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User Level Security

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User Level Security (ULS) is Access' native security schema for databases in MDB/MDE format. ULS allows the user to create various levels of security for the entire Database, Tables, Queries, Forms, Reports, and Macros.


A database that is properly secured with ULS will allow access to it or its objects only when a valid username and password are supplied. Unfortunately, there are many tools that are available to circumvent this behavior.

Note: Starting with Access 2007 (ACCDB/ACCDE formats), ULS has been removed.

Implementing the security has been a pain point for many inexperienced Access users, as it can be somewhat complex to setup. It would not be uncommon to:

  • lock themselves out of their own database
  • seemingly secure all databases on their computer
  • improperly (and unknowingly) secure their database locally on their machine, with the result that it not be secured when moving it to another

It is therefore imperative to fully understand the entire process well before attempting to secure your database.

At the heart of ULS lies the WorkGroup file (YourFileName.MDW), which contains all the security information (groups, users, passwords) for your database. The database contains the permissions. All Access databases (MDB format) use a WorkGroup file when they are opened. The name of the default WorkGroup file is SYSTEM.MDW. It contains a single user (Admin), set to a blank password. This default file should never be modified, but rather a new unique WorkGroup file should be created before any changes to users or permissions begin.

Creating a new WorkGroup file is done through WorkGroup Administrator.

Once a new WorkGroup file is created and the default WorkGroup file is re-joined, a secured database is opened using a Microsoft Windows shortcut file, rather than by simply double-clicking the MDB file.

The shortcut file will have a Target of:

"FullPathToMSACCESS.EXE" "FullPathToMDBFile" /wrkgrp "FullPathToNewWorkGroupFile"
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This page has been accessed 9,076 times.  This page was last modified 02:10, 9 February 2012 by Jack Leach. Contributions by Jwild and Walter Niesz  Disclaimers