I got a note from a client who runs a medium size Microsoft Access application, and recently they have been getting ‘Unrecognized database format’ errors on multiple client machines. This is a standard Access app they are running, with the client access database linked to a database of Access tables on the server. Microsoft Access is notoriously finnicky when it comes to network errors, and so my first assumption was that my clients networking setup had issues.
But I did a little poking around as it seemed odd that it would start cropping up on multiple machines, and I found this post pointing to what looks like a problem with an incompatibility with Microsoft Access and a recent update to Windows 10. From the looks of this article, this problem as impacted a large number of Access users, but has remained uncorrected for over a year. This article does show a workaround:
I wonder how many Access users would feel comfortable editing the registry on their machine (and their server), and even then it sounds iffy. Note that staying with Windows 10 build 1709 works, but given all the tightening of security in todays corporate world, that’s likely not an option for many users.
The fact that this problem has gone uncorrected for so long underscores to me that Microsoft Access will be deprecated or made functionally useless in the near future by Microsoft. Either explicitly, or through other ‘breaks’ that happen as Windows and/or Office moves forward. I understand why Microsoft is uncomfortable with Access. It’s foundation language, Visual Basic for Applications is outdated, and the native Access database format is underpowered when compared with SQL Server. When Microsoft released a free version of Microsoft SQL Server for small databases, this was the point where all hope for Access was lost. Microsoft is correct – there are better platforms for software these days, but I think they underestimate the number of business critical applications still run on Microsoft Access.
I am a huge fan of Access – it was ahead of its time in the 1990’s for quickly developing desktop apps. Many businesses, small and large, quickly built little Access applications to automate a business process. Often these applications were built under the radar of IT and without a budget. I know of many such Access Apps that have been around over 15 years, still providing value, yet there is no budget to rewrite them.
So unfortunately, Access users beware. Microsoft’s interest in Access is waning, and as they compete for Enterprise business and cloud applications, Microsoft Access may not have a seat at the table.