What is the difference between Access and the Microsoft Access Runtime?

Unless you’re an Access developer, you’ve probably never used the Access Runtime before. Since our basic RDP hosting plan comes with only the runtime, we get a lot of questions about what the runtime is and how it is different from the version of Access on their computer and which remote desktop hosting plan would work best for their Access database.  Hopefully, this post will help steer you in the right direction.

What is the Access Runtime?

Microsoft describes the runtime as such, “The Microsoft Access Runtime enables you to distribute Access applications to users who do not have the full version of Access 2013 installed on their computers.”  It’s a free download from Microsoft as opposed to part of the expensive Office Professional suit that includes the full and powerful version of Access that Access developers have installed on their desktops.  It’s the equivalent of Adobe Reader – it lets you open PDFs and is free, but lacks many of the features found in Adobe Acrobat.  If you want to do anything of meaning in Access or if you’re an Access developer, you want the paid, full version of the program.  The runtime is intended to be used with already designed databases so data-entry and other users can simply open your database file and interact with your forms and access application.

I still don’t get it

Let’s take a closer look at the famous Northwind Traders database in the Access 2013 runtime and the full version of Access.

Northwind Traders in Access 2013 runtime

Northwind Traders in Access 2013 runtime

As you can see this complex database easily opens in the Access Runtime and gives you access to everything that was designed in the Access App: create new customers, view invoices, etc.  But you’ll notice that there is no Access ribbon and you cannot use the navigation and or see the database structure and design.  There are really no tools beyond what is built within the database.  I’m sure you can see the advantage of this type of security for Access developers.  The Access Runtime makes it impossible for a user to alter their application and they can even have limited access to the database and records themselves.

Northwind Traders in Access 2013 full version

Northwind Traders in Access 2013 full version

Here is the same database in the full version of Access 2013.  I have access to all of the tools in the ribbon.  I can create new forms, queries, reports or view the tables and records directly using the left sidebar navigation menu.  None of these features are available in the Access runtime.

The Access runtime only really has one menu that is included in every database – the file menu.

access runtime file menu

All this menu really lets you do is print the forms and reports that you are able to access in the secure stripped down version of the already developed Access database application. Conversely, the full version of Access lets you create new databases, edit and save databases, print and much more from it’s file menu:

the real access 2013 file menu

Hopefully this has helped you figure out what the Runtime is all about.  If the limited nature of the runtime works for you, then our $19 RDP hosting plan should work for you and your already developed Access database.  If you are more comfortable with the full paid version of Access installed on your computer, then you will want to go with our $29/month remote desktop hosting plan.


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6 Responses to What is the difference between Access and the Microsoft Access Runtime?

  1. sandra carlson says:

    This sounds great. We have a location that has developed data in SQL but uses an access200 db for their users to input and view. This of course requires ODBC connection. The users at our location would only need to view data and would never have a need to edit. Could the users that only view be able to use access 2013 runtime or will the ODBC cause an issue?

    • admin says:

      As long as you set up the ODBC correctly in the full version of Access – you can give them that file and have them open it in the runtime and the ODBC connection should work without issue. You just can’t use the ODBC tools in the runtime so you have to build everything in a full version of Access.

      • sandra carlson says:

        Thank you. I set up a user that has Runtime to be able to use the access2007 database that had been created by another location in our company which had all the ODBC built into it. I did notice Runtime does not like Access2003 databases that I made a long time ago where they started as Access95 and kept being converted. Those don’t seem to want to convert to Access2007 so I’ll need to work on that issue. Again thank you so much.

  2. Pierre says:

    Is it possible to export Access Report to EXCEL with ACCESS 2010 RT ? I meet problems with that function that works correctly with a full version of ACCESS ?

    • admin says:

      Only if you coded a button that did that programmatically – all of the save-as and other functions found in Access are not in the Access Runtime menu.

  3. Emanuel Espiritu says:

    Will it work on Front-End and Back-ENd MS Access database that is currently save on the Google drive?

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