Learn how to automatically refresh Power BI datasets. You can schedule specific refresh times using powerbi.com or you can setup dynamic refreshes based on events using Microsoft Power Automate. We explore multiple ways of how to refresh Power BI automatically.
Automatically Refreshing Power BI Reports Requires Paid Licensing
Setting up Power BI to automatically refresh data from a data source requires a paid Pro or Premium subscription.
If you work for a larger organization, you may need to request a Pro or Premium before you are able to schedule an automated report refresh. Adding a paid licensing tier to your Microsoft 365 account is a fairly quick task.
Pro licensing currently costs $10 per month and Premium Per User is currently $20 per user. Microsoft updates their pricing structures regularly. Please refer to their official Power BI pricing page for the most up to date pricing.
The two pricing tiers differ in that they allow different maximum amount of refreshes per day.
- Power BI Pro – Maximum of 8 automatic refreshes per day
- Power BI Premium – Maximum 48 automatic refreshes per day
How to Setup an Automatic Refresh Schedule in Power BI
Follow these steps to establish an automatic refresh in Microsoft Power BI
1.) Publish a Power BI Report to powerbi.com
When your report is ready to be scheduled, publish it from Power BI Desktop. This pushes it from design mode on the desktop app to the Power BI Cloud Service where you can manage refresh schedules.
The Publish button is found in the top right corner of Power BI Desktop. You will be required to login with your company or Microsoft account.
2.) Navigate to www.powerbi.com
Powerbi.com is the website that hosts your Power BI reports in the cloud. It’s secured and backed by Microsoft Azure Cloud technology.
When you first publish a report it is placed in My Workspace. This is the home of all reports that you publish. They can later be moved around to other shared workspaces.
The My Workspaces button is in the bottom left of the Power BI webpage.
Note: Microsoft makes user interface changes to Power BI very often, so this button may change locations and the overall design of the page may look slightly different.
Each Power BI Report is made up of two files. A Report and a Datasource.
Mouse over to the right of the Data Source and click on Schedule Refresh
3.) Setup a Refresh Schedule
The next screen that you will need to adjust are the Dataset Settings.
At the bottom of the screenshot, there is a Refresh section.
The Credentials and Gateway Connections section setup will depend on where the data you are connecting to is stored. If your data is stored in a cloud service like SharePoint or Microsoft OneDrive, you will only need to setup login credentials.
Note: If your data is stored on a local network like a network shared folder, or a locally hosted company database you will need to setup a Power BI Gateway Gateways enable PowerBI.com to access data that is not already in a cloud service.
From the Dataset Settings page you can toggle automatic refreshes on.
And you can add refresh times by clicking on Add Another Time.
Power BI requires users to define specific times of day that they want their refresh to occur. A Power BI Pro license will allow you to add 8 times of day, while a Premium or Premium Per User License will allow you to add up to 48 times during a day.
Once you finish adding times of day that you want the report to refresh, click Apply at the bottom of the page and your Power BI refresh schedule will be saved.
Power BI refresh schedules are data source specific. This means that if you have multiple reports running off of multiple data sources, each one will need to have a refresh schedule defined.
Automating Power BI Data Refreshes When Source Files Update
There is a second option to establishing automated refreshes in Power BI using Microsoft Power Automate Flows. This method is more dynamic and tells Power BI to refresh the data set whenever the source data is updated.
You are still limited to 8 or 48 refreshes a day based on the licensing tier that your account has. Power Automate is included in the most common E3 and E5 enterprise licenses for Microsoft 365. If you have the desktop Microsoft Office Applications already installed on your computer, chances are that you also have a license to user Power Automate.
To Access Power Automate, go to make.powerautomate.com
You have a few different options when setting up a Power Automate Flow to automatically update a Power BI dataset.
- Automated Cloud Flow – This will kick off a refresh when an event happens. For example, you could set Power BI to refresh whenever you receive an e-mail or if a SharePoint file is updated.
- Scheduled Cloud Flow – This is similar to the section above, where you can setup a specific schedule to update a Power BI data source based on the time of day. It can be easier to setup 48 dynamic refreshes this way instead of having to add each row one at a time.
- Describe it to Design It – By far the easiest way to dynamically schedule a Power BI Refresh. This method uses AI and Chat GPT to convert a text prompt into an actionable workflow.
In our example Below, we click on Create and choose Describe it to Design It for an AI powered workflow.
Once you select Describe it to Design It, you will be shown a ChatGPT Style text prompt box. Type in the task that you’re trying to achieve.
In our case, we ask it to “Refresh a Power BI dataset when a SharePoint file is update”
This is a very common and powerful Power Automate use case. You can ask your business users to run reports and drop them in a shared SharePoint folder. Technically, you could also use Power Automate Desktop or RPA to completely automate the process of running reports out of legacy systems and save them SharePoint that then feeds into an automation flow like this one.
After you set the initial prompt, Power Automate will suggest an automated workflow. Click through the Next buttons on the wizard, and it will walk you through establishing the automation.
You will need to point to a specific folder in SharePoint after logging in with your Microsoft account and you will have to point it to a specific Power BI data set that you have access to.
Note: If you are working with enterprise level datasets, you may want to work with your IT team to setup a Service Account or Azure Active Directory App Authentication. Service Accounts are commonly used to avoid workflows and automations breaking when you have to update your own personal Microsoft 365 account. Changing your password every few months will break your automated Power BI dataset update and require you to re-login.
Setting Up Power BI to Direct Query Datasets
Going beyond automated refreshes, Power BI also supports the capability to direct query data. Point Power BI to a database or data warehouse and it will execute queries on demand against live data. This is a primary use case of using Power BI, but has to be used with caution.
Sending a query from powerbi.com to a database might slow down the database or it might take longer to refresh a data source than users would like. Schedule refreshes to have near real time data may be a better option.
Power BI works better when you can automate data refreshes. Business users and managers will see the benefit of dashboards and reports when they realize that they can get the data they want on demand and always have it up to date.
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