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How to Open MDF File? 2 Methods to Use MDF File Opener

Published By Nilesh Kumar
Debasish Pramanik
Approved By Debasish Pramanik
Published On February 14th, 2024
Reading Time 7 Minutes Reading
Category SQL Server

SQL Server database users must be aware of MDF files. The SQL Server creates three types of files named MDF, NDF & LDF. MDF (Master Data File) as it’s the primary data file consisting of tables, views, functions, stored procedures, triggers, rules, etc.  Users want to learn how to open MDF file using MDF file opener due to several reasons that we are going to discuss further.

There are several scenarios where users are unable to access their MDF files. New users who are technically not very proficient face this issue in the majority. Now, in this article, we are going to explain users the best way to open these MDF files in SQL server & without SQL server. Reading the entire guide can easily help you open your preferred MDF file without facing difficulties.

How to Open MDF File Using Manual & Automated Method? 

There are two methods by which users can open & view MDF file data. The SQL Server Management Studio is one of the solutions, whereas the Email Doctor Automated tool is another. Learning how to open MDF file is much better with the automated solution as it is easy to operate.

However, both the methods are mentioned here. Let’s with the manual method that includes the use of SSMS utility & then we will proceed towards the without SQL solution. Such automated tools can also help users to attach MDF file in SQL server without any issues.

Location of MDF Files in Various Versions of SQL Server

2022 Version of SQL Server

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL16.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA\Test_DB.mdf

2019 Version of SQL Server

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

2017 Version of SQL Server

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

2016 Version of SQL Server

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

2014 Version of SQL Server

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

2012 Version of SQL Server

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL11.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA\Test_DB.mdf

2008 Version of SQL Server

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA\Test_DB.mdf

Know How to Open MDF File in SQL Server with SSMS

Now, we are going to start with the manual method to view MDF file which involves the SQL Server Management Studio to execute the operation. Users must keep in mind that they need to install the SSMS relevant to the SQL Server version they are using. Failing this can cause difficulties for users to open MDF file in SQL server management studio. Therefore, users must go through the MDF file opener as well. However, let’s first understand this method.

After installing SSMS, follow the below-mentioned steps carefully. This is to avoid any unwanted event that may result in data loss & SQL Server database corruption issues.

Step-1. Launch the SQL Server Management Studio in your system.

Step-2. Connect to the SQL Server Instance using your Credentials easily.

Step-3. From the sidebar, Right-Click on Database & Hit the Attach button.

Step-4. Click on the Add button from the Attach Database Window simply.

Step-5. Now, just Navigate to the Location where your database is situated.

Step-6. Click on the Database & then Select the MDF File you want to open.

Step-7. Finally, users just need to Click on the Ok button to attach their files.

After that, they can easily open their desired master data files that they want to view without any MDF opener software.

Tip:- Users may get SQL Server Error: 5120 is popping up on display. Close the SMSS utility & then run it as an administrator & perform the steps as an administrator to solve this.

MDF File Opener Tool to Open MDF File Without Any Errors Automatically

Now as we just saw, the manual method is a bit tricky for users. New users are more likely to get confused about the technicalities of the procedure. This is why now, we are going to discuss the automated method. It involved the highly advanced SQL Database Viewer Software to open MDF without SQL server safely.

This is the most trusted solution & even IT experts in the industry use this to save time & resources. Download the tool & follow the below-mentioned steps with respective images easily.

Free Download

Step-1. Launch the Tool & then simply Click on the Add File button to start learning how to open MDF files data.

step-1 how to open MDF file

Step-2. Browse MDF Files in your system & then Select Scan mode.


Step-3. Wait for a while When software scans your MDF data files.


Step-4. Finally, you can Open MDF Files without any issue anytime.


The automated method to open MDF database without SQL server has several benefits listed below:

  • Allow users to view tables, columns, triggers, classes, indexes, etc in SQL server.
  • Quick & Advance Scan options for users to view even the corrupted MDF data files.
  • There’s no limitation on MDF file size. Users are free to select files of any size.
  • Uses do not need MS SQL server & SSMS utility to open the master data file.
  • MDF file opener previews data of all the SQL server versions easily.

How to Open MDF File in Visual Studio Step by Step

Let’s quickly learn the best way to open & view the SQL database MDF files without any hassles. Follow the below steps in their:

  1. Firstly, Generate an empty solution >> Create an empty project in Visual Studio.
  2. Add your MDF file to the project by right-clicking on it.
  3. Double-click on MDF file that can open server explorer/database explorer.
  4. Finally, Expand DB to see table, views, etc, to view MDF file Visual Studio.

However, there are several drawbacks of this method & the SSMS method. Let’s have a look at these shortcomings:

Drawbacks of the All Manual Method – SSMS & Visual Studio

The manual methods are full of drawbacks. In order to view MDF file using the MDF opener tool, users must be aware of these drawbacks:

  • Technical Procedure: The manual method is full of technicalities that are more than enough to confuse users.
  • Lack of Availability: It’s not compulsory that every user has Visual Studio in their system. Also, that’s a very complex tool. 
  • Time Consuming: Indeed the manual solution is very tie taking significantly reduces the efficiency. Hence, users must skip this method.
  • No Customization: There are no advanced features available in this method which makes it non-interactive.
  • Data Integrity Issues: Security is another concern that users lack here in this manual solution to how to open MDF files.

The Final Verdict

Opening an MDF data file isn’t a difficult task. Users just need to select the right tool. Learning how to open MDF file with the automated is quite helpful as it can easily counter all the challenges & complexities. This is the reason Microsoft’s MVPs & even IT experts opt for this solution rather than the manual one.

The manual solution is quite complex as it can involve risk & various terms that most users are not aware of. Select your method wisely as the wrong choice can spoil your experience badly.

MDF File Opener – FAQs

Q- Can I open MDF file in SQL Server without risk?
A- The manual method can give you results but there is no surety when it will corrupt our files. Users select alternative solutions to be on the safe side.

Q- Is the automated tool an open-source solution?
A- The automated solution is a very affordable solution. However, it offers a demo version for users to preview files but to save them & recover them they need to buy the license.

Q- What are all other platforms to learn how to open MDF file?
A- MS SQL Server, SQL Database Viewer or MDF File opener, & Visual studios are the only ways to view MDF files.

Also Read: How to Repair SQL Server Database Having Corrupt MDF Files



By Nilesh Kumar

As a Chief Technical Writer, I know the technical issues faced by home and professional users. So, I decided to share all my knowledge via this blog. I love to help you with challenges while dealing with technical jargon.