View MDF Content in SQL Server – Top Two Ways

This post discusses how one can view MDF content in SQL Server. In this article, I have shared not one but two different ways you can opt to access your MDF file data. So, read the entire blog post and see which method is a better fit for you to view your MDF file contents in a smooth and hassle-free manner.

MDF, also known as Master Database File is the primary file format used by SQL Server to store database content. The MDF file contains various objects such as rows, fields, tables, columns, indexes, etc. Unfortunately, since this is a proprietary format, it cannot be opened manually without an SQL Server environment. Due to this, novice users and non-SQL users struggle with viewing the content of their MDF files. Therefore, I have come up with this article to help you out.

In this article, I have shared a manual solution and an automated solution for you to accomplish the task. Where the manual solution involves providing a live SQL Server environment, the automated solution makes the task easier for all categories of users i.e., the novice and the non-SQL users. So, without further ado, let’s start.

Manually View MDF File Content in SQL Server

  • Launch SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).
  • Now, Connect to the SQL Server Instance. Once connected, it will be visible to you, then move to the next step.
  • Moving forward, from the Object Explorer panel, right-click on “database”, and choose the “Attach” option.
  • Then, in the “Attach Databases” window, click on the “Add” button. 
  • Afterward, select the Master Database File (MDF) you want to open and view and click OK.
  • Once done, the .mdf file will be added to the “Attach Database” window. Lastly, click OK and your database will be attached. 

And that is how you can view MDF content in SQL Server using the manual approach. This approach requires providing a live SQL Server environment in order to view MDF content in SQL Server. Hence, if someone is not a fluent SQL user or does not use SQL at all, will not be able to use this method. Therefore, in the next segment, I have mentioned a solution recommended by numerous technical professionals. 

Expert Recommendation on Viewing MDF File Content

When it comes to handling databases with utmost security, technical experts recommend only the best i.e., SysTools MDF File Viewer. The features of this astonishing utility add to its overall functionality and make it one of a kind. Moreover, it provides two different scanning modes for users to thoroughly scan their MDF files; Quick Scan and Advanced Scan mode. Along with that, the tool is capable of autodetecting the SQL Server version of the uploaded MDF file. The major advantage of using this utility is that it highly benefits non-SQL users i.e., it does not need a live SQL Server environment in order to view MDF file content. The software supports all versions of SQL Server, thus, you can upload and view any MDF file in it.

Steps to View MDF Content in SQL Server Using the Tool

  • Download and launch the expert-recommended utility on your desktop.
  • Click the Open button from the top left corner of the tool interface to browse and upload your MDF file/s.
  • Then, choose from the Quick Scan or Advance Scan option to scan your uploaded file.
  • Upon doing so, either let the software automatically detect the SQL Server (.mdf) file version or manually select the SQL Server version of your MDF file from the provided choices. 
  • Once done with that, the utility will preview the MDF file data in the dedicated panel.

So this was a quick and hassle-free tutorial on how to open MDF file content using the expert-recommended software. As you see, with the software, the process gets way easier to execute for novice as well as non-SQL users. This is one of the prominent reasons why experts recommend users go for this utility. Furthermore, let us see some more of the advantages one gets when one chooses the automated utility.

Advantages of Opting for the Utility

  • It provides two different scan modes: Quick Scan and Advanced Scan mode for users to thoroughly scan their MDF files.
  • The tool reads and previews all objects of MDF files i.e., tables, rows, indexes, triggers, keys, etc.
  • This utility is highly capable of autodetecting the SQL Server version of the user-uploaded MDF file.
  • One can upload and view the contents of even large-sized MDF files as the tool does not impose any kind of file size restrictions on user files.
  • It also scans and previews the recovered deleted MDF records highlighted in red color in the dedicated panel.

As you see, these features make the tool a rare find these days as it caters to the needs of all kinds of users, whether novice or non-SQL users. The features make the tool an appealing choice to users as along with that, it provides immaculate reliability throughout the process. 

So There You Have It

In this article, we discussed different methods to view MDF content in SQL Server. We discussed how you can access and read the contents of your MDF files in a live SQL Server environment as well as without it. Unfortunately, the manual method is heavily dependent on SQL Server availability, due to which novice users and non-SQL users cannot use the solution. Hence, technical professionals suggest that users go for the above-suggested automated utility to ensure a reliable process for non-SQL users.

Read More: How to Recover Deleted SQL Database Objects?

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