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Data CleansingImport Records to Salesforce

Differences between the Import Wizard and the Data Loader

By June 22, 2020December 28th, 2020No Comments

I’ll admit it, when I first cut my teeth as a Trailblazer, importing records to Salesforce scared the hell out of me. With so many pre-requisites to consider depending on the import method, I felt like burying my head in the sand whenever anyone sent me records to import.  Had I known the difference between the Salesforce Import Wizard and the Salesforce Data Loader, I’d have saved myself a whole lot of frustration. So, in a bid to ‘do my bit’ for my fellow trailblazers, I’ll share the differences, along with the pre-requisites so that you can avoid the (many) mistakes that I made.

Salesforce Data Import Wizard

As implied by the name, the Salesforce-native, Data Import Wizard is a ‘wizard’ that walks you through the process of importing records to Salesforce in a step-by-step fashion. You can use the wizard to import up to 50,000 standard objects (leads, contacts, accounts, campaign members etc.,) and some custom objects.


  • Supports import from any file in CSV format, and records directly from ACT!
  • The import wizard is native to Salesforce and as such, doesn’t require any installation.
  • It’s really easy to use.
  • Available in Salesforce Classic and Lightning Experience.


  • Has the potential to create duplicates unless the CSV is prepared properly prior to import.
  • Depending on the amount of data that you’re importing, the .CSV prep can be a time-consuming task. (deduping, standardizing data, fixing typos etc.,)
  • Doesn’t offer the ability to delete records.
  • Not available for organizations using
  • Only one import job can be run at a time. Don’t be tempted to try running multiple jobs in different browser windows – it won’t work!
  • The wizard only works with Chrome V29+, Firefox V23+, Safari 5+, and Internet Explorer V9+ (this browser does not support the ability to drag and drop the CSV into the wizard)
  • Size limits apply: Records cannot exceed 400KB and can only import up to 90 fields per record.
  • Can’t be used to bulk update missing field values

Data Loader for Salesforce

It’s no secret, I am a huge fan of the Data Loader. When I heard it was integrated with Salesforce, I was thrilled. However, my joy came to an abrupt end when I learnt, that to use it, I’d need to install the Data Loader on my workstation. I’d previously grown to love how easy it was to access via the cloud-based app. But I guess it’s a small price to pay for having access to all that the Data Loader has to offer, for free! Now that, that’s off of my chest,  let’s talk about when you might want to use the Data Loader for Salesforce.

The Data Loader offers a lot more functionality than the Data Import Wizard. Going beyond the task of importing records to Salesforce, you can update records that already exist in Salesforce (e.g.: Bulk append field data), bulk delete records, and export records.  It’s definitely the go-to option for when you need to import and/or update record field values (please don’t try to update pre-existing records with the Import Wizard – it will only end in tears!)


  • Supports all objects including custom objects
  • You can mass update missing field values
  • Auto-mapping of header names to Salesforce fields
  • Supports large imports (up to 5,000,000 records)
  • Available in both Classic and Lightning Experience
  • Includes scheduling functionality
  • Bulk delete records
  • Bulk export records
  • Available for both MAC and Windows
  • The success/error file that is generated when a task is completed offers more information, making it easier to spot check to verify that it’s worked


  • You need to install it on your workstation
  • Only available for orgs using Enterprise, Performance, Unlimited, Developer and
  • Has the potential to create duplicates unless the CSV is prepared properly prior to import
  • Like the Data Import Wizard, the .CSV prep can be a time-consuming task. (deduping, standardizing data, fixing typos etc.,)


There is no denying, both the Import Wizard and the Data Loader offer robust capabilities for importing records to Salesforce.  If I had to choose between the two, Data Loader is definitely a more mature option in terms of the functionality that it offers. The added ability of being able to mass append fields for records already in Salesforce and delete records that are no longer required in Salesforce make it a hands down winner for me.

That being said, between deduplicating and normalizing the data, both methods can be time-consuming, especially so for large imports.  There are several 3rd party vendors that offer the best of both worlds, a cloud-based importer and ability to dedupe data on the fly.  DataGroomr’s Importr tool is one of these.  It is unique in its simplicity.  By using machine learning to detect duplicates, it requires no set-up or configuration.  If you are in a pinch, check it out.

Steven Pogrebivsky

Steve Pogrebivsky has founded multiple successful startups and is an expert in data and content management systems with over 25 years of experience. Previously, he co-founded and was the CEO of MetaVis Technologies, which built tools for Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce and other cloud-based information systems. MetaVis was acquired by Metalogix in 2015. Before MetaVis, Steve founded several other technology companies, including Stelex Corporation which provided compliance and technical solutions to FDA-regulated organizations.