Microsoft Access Update Query Examples, SQL Syntax, and Errors
President of FMS Inc. (portions from the Access help file)
Modifying Field Values with Update Queries
An Update Query is an action query (SQL statement) that changes a set
of records according to criteria (search conditions) you specify. It's a
very powerful feature and a fundamental part of relational databases
since you can modify a huge number of records at one time. Understanding
and using Update Queries improves the performance of your
applications (versus doing the same changes manually or in code), and
easier to maintain.
From the Access designer, you can interactively create a query and
specify its type:
Update Query Option when Designing Queries in MS Access 2013
Update Query Option when Designing Queries in MS Access 2007 and 2010
Update Queries let you modify the values of a field or fields in a
table. You can specify the records to modify by applying a filter (WHERE
clause) and linking the table to other tables and queries.
value can be:
- The same value for all records
- A value from another field
in that table (updates the field based on a field's value in its own
- A value from a field in a linked table
- An expression based on values in the table or linked tables
(multiple fields can be used to calculate the new value)
- A VBA function value which can include field values as its
- Your own VBA user defined function that may or may not include
field values as parameters
The UPDATE statement has these parts:
||The name of the table
containing the data to modify
||JOIN clause if linking
to another table(s) to specify which records are modified
||An expression for the
value to be inserted into a particular field in the updated records
||An expression that
determines which records are updated. Only records that satisfy the
expression are updated.
UPDATE is useful when you want to change many records or
when the records that you want to change are in multiple tables.
You can change several fields at the same time. The following example
increases the Order Amount values by 10 percent and the Freight values
by 3 percent for shippers in the US:
SET [OrderAmount] = [OrderAmount] * 1.1,
[Freight] = [Freight] * 1.03
WHERE [ShipCountryRegion] = 'US'
- To avoid situations where a field name conflicts with a reserved
word or if field names have spaces, use brackets around them.
- UPDATE does not generate a result set. Also, after you update
records using an update query, you cannot undo the operation. If you
want to know which records were updated, first examine the results of
SELECT query that uses the same criteria, and
then run the update query.
- You can view the query before you run it by switching to
DataSheet. For Update
queries, the fields being modified are displayed. This may be
sufficient to avoid the need to create a separate SELECT query to
see which records are modified. Of course, if those fields are
currently blank, they won't help.
- Maintain backup copies of your data at all times. If you update
the wrong records, you can retrieve them from your backup copies.
There are several ways to use Update Queries:
Update the Same Value for All Records
In this example, all invoices with a balance due that are 30 days
late have the LateStatus field updated to True.
SET [LateStatus] = True
WHERE (([Balance] > 0) AND ([InvoiceDate] < Date()-30)
Clear Values from a Field
In this example, a date field is emptied by setting it to Null:
SET [DueDate] = Null
Update Using its Own Value
In this example, the Contacted field is incremented by one if the
record has Called = True. Each contact may have a different value in its
Contacted field depending on how many times it was contacted in the
SET [Contacted] = [Contacted] + 1
Update with a Value from the Same Record
In this example, an employee's FirstDay field is set to the same
value as the HireDate.
SET [FirstDay] = [HireDate]
Update with a Expression from Values in the Same Record
In this example, the invoice's GrandTotal field becomes the sum of
its Total and Tax fields.
SET [GrandTotal] = [Total] + [Tax]
Update with Values from Fields in Another Table
In this example, the address records are updated with the City and
State value from a zip code lookup
table. If the record has a zip code that matches the lookup table,
its City and State fields are replaced.
INNER JOIN tblZipCodes ON [tblAddress].[ZipCode] = [tblZipCodes].[ZipCode]
SET [tblAddress].[City] = [tblZipCodes].[City],
[tblAddress].[State] = [tblZipCodes].[State]
WHERE ([Country] = 'US')
Update with a VBA Function
Any built-in VBA function that returns a value can be used as the
update value. In this example, the Country field is converted to all
upper case using the VBA UCase command.
SET [Country] = UCase([Country])
WHERE ([Country] Is Not Null)
Note: This doesn't work if you're in an ADP since those queries run
on SQL Server which doesn't know VBA syntax.
Update with Your Own VBA Function
Any public function that you create in a standard module can be used
in a query. Your field is updated with the return value of the function.
If your function takes parameters, you can pass field values as
parameters and the function executes for each record that is processed.
SET [MyField] = MyCoolFunction([Field1], [Field2])
Note: This doesn't work if you're in an ADP since those queries run
on SQL Server which can't "see" your modules or functions.
Do You have Rights to Update Fields?
If an Update Query fails to modify the table's data, the first thing
to verify is that the underlying table is updateable. Simply open the table and
manually try to edit the field. If you can't do it manually, the query
can't make the change either. This can be due to several reasons:
- The database file is set to ReadOnly. None of the data can be
modified. Change this at the Windows level. If the database is on a
CD, copy it to your hard disk.
- If you're using Access workgroup security, you may not have rights
to edit the data. In this case, login as the administrator or with a
user name and password that gives you the appropriate rights.
- If the tables is linked, you may not have rights to modify the
data with the backend data source.
- If you are in an Access Data Project (ADP) or linked to a SQL
Server table and the table doesn't have a primary key, you can't edit
any of the table's fields from Access.
Assuming you can edit your table, your query may fail and display this error message when you run it:
Operation must use an updatable query (Error 3073)
If so, check out our paper on
Error 3073: Operation must use an updatable query: Dealing with
Non-Updateable Queries and the Use of Temporary Tables in Microsoft
Access which discusses some of the issues and workarounds.
Make sure you spend the time to understand how to create and use
Update Queries in MS Access.
They are extremely powerful and eliminate a lot of manual updates and unnecessary coding.
They are also much easier to maintain and debug than module code. When
confronted with the limitations of what you can do with SQL Syntax, you
can supplement Access update queries with your own functions letting
Access take care of updating the records, while you focus on the
Hope this helps!
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