Personal Vs File GDB's

Which option you choose for download depends on your data requirements. Some Prestaged Subregions are too large to download as a personal geodatabase. File Geodatabases consist of many files and should be extracted to a folder whereas personal geodatabases consist of one file. See the table below to determine which file type works best for you.


Key Characteristics

File Geodatabase

Personal Geodatabase




·        A collection of various types of GIS datasets held in a file system folder.

·        This is the recommended native data format for ArcGIS stored and managed in a file system folder.


·        Original data format for ArcGIS geodatabases stored and managed in Microsoft Access data files.

·        This is limited in size and tied to the Windows operating system.




·        Single user and small workgroups.

·        Some readers and one writer per feature dataset, standalone feature class or table.

·        Concurrent use of any specific file eventually degrades for large numbers of readers.


·        Single user and small workgroups with smaller datasets.

·        Some readers and one writer.

·        Concurrent use eventually degrades for large numbers of readers.


Storage Format


·        Each dataset is a separate file on disk

·        A file geodatabase is a file folder that holds its dataset files.


·        Concurrent use eventually degrades for large numbers of readers.

·        All the contents in each personal geodatabase are held in a single Microsoft Access file (.mdb).


Size Limits


·        One TB for each dataset. Each file geodatabase can hold many datasets.

·        Each feature class can scale up to hundreds of millions of vector features per dataset.


·        Two GB per Access database.

·        Effective limit before performance degrades is typically between 250 and 500 MB per Access database file.


Versioning Support


Not supported


Not supported






Windows only


Security and Permissions


Operating file system security


Windows file system security


Database Administration Tools


File system management


Windows file system management




Allows you to optionally store data in a read-only compressed format to reduce storage requirements


Often used as an attribute table manager (via Microsoft Access). Users like the string handling for text attributes. <>.