I try to look for some tools to open a sample database attached with application development sample on the net. I have found that the file has an extension .sdf. It make me strange at first because I do not really know what that file extension would be. Would that possible a database file or just a flat file? It is exactly as what I thought, it is an extension file for an SQL Server Compact Edition. A sample of Northwind.sdf (SQL Compact Edition 3.5) file can be download from my backup here.
Microsoft SQL Server Compact (SQL CE) is a compact relational database produced by Microsoft for applications that run on mobile devices and desktops. Prior to the introduction of the desktop platform, it was known as SQL Server for Windows CE and SQL Server Mobile Edition
This guide is provide the step on how to open the file content using either extension is Visual Studio or standalone application call LINQPad. I made these to share with you all in case that you need to see the data, schema of that SQL Compact Edition look like.
Currently there are two possibility to open .sdf (SQL Compact Edition):
- Using Visual Studio toolbox
Here are the step to integrated into Visual Studio:
- Download SQL Server Compact/SQLite Toolbox for Visual Studio
- Install toolbox extension
Before installing it is a must to close your Visual Studio if you are currently open first otherwise you can not see the change effect to your IDE, then double click on the file you have just downloaded to proceed to the setup process.
- Install SQL Server Compact runtime
The Toolbox requires one of these SQL Server Compact runtime MSIs to be installed, if you want to connect to a SQL Server Compact database file:
Download 3.5 SP2 – installed with VS 2010
Download 4.0 SP1 – installed with VS 2012 (No runtimes are installed with VS 2013 and VS 2015)
- Open Visual Studio to see toolbox extension being installed
Once the toolbox is installed, now it is ready for the feature of opening *.sdf file extension in Visual Studio.
It is time to try it out by your self from Northwind.sdf compact edition sample in Visual Studio 2012.
- Right click on Data Connections to create new connection
- Click on Add SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5 connection…
- Browse to the sample file which you just downloaded
- Finally, you can view the content of .sdf(SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5)
- Using LINQPad
You have already seen the possibility to open SQL Compact Database in Visual Studio using ToolBox. This section I will show you another alternative with a super light weight executable around 15MB which has same capability as SQL Compact Toolbox in opening *.sdf file extension. It is free without expiration for a Standard Edition. That program is call LINQPad.
- Where to get LINQPad?
The program is base on .Net Framework, so before being able to use the stand alone program, your PC need to have .Net Framework prior install.
Up-to-Date, there have two version available where you can download it from their official website at www.linqpad.net or with my personal backup LINQPad 4 for .NET Framework 4.0 / 4.5 and LINQPad 5 for .NET Framework 4.6
- How to install?
- By clicking on the file you just download
- Choose where your files will be installed to. I think we just leave it to their default setting
- Associate file extension to be able to open with LINQPad
- Finally stage is to check “Launch LINQPad”, follow by clicking Finich Button
- How to open .sdf file?
If you got error while linking to sample database similar like
"the required DbProvider registration is not present" or
"Unable to find Requested .Net Framework Data Provider. It may not install". You would need to download Microsoft SQL Server Compact 3.5 Service Pack 2 run time for Windows Desktop and install in your PC.
- Click on Add Connection
- Then choose Default(LINQ to SQL)
- Choose provider in our case is
SQL CE 3.5, then click on
Browseto search for the sample file that I had mention above (Northwind.sdf). You can click on
Testbutton to see whether your setting are correctly works. In any case, alert message will be shown. Once the test is running smooth, just click on button
Okto go through database exploration.
- Finally, we can explore all their tables
Now, you see it is not complicate if we knew the tools. If you have trouble on following my guideline, please fill free to contact me.