MDF files can involve several different file types, each of which serves a different function. The most common MDF formats can be associated with images or related to the Microsoft SQL (Structured Query Language) database. The letters in the file extension .MDF originally stood for Max Disk Formatting which dates back to floppy disks and converting smaller files into larger formats.
In modern programs and applications MDF files contain images which are Media Descriptor Files. The images are raw disk images which are similar to a BIN file and are also commonly referred to as Alcohol 120% since the file format is owned by Alcohol Software.
If MDF files are associated with Microsoft SQL database, the content contained in the file will relate to Master Database Files, a format used with SQL Express. This is a lighter version of Microsoft SQL Server.
Due to the obscure nature of the MDF file extension, similar formats including ISO and BIN are more widely used since they are easy to work with in terms of imaging. However, MDF files are easier to work with when it comes to identifying the type of information contained within them.
How to Open MDF Files
If MDF files are related to disk images which have been created by a disk authoring program, then you can open them with the programs such as CyberLink Power DVD 12 and Alcohol 120% in the Windows operating system. For other MDF file formats you can use programs such as H+H Software Virtual CD, Smart Projects IsoBuster, and DT Soft DAEMON Tools.
If the MDF file is related to Microsoft SQL database, it can be opened using Microsoft SQL Server 2008, 2010, or 2012 and Visual Studio 2010 and by attaching the file to a specific server. This is because MDF files are primary database files which are used with enterprise databases. They are located in the master and primary log files of an SQL server and are responsible for tracking all of the databases which are being used on the SQL server architecture.
If you cannot open a database file which contains the extension .MDF, you may need to deploy a tool for repairing corrupted database files in SQL. Database administrators go to great lengths to protect MDF files; however, they can still get damaged as the result of unwanted intrusion, hardware issues, security patch issues, and software management problems. This makes an MDF file on the SQL server inaccessible to the end user. Therefore, deploying a program such as Open MDF Database will help to repair corrupt database files, so you can open and view the file contents.