How to Encrypt a Split Database in Access 2016

You can encrypt a split database by encrypting the backend database, unlinking the tables from the frontend, then re-establishing the link.

Encrypting a database makes the data unreadable by other tools, and it sets a password that is required to use the database.

Encrypting a split database requires a few extra steps when compared to encrypting a non-split database.

Here's how to encrypt a split database.

Encrypt the Backend

First, you must encrypt the backend/source database. Then you need to reestablish the linked tables in the frontend database.

Here's how to encrypt the backend.

  1. Screenshot of opening the database in Exclusive Mode

    Open the Backend Database in Exclusive Mode

    The source database must be opened in exclusive mode before you can encrypt it and set a password.

    To open the database in exclusive mode, select Open Exclusive when opening the database via the Open dialog.

    For more complete instructions, see How to Open a Database in Exclusive Mode.

  2. Screenshot of opening the File menu

    Open the File Menu

    Click File in the top left of Access to open the File menu.

  3. Screenshot of the Info menu

    Select the Encryption Option

    Click the Encrypt with Password button (from the Info menu).

  4. Screenshot of setting a password

    Set a Password

    Enter your desired password.

    Enter it again to confirm.

    Click OK.

  5. Screenshot of the row level locking message

    Acknowledge Row Level Locking Message

    If you get a message informing you that Row Level Locking will be ignored, click OK.

    The database is now encrypted.

About The "Row Level Locking" Message

Screenshot of the row level locking message

A block cipher is a method of encrypting text in which a cryptographic key and algorithm are applied to a whole block of data at once, rather than to each bit at a time.

Row level locking (or record level locking) is where a record is locked whenever it is updated. This is to prevent other users from accessing data being while it is being updated.

When you update a record in an encrypted database that uses row level locking, only the record (row) is encrypted, not the whole database.

When you encrypt a database with row level locking disabled, you will receive the Encrypting with block cipher is incompatible with row level locking. Row level locking will be ignored. message.

What this means is that the whole database will be encrypted — not just the record.

Update the Frontend

Once you've encrypted the backend database, you now need to unlink, then relink the tables that point to the backend.

Unlink the Tables

Here's how to unlink the linked tables.

  1. Screenshot of the Not valid password message

    Open the Frontend Database

    Open the frontend database.

    Click OK if you a Not a valid password message.

  2. Screenshot of the AutoExec macro message

    Acknowledge any other Messages

    You may receive other messages, depending on the design of your database. For example, if you have an AutoExec macro (i.e. one that runs as soon as the database is opened), you may receive the message in the screenshot.

    This is to be expected, because the macro uses data from the backend database, which has just been password protected. Seeing as we haven't provided the password at the frontend yet, the macro can no longer access the data in the linked tables.

    In this case, we can simply click Stop All Macros.

  3. Screenshot of unlinking the linked tables by deleting them from the frontend.

    Unlink the Tables

    To unlink the linked tables, right-click all tables to be unlinked, and select Delete.

    This will remove the tables from the frontend, but they will still remain in the backend.

  4. Screenshot of the confirmation message


    Click Yes to confirm.

Relink the Tables

Now we can relink those tables (and provide the password when we do so).

  1. Screenshot of Access with the Import Access Database button highlighted

    Launch the Import/Link Wizard

    Click Access in the Import & Link group from the External Data tab on the Ribbon.

  2. Screenshot of the Get External Data wizard

    Enter the Backend Database Details

    Enter the location of the source database (or browse to it using the Browse button).

    Select Link to the data source by creating a linked table, then click OK.

  3. Screenshot of the password prompt

    Enter the Password

    Enter the password and click OK.

  4. Screenshot of the selecting the tables

    Select the Tables

    Select all the tables that need to be linked, then click OK.

  5. Screenshot of the database with a table open


    The split database is now encrypted and password protected.

    You can now open a table and view its data.

    Also, any AutoExec macros will run automatically as soon as the database is open.