Using the Import Tool in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Update Existing Records

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By Mike Smith, The Resource Group

Keeping a customer database up-to-date can be a time-consuming, tedious task.  While customer records can be individually opened and modified within Dynamics CRM, this is a very manual process which can consume many hours and is error prone due to individual record updates.

One of the features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 is the ability to use the included import tool to actually update records in CRM, not just to import new records.  This is great for database updating projects such as reformatting phone numbers or updating state information from ‘Washington’ to ‘WA’ so that all records have consistent formatting.  Or it can also be used if you start using a new custom field and you want to go back and populate the field on all the records that were created prior to the change.

How to use the Import Tool in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Update Existing Records:

In this example, I no longer want my Contacts in CRM to receive faxes.  Therefore, I’m using the import tool to update all of the records where I am the Owner to no longer allow faxes.  I will be using Advanced Find to find a subset of Contacts, export, make my necessary updates, and then import the changes into CRM to update the effected records.

To carry this out, perform the steps below:

  1. As a precautionary measure, take the necessary back-ups of the CRM databases.
  2. In CRM, select the record entity you want to update, in this case Contacts.
  3. Click on Advanced Find and either select an existing view or select [new] and set-up the necessary filtering criteria to identify the subset of records needed.
    In this example, my advanced find view is pulling all contacts where the “Do not allow Faxes” field equals “Allow” and I am the owner.  I will be updating all of these to “Do Not Allow”.
  4. Select Edit Columns and add/remove columns as needed for the attributes to be updated.  In the example, I add “Do not allow Faxes” and “Owner” columns and remove “Business Phone” as it will not be used.
  5. With the filtering and columns set-up, select Find.  The subset can then be verified and any filtering or column changes can be performed until the desired results are obtained.
  6. Click the Export to an Excel Worksheet button.
  7. Select Dynamic Worksheet and then Export.
  8. Once the file is open in Excel, Unhide the columns.  This will expose the GUID of the entity you are working with. Insert a column to the left of column A, Cut and Paste the GUID column in the newly created A column. Change the (entityid) column header to the actual entity name, in this case “Contact”.
    The file should look like this with the exposed GUID:

  10. Make the necessary changes to the attribute columns.  In the example, I’m updating “Do not allow Faxes” from Allow to Do Not Allow.  Once the updates are entered, save the worksheet as a CSV file.
  11. To import the file, go to Settings > Data Management > Imports.  Create a new import, browse to the CSV file, and set delimiters.  If you receive a “Columns Empty” error, open the file, select and delete the columns to the right of the data to be imported, save and try the upload again.
    When done correctly, CRM should be able to automatically map the fields and an “Enrich data by updating existing records” button should appear in the window as you progress through the import wizard.  To update existing records, make sure the “Enrich data by updating existing records” checkbox is checked:


  13. Continue through the import until completion.
  14. Use Advanced Find and record details to confirm the proper update:

*Note: Look-up attributes cannot be updated using this procedure.

Using the import tool in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to update existing records reduces manual data entry, saves time, and helps you maintain a clean and consitent database.  Having accurate information about your customers and prospective customers is critical in the success of your business. 

Learn more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM by attending a free seminar on Microsoft Dynamics CRM or contact The Resource Group at 425-277-4760.

By Mike Smith, The Resource Group – Seattle, Washington Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

6 thoughts on “Using the Import Tool in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Update Existing Records”

  1. How can I do the same in CRM2011? We have a database with a little over 5000 contacs, and the phone numers are in varying formats (eg: 12345678, 123 45 678, 12 34 56 78 etc.). I need to change all the phone numbers to the format 12345678 or +4712345678

  2. *Note: Look-up attributes cannot be updated using this procedure

    Is there any kind of work around or another way to update look up attributes? Do you know of another tool that would allow this?

    1. I have the same question. What if you used the contact record GUID to update the "Primary Contact" record, somehow, to ensure you're referencing the correct Contact Record, for instance?

  3. Great article Mike!
    What are the prerequisites in terms of latest installed rollup update to support this functionality?

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