Access vs. Excel: Pros, Cons, and Differences – 2024 Guide

When it comes to managing data, which software is better – Excel or Access?

This question has turned into a huge debate, and so many Microsoft users are fussed over this topic.

Long story short, Excel lets you analyze data, while Access primarily stores data.

But there’s more to what they can do. Let’s explore these two applications in the article below.

So let’s get into it right away 🚀

Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access was released by MS Office in 1992. At almost the same time, MS Office released the fourth updated version of Excel.

MS Access is a DBMS (Database Management System). And it is used for managing and manipulating databases. It is a relational database, which means if you update data on any record, it updates all related fields.

Access Database software

MS Access stores data as its primary job. It is usually used by business owners who have regular reports and queries to update. It can store huge amounts of data. But you need a sound knowledge of how the software works before using it.

That being said, let’s see some good and bad aspects of MS Access below.

What is great about Access?

What makes Access stand out from its other counterparts? To know that, let’s explore some outstanding features of Access below🥇

Data Entry

Access offers data entry forms that are very helpful when you have a large amount of data to enter manually. You don’t need to worry about sorting the data and changing positions repeatedly.

Moreover, Access has so many advanced features. You can enter data into records without having to add new fields repeatedly – Access does all the extra work for you.

Security & Integrity

MS Access provides a user security model that lets you decide who can view or edit your data. You can also set the data type and limit for a certain field – it helps avoid entering invalid data.

This can be a resourceful tool if you are relatively new to Access and don’t have expert help all the time. Also, Access lets multiple users view the same file simultaneously, increasing work efficiency.

Relational Tables

A big advantage of MS Access is that it has multiple relational models, unlike Excel. You can store data in one place and refer to it in other areas. A table can be referenced in a particular location. And once it’s done, the result is updated in all referenced positions.

What is not so great about Access

Every good tool has a drawback, and so does MS Access. Let’s see some downsides of Access that make it a second choice to Excel.

Prior Experience

You can add data sources and create massive databases in Access. But to make it look neat and sorted – you need experience. A lot of training and planning is required to define tables. You need additional skills to know how to link tables. How to allow editing permits and create complex queries and reports.

Increased Difficulty

MS Access is the most complicated and advanced software of the Microsoft Office suite. You need sound financial and data analysis knowledge to work Access. Some functions in Access require top-notch programming knowledge too. Guess this is the time to utilize those high school programming skills 😅

Poor Graphical Representation 

When it comes to creating charts and graphs, Access is a big no-go. It does offer charting and plotting options. But these are nowhere near the premium features Excel offers for visualizing data. You can export the data to Excel and use it to create appealing graphics.

Microsoft Excel

Excel was released by Microsoft Office in 1985, and since then, it has come a long way. It is used by financial and statistical analysts globally for business purposes.

Excel works brilliantly for both domestic and professional purposes. Its users use it for analyzing and calculating data. You can use complex formulas, add macros, pivot, and visualize data in Excel in no time.

MS Excel application

MS Excel is a really powerful spreadsheet software and offers a ton of features. It lets you create spreadsheets or tabular documents.

Additionally, it offers more flexibility and lets you change the format data type. You can use pre-defined functions or create your own formulas, use macros, and so much more.

Let’s explore some good and bad things about Excel in depth below.

What is so great about Excel

Excel has been in business for decades and is only thriving further. This consistency in success requires excellence, and Excel has it. Let’s look at some features that distinguish Excel from other programs 😀

Ease of Use

MS Excel offers increased ease of use. Performing calculations, storing data, applying formulas, and formatting cells in Excel is simple. It provides a shortcut to almost all options, and you can do it in seconds.

Moreover, there are so many templates online and in Excel too. These include both free and paid templates. Simply download and get started with your work. No need to begin from scratch or put in effort designing the spreadsheet.

Inventory Record

Excel’s inventory management is quite powerful. You can fill and manage hundreds of thousands of rows without having to enter data manually.

You can even set macros to automatically update data. And use Flash or auto-fill to fill in the data in one go. Excel works best in dealing with complex numerical data and performing financial calculations.

Beginner Friendly 

Excel is the perfect place to start if you are a newbie. You don’t need extensive experience to use Excel; a little bit of financial knowledge goes a long way. Adding data, applying formulas, and sorting it is so easy you can learn it in seconds.

Even if you are stuck at advanced functions like VBA or Pivot Tables, you can understand them in less than 10 minutes from an online expert. There are thousands of blog posts and hundreds of online Excel courses that teach everything about Excel in great depth.

What is not so great about Excel

Let’s see some drawbacks of Excel.

Manage Large Data

Excel is pretty flexible. Especially when it comes to using different formulas and performing calculations repeatedly. But as the data increases, Excel becomes rigid and hard to manage.

The data becomes complicated, and the tons of formulas used – slow down the Excel workbook. So, even though Excel is great at analyzing data, adding more than its storage capacity can affect its performance.

Flat Data Models 

Unlike Access, data in Excel is non-relational. This means that data are not linked to each other. Updating a reference in one place will not affect data in another area. The data is flat, and these are only connected to the extent of columns and rows. Beyond that, you need special functions.


Excel is powerful, yes. But is it secure? No. Entering a private Excel file and making changes is very easy, even if you have the cells or the whole file locked. It uses weak encryption features. And has a lack of control that can be breached by unauthorized Access in minutes 😕

Access vs. Excel

Access and Excel are two highly popular and in-demand software for data management and analysis. But when it comes to choosing one of the two, things get tricky.

That’s because both programs offer similar features. And which software will suit your needs depends on what you expect from the software. You must keep in mind all the Excel and Access key differences.

So before you start, we want you to ask yourself:

  • What objective do I want to fulfill with this software?
  • Will I need charting features to visualize my data?
  • Does the data require management or financial calculations?

The answers to these questions will help you choose the right software for your needs 🤗

Pro Tip!

MS Access and Excel both provide plotting features. But Excel is relatively powerful in this area. Moreover, if you have to present data visuals in a meeting, using Excel is a much better option.

MS Excel display screen

If you are going to use Excel for data manipulation, be prepared to encounter problems once the data gets extensive.

In this case, Access makes a good option. It is designed to store extensive data. It has advanced features and data entry forms to make things easier.

Access display screen

But if you are a beginner and have never used MS Access before, you should try Excel first. It has a small learning curve, and you can pick up even the advanced functions in minutes.

In the case of Access, you need sound experience on how to use the software, as its interface can be confusing. You might even have to learn a few programming rules for some functions.

Both applications are provided in Microsoft 365 Suite. You can choose any monthly or yearly plan (Microsoft 365 Apps for business is preferred). And you can have access to both programs.

Access Excel applications in MS Suite

Get data from Excel to Access

Getting data from Excel into Access is pretty simple. You just need to import the data from Excel, normalize it, and you’re good to go. Let’s see how it’s done below.

  1. Open a file in MS Access
  2. Go to the External Data tab.
  3. Click New Data Source at the top left.
  4. Go to From File.
  5. Select Excel.
Selecting Excel for importing data
  1. The Get External Data – Excel Spreadsheet dialog box appears.
  2. Select the file to import
  3. Select the Import the source data into a new table in the current database.
Adding destination file
  1. Click Ok
  2. Put a checkmark in the “First Row Contains Column Headings” checkbox in the dialog box that appears.
Selecting header option
  1. Click Next.
  2. Specify the field options or leave them as default.
Selecting field options
  1. Click Next
  2. Select Let Access and add the primary key option.
Selecting primary key
  1. Click Next.
  2. The Import to Table name appears.
Selecting name of table
  1. Click Finish.

You can choose to ignore or save the import steps.

The imported file appears in your tables list 😉

Data analysis Access software


In this article, we saw the key differences between Excel vs. Access. Both programs are excellent at what they do, and it all boils down to what you want to achieve with the software.

MS Access is a good option if you want to manage contacts. Keep track of tasks, create queries and store massive amounts of data.

However, if you want to perform budgeting and complex calculations with increased ease of use, Excel is your best buddy 😄

Frequently asked questions

No. Excel is a spreadsheet program, not a database. Even if you try to use it as a database, you will encounter many restrictions. The biggest of these is its storage incapacity.

Unlike database management software, Excel does not extend to unlimited rows. It does not have data integrity, data tables, or proper data structuring. This is why it can’t be used as a database program.