Building an Access Database From the Ground Up

Step-by-Step Instructions for Creating a Database File

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Chapple, Mike. "Building an Access Database From the Ground Up." ThoughtCo, Apr. 10, 2017, Chapple, Mike. (2017, April 10). Building an Access Database From the Ground Up. Retrieved from Chapple, Mike. "Building an Access Database From the Ground Up." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 17, 2017).
Access Database Menu
Figure 1: Access Database Menu.

Developing a relational model for the various tables in your database serves as a necessary first step to building the database itself. You can certainly create an empty database file in Microsoft Access without a data model, but you'll find that reworking the data after the fact is much less efficient than planning it before you build.

Your conceptual data model translates into a physical model within a Microsoft Access database file -- the entire database is stored in a single ACCDB file.

Before you can build out the tables and queries within the database, you'll need to establish an empty ACCDB file.

Create an Empty Access Database

Use the wizards in Microsoft Access to generate your shell; these wizards support data models already populated with tables to support common desktop-database applications.

To create a shelled database file:

  1. Open Microsoft Access. In Microsoft Access 2016, if you open the program instead of a specific database file, the program starts with a home screen that prompts you to either load an existing database or create a new one from scratch. 
  2. Select a database type. From the right-side panel, pick "blank database." You may, however, scroll the list of options or even use the search box at the top of the panel to find a template that suits your needs. You can always modify a template to meet your specific use case.
  3. Save the file. Choose a location for the file and provide it with an appropriate filename.

    After you save the file, Access opens into its database-edit mode, where you can begin the work of translating your data model into practice.

    Best-Practice Recommendations

    Before you create your database file, consider two points.

    • Avoid Web Services. Microsoft is retiring Microsoft Access Web Services across most product verticals as of June 2017. Access databases intended as prototypes for online databases may prove more difficult to migrate. Consider prototyping in Microsoft SQL Server instead, or explore Microsoft's PowerApps infrastructure.
    • Avoid network shares. In theory, there's no problem with storing your Microsoft Access database on a network drive. However, if your database grows very large and supports multi-user access, and your network is relatively slow, you may see significant performance reductions and even potential data corruption. Large, multi-user databases work best using a dedicated database server instead of a stand-alone database file.