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Differences between ODBC and OLEDB

Updated Sep 28, 2023

In this article, we will learn what is ODBC and what is OLEDB and the major differences between them.

What is OLEDB?

OLEDB, or Object Linking and Embedding, Database, is an Application Programming Interface (API) developed by Microsoft. It serves as a bridge between applications and various data sources, enabling seamless data access. With OLEDB, you can connect to a wide range of data sources through specific providers. For instance, there are OLEDB providers designed for SQL Server, Oracle, and MS Access, among others.

OLEDB made its debut when ODBC was around version 3.0, positioning itself as the younger sibling in the data access realm.

What is ODBC?

ODBC, or Open Database Connectivity, is a standardized API for accessing different Database Management Systems (DBMS). It offers an independent interface that allows applications to communicate with databases, irrespective of the specific DBMS or operating system. Initially developed by Microsoft and Simba Technologies, ODBC has evolved to include support for various data sources beyond traditional relational databases. You can now use ODBC to connect to text files, spreadsheets, NoSQL databases like MongoDB, and cloud-based data stores.

Due to its earlier inception, ODBC boasts a more extensive array of drivers for diverse data sources.

Key Differences Between OLEDB and ODBC

Database Support

Both OLEDB and ODBC can access both relational and non-relational data sources. However, ODBC surpasses OLEDB in terms of the number of available drivers. To bridge this gap, Microsoft introduced the OLE DB Provider for ODBC, which is primarily intended for use with ActiveX Data Objects (ADO). If you're still working with ADO, this provider may be the default choice. Otherwise, if there's no OLEDB provider for your data source, you might prefer ODBC. It's essential to note that ADO is distinct from ADO.NET.

Platform Support

OLEDB is primarily designed for the Windows platform and relies on the Component Object Model (COM), which is unavailable on other operating systems. In contrast, ODBC enjoys cross-platform support, making it compatible with Windows, Linux, Mac, and UNIX. Both OLEDB and ODBC cater to 32-bit and 64-bit architectures.

Product Support

As of .NET 6, Microsoft maintains both OLEDB and ODBC, and both are available in preview for .NET 7. If you are working with SQL databases, ODBC may be the preferred choice since the last SQL release supporting OLEDB was in 2012. This shift in Microsoft's strategy might have surprised some users, especially those who clung to ODBC for an extended period. The growing compatibility of ODBC with various drivers played a pivotal role in Microsoft's decision.


OLEDB and ODBC are distinct APIs designed for different types of data sources. Some argue that ODBC is more specific and straightforward, while OLEDB is considered overly generic and complex. The decline of OLEDB support for SQL databases and the expanding compatibility of ODBC drivers have tilted the balance in favor of the latter.