You can import Excel workbooks that are stored on your local machine, or in cloud storage such as OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online. We will look at the advantages of using cloud storage for your excel files. For more information on how to import Excel files into Power BI, see Get data from Excel workbook files.

What are the advantages?

Importing files from OneDrive, or SharePoint Online, is a great way to make sure the work you’re doing in Excel stays in-sync with the Power BI service. Any data you’ve loaded into your file’s model is imported into the dataset and any reports you’ve created in the file are loaded into Reports in Power BI. If you make changes to your file on OneDrive, or SharePoint Online, like add new measures, change column names, or edit visualizations, once you save, those changes will be updated in Power BI too, usually within about an hour.

When you import an Excel workbook from your personal OneDrive, any data in the workbook, like tables in worksheets and/or data that is loaded into the Excel data model and the structure of the data model, are imported into a new dataset in Power BI. Any Power View visualizations are re-created in Reports. Power BI automatically connects to the workbook on OneDrive, or SharePoint Online, about every hour to check for updates. If the workbook has changed, Power BI will refresh the dataset and reports in the Power BI service.

You can refresh on the dataset in the Power BI service. When you manually refresh, or schedule refresh, on the dataset, Power BI connects directly to the external data sources to query for updated data it then loads into the dataset. Refreshing a dataset from within Power BI does not refresh the data in the workbook on OneDrive, or SharePoint Online. 

What’s supported?

In Power BI, Refresh Now and Schedule Refresh is supported for datasets created from Power BI Desktop files imported from a local drive where Get Data/Query Editor is used to connect to and load data from any of the following data sources:

Power BI Gateway - Personal

  • All online data sources shown in Power BI Desktop’s Get Data and Query Editor.
  • All on-premises data sources shown in Power BI Desktop’s Get Data and Query Editor except for Hadoop file (HDFS) and Microsoft Exchange.

On-premises Data Gateway

Data source
Analysis Services Tabular
Analysis Services Multidimensional
SQL Server
SAP HANA
Oracle
Teradata
File
Folder
SharePoint list (on-premises)
Web
OData
IBM DB2
MySQL
Sybase
SAP BW
IBM Informix Database
ODBC
Note:

A gateway must be installed and running in order for Power BI to connect to on-premises data sources and refresh the dataset.

OneDrive or OneDrive for Business. What’s the difference?

If you have both a personal OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, it’s recommended you keep any files you want to import into Power BI in OneDrive for Business. Here’s why: You likely use two different accounts to sign into them.

Connecting to OneDrive for Business in Power BI is typically seamless because the same account you use to sign into Power BI with is often the same account used to sign into OneDrive for Business. But, with personal OneDrive, you likely sign in with a different Microsoft account.

When you sign in with your Microsoft account, be sure to select Keep me signed in. Power BI can then synchronize any updates you make in the file in Power BI Desktop with datasets in Power BI

If you make changes to your file on OneDrive that cannot be synchronized with the dataset or reports in Power BI, because your Microsoft account credentials might have changed, you’ll need to connect to and import your file again from your personal OneDrive.

Options for connecting to Excel file

When you connect to an Excel workbook in OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online, you’ll have two options on how to get what’s in your workbook into Power BI.

Import Excel data into Power BI – When you import an Excel workbook from your OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online, it works as described above.

Connect, Manage, and View Excel in Power BI – When using this option, you create a connection from Power BI right to your workbook on OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online.

When you connect to an Excel workbook this way, a dataset is not created in Power BI. However, the workbook will appear in the Power BI service under Reports with an Excel icon next to the name. Unlike with Excel Online, when you connect to your workbook from Power BI, if your workbook has connections to external data sources that load data into the Excel data model, you can setup a refresh schedule.

When you setup a refresh schedule this way, the only difference is refreshed data goes into the workbook’s data model on OneDrive, or SharePoint Online, rather than a dataset in Power BI.

How do I make sure data is loaded to the Excel data model?

When you use Power Query (Get & Transform data in Excel 2016) to connect to a data source, you have several options where to load the data. To make sure you load data into the data model, you must select the Add this data to the Data Model option in the Load To dialog box.

Note:

The images here show Excel 2016.

In Navigator, click Load To…

Or, If you click Edit in Navigator, you’ll open the Query Editor. There you can click Close & Load To….

Then in Load To, make sure you select Add this data to the Data Model.

What if I use Get External Data in Power Pivot?

No problem. Whenever you use Power Pivot to connect to and query data from an on-premises or online data source, the data is automatically loaded to the data model.

How do I schedule refresh?

When you setup a refresh schedule, Power BI will connect directly to the data sources using connection information and credentials in the dataset to query for updated data, then load the updated data into the dataset. Any visualizations in reports and dashboards based on that dataset in the Power BI service are also updated.

For details on how to setup schedule refresh, see Configure Schedule Refresh.

When things go wrong

When things go wrong, it’s usually because Power BI can’t sign into data sources, or if the dataset connects to an on-premises data source, the gateway is offline. Make sure Power BI can sign into data sources. If a password you use to sign into a data source changes, or Power BI gets signed out from a data source, be sure to try signing into your data sources again in Data Source Credentials.

Be sure to leave the Send refresh failure notification email to me checked. You’ll want to know right away if a scheduled refresh fails.

Important notes

* Refresh is not supported for OData feeds connected to and queried from Power Pivot. When using an OData feed as a data source, use Power Query.

Troubleshooting

Sometimes refreshing data may not go as expected. Typically this will be an issue connected with a gateway. Take a look at the gateway troubleshooting articles for tools and known issues.

Troubleshooting the On-premises Data Gateway

Troubleshooting the Power BI Gateway - Personal

More questions? Try the Power BI Community