Power BI DirectQuery vs. Import: Choosing the Right Data Connection

Power BI offers two primary data connection options: DirectQuery and Import. These connection modes determine how data is accessed and processed in Power BI reports. In this blog, we will explore the differences between DirectQuery and Import, and help you make an informed decision about choosing the right data connection for your Power BI projects. Join us as we delve into the features, advantages, and considerations of each connection mode, empowering you to optimize your data retrieval and analysis process.

Understanding Power BI DirectQuery:

Power BI DirectQuery is a data connection mode that allows you to connect directly to the data source in real-time. Here are key aspects of DirectQuery:

  1. Real-time Data: DirectQuery retrieves data directly from the source, ensuring that the displayed results are always up-to-date.
  2. Query Performance: DirectQuery performs queries against the data source, leveraging the underlying database engine’s processing power. This enables efficient execution of complex queries.
  3. Large Data Sets: DirectQuery is suitable for large data sets that may exceed the memory limitations of Power BI’s import model.

Exploring Power BI Import:

Power BI Import is a data connection mode where data is imported into the Power BI model. Consider the following aspects of Import:

  1. In-memory Data: Import loads and stores data directly in the Power BI model, allowing for quick data retrieval and analysis.
  2. Data Transformation: Import enables data transformation and modeling capabilities within Power BI, such as adding calculated columns and measures.
  3. Disconnected Analysis: Import mode allows users to work offline or in scenarios where real-time data access is not necessary.

Choosing the Right Data Connection:

When deciding between DirectQuery and Import, consider the following factors:

  1. Data Volume: If your dataset is large and requires real-time access, DirectQuery is suitable. For smaller datasets or scenarios where offline access is needed, Import is a better choice.
  2. Performance Requirements: Assess the performance requirements of your reports. DirectQuery excels in scenarios where real-time analysis and querying capabilities are critical. Import provides faster response times for data exploration and analysis.
  3. Data Source Limitations: Some data sources may not support DirectQuery or have limitations on the types of queries that can be performed. Check the compatibility of your data source with DirectQuery before making a decision.

Considerations and Best Practices:

Consider the following best practices to optimize your data connections in Power BI:

  1. Data Refresh: Understand the data refresh capabilities of DirectQuery and Import. DirectQuery requires real-time data updates, while Import requires scheduled or manual refreshes.
  2. Data Modeling: Leverage the data modeling capabilities in Import mode to enhance data structure and performance. Utilize relationships, calculated columns, and measures to create meaningful insights.
  3. Mixed Connection Modes: Power BI allows for mixed connection modes within a single report. This enables combining DirectQuery and Import connections to leverage the advantages of both modes.


Choosing the right data connection mode, whether DirectQuery or Import, is crucial for optimizing your Power BI projects. By understanding the features, advantages, and considerations of each mode, you can make an informed decision based on your data volume, performance requirements, and data source limitations. Leverage the power of DirectQuery for real-time access and analysis or harness the in-memory capabilities of Import for faster data exploration and modeling. With the right data connection, you can unleash the full potential of Power BI and drive meaningful insights from your data.

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