How to Open a Large CSV File

Excel is a powerful tool but it has its limitations. For example, it can only display a maximum of 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns. Therefore, whether you are opening an Excel sheet or a CSV file, the limit remains the same. 

What if you want to open a large CSV file with more than 1,048,576 rows? You can do this in various ways. In this article, I will guide you on how you can open a big CSV file with or without Excel. If you are looking for a way to get past the row limit with an Excel file then read this other guide. 

What is a CSV File?

A CSV (Comma-Separated Values) file is a plain-text format used to store tabular data, such as spreadsheets or databases. Each line represents a row, and values within each row are separated by commas. This format enables easy exchange and storage of structured data, commonly used in spreadsheet applications and data manipulation tasks.

What is the maximum row limit for a CSV file?

The row limit for a CSV file depends on factors like system resources and software limitations. Generally, there is no limit inherent to the CSV format itself

However, practical considerations such as available memory or specific software constraints may impact the ability to handle very large files. For example, the maximum row limit for Excel is 1,048,576, while for Google Sheets it’s 384,615. 

Users often encounter optimal performance with CSV files containing thousands to millions of rows, depending on their system capabilities.

5 Ways to Open a Large CSV File

Now that you know there is no strict row limit for a CSV file, let’s look at various ways you can handle a large CSV file.

Use Power Query in Excel

The easiest way to open a large CSV file is by using the Excel Power Query. Let’s dive straight into the steps.

1. Launch your Excel program

2. Click on the data tab 

3. Click on Get Data> From File then choose Text/CSV (These steps may vary depending on the Excel version that you are using. For others the Steps will be Data Tab> New Query> From File> From CSV)

How to load a large CSV file in Excel using Power Query

4. Choose your CSV file using the file explorer

5. Click “load to” on the next screen

6. Then Select PivotTable Report

Viola all your rows in the CSV file will be displayed. Note that if you do not find the option PivotTable report it means that your Excel version is not supported. Try the next method. If you select Table then only the first 1,048,576 rows will be loaded

Use online tool

You can use an online CSV viewer to open a big CSV file. There are many available options to choose from depending on how you want to interact with the data. Some tools allow you to filter, sort, and even convert it to other file formats.  For Example, RowShare allows users to view a CSV file with more than 7 Million rows.

Use a Text Editor

Visual Studio code displaying CSV file data

You can use advanced Text editors like Visual Studio and Notepad++ to open your large CSV file. However, notepads open the CSV files in plain text which makes it difficult to read. For Visual Studio, you can use an extension that can help you handle the CSV files. Some extensions may add useful features such as sorting filtering and formatting. In case you need to find a specific text or value then you can use the find feature by pressing CTRL+ F

Convert the CSV to SQL

Another clever way to open large CSV files is by converting them to SQL. You can use an online tool to convert CSV to SQL. SQL can load an unlimited number of rows and columns in a table. Thus regardless of your CSV rows, they will all fit into the SQL database. 

Once you have the SQL file you can load it into server programs such as Xamp, Wamp, Lamp, or Mamp. Next, click on import then select your files. It will take some time depending on the size of your SQL file. Once the process is done, you will see how many rows have been loaded. You can write a simple script to interact with the data in your database. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I open a CSV file that is too large?

To open a large CSV file, consider using text editors like Notepad++ or specialized software like CSVExplorer. Alternatively, you can import it into a database or use programming languages like Python with libraries like Pandas.

How do I open a 2GB CSV file in Excel?

Excel has limitations with large files. Instead, use tools like Power Query, import data in chunks, or consider database solutions. For smoother handling, use specialized software designed for large datasets.

What is the better way to read the large CSV file?

Optimal methods include using programming languages (Python with Pandas), databases (SQL), or specialized tools (CSVKit, Dask) to efficiently read and manipulate large CSV files without overwhelming system resources.

How do I convert a large CSV file to Excel?

Convert large CSV files to Excel using tools like Power Query in Excel, Python with Pandas, or dedicated CSV-to-Excel converters. These methods allow for the efficient handling of large datasets during conversion.

How do I open a 6GB CSV file?

Opening a 6GB CSV file may overwhelm traditional applications. Use text editors like Notepad++, specialized software (CSVExplorer), or programming languages (Python with Pandas) to handle large files efficiently.

What is the size limit for CSV files in Excel?

Excel has a row limit of around 1,048,576 rows and a column limit of 16,384 columns. The practical size limit for a CSV file in Excel depends on these constraints, and exceeding them may lead to performance issues or data truncation.

Final Thoughts

CSV files do not have a set row and column limit. But most tools that can be used to open this file format have their limits. This makes it difficult to load all the data. Luckily, with the tips that we have discussed above, you can load any size of CSV file.  

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