Import Excel workbooks into Power BI Desktop

With Power BI Desktop, you can easily import Excel workbooks that contain Power Query queries, Power Pivot models, and Power View worksheets into Power BI Desktop. Power BI Desktop automatically creates reports and visualizations based on the Excel workbook. Once imported, you can continue to improve and refine those reports with Power BI Desktop, using the existing features and new features released with each Power BI Desktop monthly update.

How do I import an Excel workbook?

  1. To import an Excel workbook into Power BI Desktop, select File > Import > Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View.

    Import Excel workbook

  2. From the Open window, select an Excel workbook to import.

    Although there's currently no limitation on the size or number of objects in the workbook, larger workbooks take longer for Power BI Desktop to analyze and import.

    Note

    To load or import Excel files from shared OneDrive for Business folders or from Office 365 group folders, use the URL of the Excel file, and input it into the Web data source in Power BI Desktop. There are a few steps you need to follow to properly format the OneDrive for Business URL; for information and the correct series of steps, see Use OneDrive for Business links in Power BI Desktop.

  3. From the import dialog box that appears, select Start.

    Import Excel workbook contents

    Power BI Desktop analyzes the workbook and converts it into a Power BI Desktop file (.pbix). This action is a one-time event; once the Power BI Desktop file is created with these steps, the Power BI Desktop file has no dependence on the original Excel workbook, and can be modified, saved, and shared without affecting the original workbook.

    After the import is finished, a summary page appears that describes the items that were converted, and also lists any items that couldn't be imported.

    Import summary page

  4. Select Close.

    Power BI Desktop imports the Excel workbook and loads a report based on the workbook contents.

    Loaded import report

After the workbook is imported, you can continue working on the report. You can create new visualizations, add data, or create new report pages by using any of the features and capabilities included in Power BI Desktop.

Which workbook elements are imported?

Power BI Desktop can import the following elements, commonly referred to as objects, in Excel.

Object in Excel workbook Final result in Power BI Desktop file
Power Query queries All Power Query queries from Excel are converted to queries in Power BI Desktop. If there are query groups defined in the Excel Workbook, the same organization is replicated in Power BI Desktop. All queries are loaded unless they're set to Only Create Connection in the Import Data Excel dialog box. The load behavior is customized by selecting Properties from the Home tab of Power Query Editor in Power BI Desktop.
Power Pivot external data connections All Power Pivot external data connections are converted to queries in Power BI Desktop.
Linked tables or current workbook tables If there's a worksheet table in Excel linked to the data model, or linked to a query (by using From Table or the Excel.CurrentWorkbook() function in M), the following options are presented:
  1. Import the table to the Power BI Desktop file. This table is a one-time snapshot of the data, after which the data is read-only in the table in Power BI Desktop. There's a size limitation of 1 million characters (total, combining all column headers and cells) for tables created using this option.
  2. Keep a connection to the original workbook. Alternatively, you can keep a connection to the original Excel Workbook and Power BI Desktop retrieves the latest content in this table with each refresh, just like any other query created against an Excel workbook in Power BI Desktop.
Data model calculated columns, measures, KPIs, data categories, and relationships These data model objects are converted to the equivalent objects in Power BI Desktop. Note there are certain data categories that aren't available in Power BI Desktop, such as Image. In these cases, the data category information is reset for the columns in question.
Power View worksheets A new report page is created for each Power View worksheet in Excel. The name and order of these report pages match the original Excel workbook.

Are there any limitations to importing a workbook?

There are a few limitations to importing a workbook into Power BI Desktop:

  • External connections to SQL Server Analysis Services tabular models: In Excel 2013, it's possible to create a connection to SQL Server Analysis Services tabular models and create Power View reports on top of these models without the need to import the data. This type of connection is currently not supported as part of importing Excel workbooks into Power BI Desktop. As a workaround, you must recreate these external connections in Power BI Desktop.
  • Hierarchies: This type of data model object is currently not supported in Power BI Desktop. As such, hierarchies are skipped as part of importing an Excel workbook into Power BI Desktop.
  • Binary data columns: This type of data model column is currently not supported in Power BI Desktop. Binary data columns are removed from the resulting table in Power BI Desktop.
  • Unsupported Power View elements: There are a few features in Power View that aren't available in Power BI Desktop, such as themes or certain types of visualizations (scatter chart with play axis, drill-down behaviors, and so on). These unsupported visualizations result in Unsupported Visualization messages on their corresponding locations in the Power BI Desktop report, which you can delete or reconfigure as needed.
  • Named Ranges using From Table in Power Query, or using Excel.CurrentWorkbook in M: Importing this named range data into Power BI Desktop isn't currently supported, but it's a planned update. Currently, these named ranges are loaded into Power BI Desktop as a connection to the external Excel workbook.
  • PowerPivot to SSRS: PowerPivot external connections to SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) aren't currently supported, because that data source isn't currently available in Power BI Desktop.