Briefcase Replication

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Windows Briefcase in General

These Microsoft Knowledge Base articles document the Windows Briefcase, but do not apply specifically to Briefcase Replication:

Directly applicable to WinXP, but it appears to work OK on the basics in Win2K (Pro and Server) and on Win2K3 Server. For Win9x (though not explicitly WinME), see How to Install and Use Briefcase. Note that both of the URLs above exhibit the non-standard HTML that causes the ends of both articles to be inaccessible in Firefox.
The article says it applies only to Win98, but it may answer questions about Briefcase on other versions of Windows, as well.
  • To search the Knowledge Base about the Windows Briefcase, go to http://suppport.microsoft.com and search ALL PRODUCTS for "briefcase" or "Windows briefcase." Do not limit your search to your version of Windows (especially Win2K), because the KB coding is not complete for the briefcase articles and you won't get all the relevant results if you limit by Windows version (e.g., when limiting to Win2K only one article is returned).

Briefcase Replication specifically

There is very little information in the Knowledge Base explicitly about Briefcase Replication. To find the 16 articles do an advanced Knowledge Base search at http://suppport.microsoft.com and check off all the databases at the bottom, especially including MSDN, and search for the specific phrase "briefcase replication."

The most relevant sources of information about Briefcase Replication are the sections on it in the White Papers. Here is the section from the Jet 3.5 White Paper (p. 4):

Briefcase Replication [Jet 3.x]
The Briefcase is an accessory available in Windows 95 or Windows NT version 4.0. When Microsoft Access is installed on your computer, you can use the Briefcase as a replication tool by simply dragging an .mdb file from the Windows Explorer onto the Briefcase icon on the Windows desktop. Like magic, your database is converted into replicable format and becomes a member of your replica set. The Briefcase menus include commands to synchronize the replicas.
Behind the scenes, of course, Windows is busy making the magic work. When you install Microsoft Access, the Setup program adds Class ID (CLSID) entries for .mdb files and for the Briefcase reconciler to the Windows registry. (The Briefcase reconciler is installed only by Microsoft Access; it is not included with Visual Basic or Microsoft Excel.) The reconciler includes the code required to support replication and synchronization. When you drag an .mdb file onto the My Briefcase icon, Windows recognizes the class ID and responds by calling the reconciler. The reconciler converts the database into a replicable form, leaves the Design Master at the source, and places a replica in the Briefcase. The reconciler gives you the option of putting the Design Master in your Briefcase and leaving a replica on the desktop. When you synchronize the replicas, the Briefcase calls the reconciler to merge the replicas. With Briefcase replication, synchronization cannot be scheduled; it occurs only when the Update command is clicked and only between the current member and the specified member.

Note Before converting the database, Microsoft Jet asks if you want to make a backup. If you anticipate that any users will need to use a nonreplicable version of the database, it's a good idea to make this backup.


You can use the Briefcase with files other than .mdb files, and with applications other than Microsoft Access. However, doing so will not call the Microsoft Jet replication code; it will call the default Briefcase code instead. If you use the Briefcase when Microsoft Access is not installed or with a non-Microsoft Jet database, dragging a file into the Briefcase is equivalent to simply copying the file into the Briefcase—there is no conversion to replicable format. Therefore, when you update files on your main computer with files from the Briefcase, the Briefcase simply copies over the original file—changes to data and objects are not merged, they are overwritten.

For Jet 4, here is the section from the Jet 4.0 Replication White Paper, p. 4:

Briefcase Replication [Jet 4.0]
The Briefcase is an accessory available in Windows 95, Windows 98 (the feature is not installed by default on a new installation), and Windows NT Workstation or Server version 4.0. When Microsoft Access is installed on your computer, you can use the Briefcase as a replication tool by simply dragging an .mdb file from the Windows Explorer onto the Briefcase icon on the Windows desktop. Your database is converted into replicable format and becomes a member of your replica set. The Briefcase menus include commands to synchronize the replicas.
When you install Microsoft Access, the Setup program adds class ID (CLSID) entries for .mdb files and for the Briefcase reconciler to the Windows registry. (Only Microsoft Access installs the Briefcase reconciler.) The reconciler includes the code required to support replication and synchronization. When you drag an .mdb file onto the My Briefcase icon, Windows recognizes the class ID and responds by calling the reconciler. The reconciler converts the database into a replicable form, then gives you the option of specifying the location of the Design Master; you can use this feature to designate either the replica in your Briefcase or the replica in the original location the Design Master. When you synchronize the replicas, the Briefcase calls the reconciler to merge the replicas. With Briefcase replication, synchronization cannot be scheduled; it occurs only when the Update command is clicked and only between the current member and the specified member.

Note Before converting the database, Microsoft Jet asks if you want to make a backup. If you anticipate that any users will need to use a nonreplicable version of the database, it's a good idea to make this backup. Also, if you attempt to convert an .mdb from a previous version, you will be asked to first convert the database to Microsoft Access 2000.


You can use the Briefcase with files other than .mdb files, and with applications other than Microsoft Access. However, doing so will not call the Microsoft Jet replication code; it will call the default Briefcase code instead. If you use the Briefcase when Microsoft Access is not installed or with a non-Microsoft Jet database, dragging a file into the Briefcase is equivalent to simply copying the file into the Briefcase—there is no conversion to replicable format. Therefore, when you update files on your main computer with files from the Briefcase, the Briefcase simply copies over the original file—changes to data and objects are not merged, they are overwritten.

That is the most detailed information available about Briefcase Replication that is readily accessible. This lack of documentation is one reason why it seems inadvisable to propose using Briefcase Replication for anything other than the most trivial circumstances.

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