecting Get Data in Excel.

    If you don't see that option, choose Get External Data from the left side of the Data menu.

  3. Select From Microsoft Access Database, or From Access if you see that instead.

    Selecting to get data from a MS Access database.
  4. Select and import the MDE file.

    Opening a database file in Excel.
  5. In Navigator, select the item(s) you wish to import. If you need more than one file, choose Select multiple items.

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

    Loading items from Access.
  7. Wait for the data to import.

    Data has been successfully imported from Access to Excel.

If your MDE file isn't used in Access, it's probably associated with Archicad.

How to Convert an MDE File

While there is some older information on how to convert from MDE to MDB, Microsoft itself doesn't support this process. There's at least one company, EverythingAccess, 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 Access.

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

Still Can't Open the File?

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

For example, an Amiga MED sound file and RSView development project both use the MED file extension, which is really similar to MDE, but only in appearance. Even though they look like they might be related to Access or Archicad, they instead open with ModPlug Player and RSView, respectively.

The same is true for other file extensions, like NOMEDIA. Another is MME, which belongs to the Multi-Purpose Internet Mail format, and MDD, which might be a Point Oven Deformation data file or an MDict resource file.

  • How do I open a locked MDE file?

    There are third-party MDE unlocker software packagers that allow you to change the design of a form or report without damaging the file's compiled VBA code. These tools don't let users access the behind-the-scenes VBA code, just make cosmetic changes.

  • How do I convert an Access file to an MDE file?

    In older versions of Access, go to Tools > Database Utilities > Make MDE and then follow the prompts. In later versions, you're only able to convert to an ACCDE file: Go to the Ribbon Bar and select Database Tools > ACCDE.

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