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Troubleshooter
By Richard Rost   Richard Rost on Twitter Richard Rost on LinkedIn Email Richard Rost   8 months ago

Microsoft Access Database Troubleshooting Checklist


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I get emails all the time from people with Access issues. All of the problems and questions from many of you have inspired me to start this: the Access Debugging and Troubleshooting Checklist.

I know I've pulled my hair out with strange Access problems that sometimes seemed to get fixed by the strangest things. I went nuts one day trying to fix a bug and it turned out I just needed to reboot the PC. Low system resources can cause any number of problems, including forms not opening, reports not printing right, crashes, etc.

So, here's my list of troubleshooting tips when you've got that Access problem that just will NOT go away. I have tried to rank these in the order you should check. The least painful fixes (quick and easy) are first. Try each one in order. If that doesn't work, move on to the next one.

Backup First

My standard disclaimer applies. Before doing ANYTHING with your database, you should always make sure you have a good backup. 'Nuff said.

Restart Access

Close and restart your database.

Restart All Access Databases

Close and restart any and all Access databases. You may also want to check the Windows Task Manager and make sure that all instances of Access are closed. 

Compact & Repair

From inside your database, go to Database Tools > Compact & Repair. See this video for more on the Importance of Compact & Repair.

Compile the Database

In the VB editor window, go to Debug > Compile [Database Name]. You'd be surprised what bad code in one Module will do to another. Usually this just highlights syntax errors, but you'd be surprised sometimes. 

Restart Office

Close and restart any open Microsoft Office Applications. They share DLLs so even a misbehaving Excel file can keep Access doing weird things.

Reboot the PC

That game you were playing last night might have eaten up your available memory. Those Recorsets that you DIM'd and forgot to set to Nothing at the end of your loop... yeah, you may have memory leakage or other low system resources. Give it a quick reboot. I know rebooting is a pain. Go get coffee.

Reboot Clean

If you have any other applications that load with Windows (virus scanners, etc.) reboot without them. Run your Access database on a clean, fresh startup. Something else might be interfering with your database.

Google It

Try a quick Google search for your problem. You never know, someone else might have experienced this exact same issue before and has a fix for you.

Try a Backup

Sometimes the problem may be due to something you recently added to your database. SAVE your current database (set it aside, rename it) so you don't lose any data. Then try restoring your most recent backup. If that works, then the problem was caused by something you changed. If that still doesn't fix the problem, try your next oldest backup. That should help you nail down when the bug crept in to your database. 

Try Another PC

Believe it or not, I had a database once that would not work on one specific computer. The client called me in several times and I couldn't figure the problem out. It worked fine on every other machine in the office, and no other application (Word, etc.) had issues. Just my database. Turns out it was a faulty keyboard. For some reason, there was a short that affected Access in some way. No idea why. Replaced the keyboard. Database ran fine. Weird? Yes. But that's technology for ya.

Office Update

Bugs happen. Microsoft is fixing bugs all the time. Sometimes an update creates a bug. The best way to make sure you don't have a problem with a known bug is to run an Office Update if something doesn't seem right. In any Office application, go to File > Account > Office Updates.

Windows Update

If you're sure you have the latest version of Office installed, make sure Windows is up to date too. The two are closely related. Bugs in Windows can cause your database to act weird. It's happened to me. Run a Windows Update. From the Start Button just search for "Windows Update."

Scan for Viruses

If you share or download files, you could have a virus. In which case your system could exhibit any number of odd behaviors. Open "Windows Defender." Make sure your virus definitions are up to date and run a complete scan of your system.

Check Database File Size

If your database, or any attached back-end databases, are getting close to the 2 GB maximum size limit, this could cause any number of random problems. Remember, Access is constantly working with hidden index and system tables. If it can't create or modify any of these, for any reasons, you might get weird errors. Try to keep your database files under 1.5 GB if possible. If not, split them. If you have a single table over 1 GB, you should optimize it, dump old data, or upgrade to SQL Server.

New Database File

Sometimes ACCDB files get weirdly corrupted. Even after a C&R it might not be acting right. Create a blank new ACCDB file and import the misbehaving object(s) into it. If they work, the problem is a bad file. Proceed to import the rest of your objects until you find the culprit.

Check Remaining Hard Drive Space

Check to make sure you have plenty of free space available on your hard drive. You should have at least twice the space available as your database file size. So if you have a 1.5 GB database, you should have at LEAST 3 GB of free space available. If not, free up some space or upgrade your drive. 

Remove 3rd Party Components

Your problem might be with a 3rd party DLL, OCX, or other plugin.

Remove 3rd Party Software

Sometimes software that you have installed from other 3rd party vendors may replace DLL files that Microsoft Office needs to run properly. This is usually a problem with "independent" software authors, shareware, etc. Try removing any non-Microsoft software from the machine. You may need to reinstall Office after removing the offending program to put the proper DLL back. If you are going to go so far as reinstalling Windows (see below) then I would suggest install a fresh copy of Windows and then a fresh copy of Office (Access) before you install anything else. This will definitely determine if it's a 3rd party software conflict.

Reinstall Office

Sometimes files get corrupted and an Office Update won't repair them because it doesn't know to look for them. I've had bad DLL files before that have wrecked havoc on my system, and everything was up to date. Sometimes you need to completely uninstall Office first, so that everything is deleted, and then reinstall it. Don't just install over an old copy. If you have remnants of older versions of Office on your system, delete those too.

Upgrade Office

I'm not usually someone who pushes "the latest and greatest" upgrade on people. I've always been of a mindset "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, sometimes problems with older versions can go away in a newer one. Sometimes they fix things that you might not have known were broken.

Reinstall Windows

Sometimes you might have a corrupted Windows DLL file. You may need to try working from a fresh install of Windows. If you have tried everything else AND your database works fine on another computer, this may be your only option.

Get Help

If you've checked everything off on this list and you still need help with your database, let me know. I try to make myself available as much as possible to answer questions. Your first line of support is the Access Forum. Post your problem there. I try to check them as much as I can, plus Alex and some of the other students help out a lot (and I'm super appreciative of that!). Beyond that, if you need help with your database, FREE help is available via my TechHelp page, and PAID support is available on my Consulting page. If it's business critical, I'm here for you. 

Specific Issues or Error Messages

The above items are for generic "weird" problems that don't always have a specific problem you can pinpoint. The following are some common issues or error messages that may come up and solutions on how to fix them. I'll add to this list as time permits.

Got Questions?

Feel free to post 'em below.

 

Remove 3rd Party Software Upload Images   Link 
Richard Rost 
2 months ago
Added this based on a tip from Maurice Loucel on my YouTube channel. I had "Remove 3rd Party Controls" on there, but I forgot that misbehaving programs could replace Office DLL files:

Sometimes software that you have installed from other 3rd party vendors may replace DLL files that Microsoft Office needs to run properly. This is usually a problem with "independent" software authors, shareware, etc. Try removing any non-Microsoft software from the machine. You may need to reinstall Office after removing the offending program to put the proper DLL back. If you are going to go so far as reinstalling Windows (see below) then I would suggest install a fresh copy of Windows and then a fresh copy of Office (Access) before you install anything else. This will definitely determine if it's a 3rd party software conflict.
Add a Reply
Reinstall Windows Upload Images   Link 
Philip Lombardo 
3 months ago
Richard... I'm gonna make a long story short. For 2 months or more I have been fighting a war against Access over a combo box that would (or could) not fill fields (4 of them) on a form and write them to a table. I used DLookup, and I also tried using the column number to fill those fields. The DLookup and column code worked fine with unbound text fields on the form, but not with fields bound to the table. I could manually fill the fields, and the data saved to the table. Read More...
Richard Rost
3 months ago
Few people enjoy having to reinstall Windows. I personally hate it. But sometimes it's a necessary evil. You may have had a corrupted Registry entry or a bad DLL file. Any number of things can cause issues. Best part now is that your whole PC should run faster! Glad the problem is fixed.
Add a Reply
NEW Check Database File Size Upload Images   Link 
Richard Rost 
4 months ago
If your database, or any attached back-end databases, are getting close to the 2 GB maximum size limit, this could cause any number of random problems. Remember, Access is constantly working with hidden index and system tables. If it can't create or modify any of these, for any reasons, you might get weird errors. Try to keep your database files under 1.5 GB if possible. If not, split them. If you have a single table over 1 GB, you should optimize it, dump old data, or upgrade to SQL Server.
Richard Rost
4 months ago
Oh, and this goes without saying: Check Remaining Hard Drive Space. Check to make sure you have plenty of free space available on your hard drive. You should have at least twice the space available as your database file size. So if you have a 1.5 GB database, you should have at LEAST 3 GB of free space available. If not, free up some space or upgrade your drive.
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Keywords: TechHelp Access debugging troubleshooting page checklist Fix Errors, Problems, Workarounds, Issues, Corruption, troubleshooter  PermaLink