CRM 2011 Data Import Wizard

  • Comments 6

In today's column I'll be discussing the out of the box data import wizard and specifically talking about 4 of the most common uses for the data import wizard in CRM 2011.  The data import wizard has many great features, but it is not a full blown data migration wizard.  It is a very versatile tool for importing data.

Set lets dig right in and look at the top 4 uses for the out of the box data import.  At the same time we'll discuss some of the best practices.

1. Import data for any entity from a file.
2. Import data and create a new entity and new fields
3. Import attachments
4. Special imports - Sales Force extracts and Business Contact Manager 2010 Exports


Import data for any entity from a file

This is the most widely used feature of the data import.  As a best practice, always start from downloaded template.  This will save you time and headaches.  This is available in Settings / Data Management / Templates For Data Import.

All entities are available so you can download a pre-build csv template for any entity including custom entities.

The process is very simple.  Once you download the template, use excel to add data or copy the data from other excel files.  In additional to all the column field names, the data template will have field length/type and the description of the fields.

After saving it as a .xml or .csv  use the data import wizard to import your new file. 

There are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • There is an out of the box limit of 8 MB per file
  • This will import new data and will NOT update existing data as we have nothing to match on.
  • Relationships can be imported, but there has to be a perfect match with the related entity. For example, if importing contacts, the parent customer has to match the account name exactly and there can be only one. Just like highlander.
  • You CAN import .zip, .csv, .txt, and even .zip with multiple csv files in it. The 8 MB limit applies to each individual file.
  • The duplicate detection will prevent duplicates from being created by skipping rows that trigger a duplicate detection rule.


Import Data And Create new entity and new fields

Another common use of the data import wizard is to at the same time you are import data also create new fields OR even create a new entity.  Lets use a real example.  Lets say we quickly wanted to create a new entity called Asset and at the same time import data.  We can do all of this with the import wizard.

First create an excel file with the new columns heading and the data.  Here's the sample one:

Then save this as a csv file and start the import wizard.  Follow the wizard and select the default automatic data map.  We'll be creating our own data map.

First we'll set the data import wizard to actually create a new entity.  In this case the new entity is called Asset Tracking.

From within the wizard we can then define all the columns as new fields.  All CRM data types are supported.

We can even create new relationships to other entities.  In this case, the account field should be a lookup to the account entity. This will create a one to many relationship.

The data import wizard will then proceed to first create the entity, fields, relationships, then import the data.

This can take a while especially if you are creating a number of new fields or relationships.  After this is done, remember to add the fields to the form and create the views.

A couple items to keep in mind as best practices.

  • If you are creating a high number of new fields or relationships, first create a data map so it is re-usable in case issues arise
  • Don't have any special characters in the column headings
  • Enclose the data in " if it contains commas or special characters.

Import attachments with notes

The next great feature of the data import wizard we'll discuss is importing attachments.   This is a question I have seen numerous times in the forums.   

Importing attachments works very well, but takes a few steps.   Since attachment are stored in notes and only a few fields are required, simply create a new .csv with these fields:  Title, Owner, File Name, Description, and the entity the notes/attachments are related to.  In this example we are uploading notes/attachments related to accounts.  The File Name and Document column need to have the exact file name.

Place all of the attachments specified in the .csv file in a folder called attachments.   In order to upload this to CRM we'll need to create a .zip file.  This is easily done, but selecting the attachments folder, the csv file, then right click and select send to compressed (zipped) folder.  Upload the newly created .zip file and follow the wizard.

There are a couple items to keep in mind.

  • Remember the maximum attachment size defined in the organization settings. Attachments over this size limit will fail during the import.
  • The .csv file still needs to be under 8 MBs. Attachments can be larger if the organization setting allows for larger attachments.


Special Imports - Sales Force and Business Contact Manager Exports

The last data import feature we'll discuss are the predefined data maps.  The data import wizard has a couple predefined data maps.  These are for easily importing an extract from Sales Force and from Microsoft business contact manager 2010.

Using these pre-built data maps is very straight forward.  Simply select the file and the select the appropriate data map.  However, there are a couple caveats and most deal with file size.

  • Inside the .zip file each file cannot be greater than 8 MBs
  • Split the files into smaller manageable files if needed


That's about all for today.  Any questions, feel free to post.

  • HI Alex...great post.  I am specifically intersted in trying out the imports for salesforce data maps...looks like it's limited to Contacts and Accounts?  What about activity or attachments?


  • Hi Alex, I am trying to get teh dat afrom Dynamics AX 2009 into Dynamics CRM. The error I am getting on the connector is that modifiedDateTime field does not exist on any of the tables.

    Any pointers?


  • Hi Nagalaxmi,

    There are some fields that you can not import/update such as modifiedon and createdon -- you can not update/import these two columns.  However, there is a field you can import called overridecreatedon which will set the 'created on' date.

  • Hi Marky,

    THanks!!  You can import attachments, but you will have to create your own zip file and .csv pointing to the attachment.  It is a bit complex, but doable.  The biggest item is the size limit.  YOur zip file won't be able to have large attachments due to the 8 MB limit.  If you do need to import attachments and activities I'd recomend scribe.

  • Is it possible to know when importing data in the plugin code?

    I mean if it's import operation, plugin should do something, if not other.

  • I have imported a trial set of records into an entity called premises.  The import contains address details and is directly imported using the wizard.  All works fine but when I go to documentation I get a message that a folder already exists for this record on sharepoint (when in fact it does not) if I click OK I get a message to add a location and it wants me to specify the location for each record.  This is not the way we want to do this as when a new premises record is created the documentation folder is created in the correct place when click on documentation.  Any Ideas?