SQL Dump for MS Access databases (.mdb files) on Linux

I recently had to work with some data that came in a huge Microsoft Access database. Because I like SQLite (and despise Access), I’ve decided to export the data to an SQLite file. The first thing I needed to do was to somehow get all the data out of the db. Being a Linux user, complicates things a bit, but thanks to mdb-tools it’s possible to process the .mdb files without resorting to Windows and buying Access. Using mdb-tools directly can be tedious if you want to export a large db with multiple tables, so when I’ve looked for a way to automate it, I came across Liberating data from Microsoft Access “.mdb” files. This post shows a nice script that dumps every table in a .mdb file to separate CSV file.

While useful, I wanted something that I could easily import into SQLite. So I’ve modified their script to generate an SQL dump of the db. Given a db file, it writes to stdout SQL statements describing the schema of the DB followed by INSERTs for each table. Actually because mdb-tools doesn’t support SQLite as a backend, the dump uses a MySQL dialect, but it should be fine with SQLite as well (SQLite will mostly ignore the parts it can’t process such as COMMENTs). The easiest way to use the script is

$ python AccessDump.py access.mdb | sqlite3 new.db

If the original db contains non-ascii characters, and isn’t encoded in UTF-8, you should set the MDB_JET3_CHARSET environment variable to the correct charset. The dump itself will be UTF-8 encoded.

$ MDB_JET3_CHARSET="cp1255" python AccessDump.py access.mdb | sqlite3 new.db

And now the script itself:

#!/usr/bin/env python
# AccessDump.py
# A simple script to dump the contents of a Microsoft Access Database.
# It depends upon the mdbtools suite:
#   http://sourceforge.net/projects/mdbtools/

import sys, subprocess, os

DATABASE = sys.argv[1]

# Dump the schema for the DB
subprocess.call(["mdb-schema", DATABASE, "mysql"])

# Get the list of table names with "mdb-tables"
table_names = subprocess.Popen(["mdb-tables", "-1", DATABASE],
tables = table_names.splitlines()

print "BEGIN;" # start a transaction, speeds things up when importing

# Dump each table as a CSV file using "mdb-export",
# converting " " in table names to "_" for the CSV filenames.
for table in tables:
    if table != '':
        subprocess.call(["mdb-export", "-I", "mysql", DATABASE, table])

print "COMMIT;" # end the transaction

6 thoughts on “SQL Dump for MS Access databases (.mdb files) on Linux”

  1. return with Can’t allocate filename
    altought i added “sudo” and fullPathName

    till now i uses kexi in order to export tables.

  2. This seems to happen (at least for me) when the database filename is incorrect. Are you sure you’re passing the filename correctly (properly escaped etc.)?

  3. I got rid of “Can’t allocate filename” error replacing
    subprocess.call(["mdb-export", "-I", "mysql", DATABASE, table])
    subprocess.call(["mdb-export", "-I", DATABASE, table])

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