Troubleshoot Microsoft SQL Server Error Code 3241


The users of MS SQL Server Database may encounter one of the common errors while trying to restore or attach the database from the backup file in the SQL Server Management Studio. The Error is commonly known as Error code 3241, which displays the following error message:

The media family on device ‘backupfile.bak’ is incorrectly formed. SQL Server cannot process this media family. RESTORE HEADERONLY is terminating abnormally. (Microsoft SQL Server, Error: 3241)

Due to the error mentioned above, users may not be able to complete the restore process of the database. This content has been aimed to discuss about the same error and possible approach to overcome Microsoft SQL Server Error 3241.

Reasons for the Occurrence of the Error

  • The main reason behind the error is when user of SQL Server database tries to restore the database from the backup that has been created on newer version of the SQL Server to the previous versions of the SQL Server. It is because of the fact that restoration of the database is only possible when the backup used was created on the same or later version of SQL Server.
  • Another reason that leads to the error is when there is no necessary access permission provided to the SQL Backup agent service. In order to restore the database using backup file stored across the network, the SQL backup agent service needs to have read permission to access the folder containing backup file. If there is no such right, restore process may fail.
  • It is also possible that the backup file used for restoring the SQL Server database is corrupted due to the file being loaded using FTP Text Mode.

How to troubleshoot the SQL Server Error 3241

Some of the methods that can be used to overcome the issue in restoring database associated with 3241 Error code are as follows:

  • Since the SQL Server has limitation that allows restore using backup file of same version of SQL Server or the later versions, we need to ensure that the version we are using for restore process is not outdated. We can check the version of the SQL Server by using the command ‘Select @@Version’ in the SQL Query window. If the version is same or later version, then only restore process is possible. Or else, upgrade the database to the same/newer version.
  • TIP: Since the error is mostly encountered while user tries to restore from SQL 2003 to SQL 2005, user can try to run SQL Server 2008 express install application and specify the Name instance with another name during Name Instance configuration. Then, create the database, its tables and try to restore again to see if it works.

  • Access permissions needs to be granted to perform the backup and restore using SQL Backup Agent Service. It is the service that SQL backup Pro uses to perform backup and restore purpose. User account used to log on the backup Agent service needs to be specified while installing server components on SQL server instance. Membership of the SQL Server sysadmin fixed server role is required for connecting to SQL server. Permissions to access some specific folders and the network location from where backup and restore will be done.
  • Since the backup file may be corrupted if it has been uploaded using FTP text mode, users of the SQL Server Database needs to upload the backup file for restoration of database using FTP in Binary mode. However, if the discussed method fails to fix the corrupted backup file then you can take the help of third party SQL backup repair tool.


In the content, we have discussed about the Microsoft SQL Server Error 3241 associated with SQL Server when user is unable to restore the database due to many reasons. The possible solutions to resolve the same error has been included to guide the users.