PBI: When you can’t change from a live connection

First off, I want to say I never intended to start a lot of my posts about Power BI. There are plenty of experts out there and I am merely an accidental PBI Admin and advocate for our Power BI platform. So why should I be writing about a topic I’m constantly learning new things about? Well, here’s the thing: when you are in the middle of learning things and you don’t find a quick and easy answer, that may be a good time to say “hey, maybe I should blog about it”.

And I think it was Kimberly Tripp’s keynote at PASS Data Community Summit 2022 that reminded me that it’s 100% ok to write about things other people have written about. In fact, several people there mentioned this same thing. Share what you have learned – it’s quite possible you bring a different perspective that will help someone along the way. And if all else fails, you may forget the solution and years down the road google it only to find your own post. (#LifeGoals)

Rihanna with ponytail - text: "Yup thats me"

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about WHEN YOU CAN’T CHANGE FROM A LIVE CONNECTION in Power BI.

Recently, I’ve been advocating that we consolidate our reporting systems. We have a ton and with an extremely small team, it’s a huge headache to manage them all. Admin-ing reports are only supposed to be a small portion of my week-to-week tasks. (Hint: it’s not.) Plus, some of our reporting systems are just not that good. I won’t list all the different systems, but we are lucky enough to have Power BI as part of our stack and as such, I’m wanting to move as much as we can to our underutilized Power BI service. This includes our Power BI Report Server reports.

Since we needed to make some changes to some reports we had on Power BI RS, and wanted to reap some of the benefits of Power BI service with them, we decided these reports would be a good test group to move over. The changes were made in the newer version of PBI Desktop (instead of the older version of desktop we have to use with PBI RS) and we were ready to load them up to our Power BI service. This is where it got a little sticky.

Sticky buns with sticky spoon next to it.

sticky buns… mmmmmmm


When I uploaded a new report, I remembered it was going to create a “dataset” with the report. Even if the lineage showed the dataset went to a live connection to a database. (In the case of our test case reports, they were connected to a SSAS database). Note, these datasets don’t seem to actually take any space when connected to a live connection, hence my quotes.

Shows a newly created dataset when you upload a new report.

A dataset for every report? Given the number of reports we needed to move over, all with the same live connection, this didn’t make sense to me. Even if the dataset was just a passthrough. (Did I mention how I really hate unnecessary objects in my view? It eats away at me in a way I really can’t describe.)

Diagram showing current state of a dataset for each report, even when connected to 1 data source.

So I thought – “why not just create 1 live connection dataset and have all the reports in the workspace connect to that?” (We also use shared dataset workspaces, and if you are using that method, this still applies. In this case I wanted to use deployment pipelines, and as of the writing of this post, that wasn’t doable with multiple workspaces per environment .) I built my new dataset, uploaded it, and prepared to connect my report to the new one.

SCREECH. Nope. After all that, when I opened my shiny new report updated RS report in PBI Desktop, I didn’t even get the option to change the connection.

Report showing live connection

Darn it. I couldn’t switch it to the new dataset. My only option was the original live connection. I couldn’t even attempt to add another data source.

I grudgingly loaded the report back up to PBI Service and now I had to look at 2 datasets while I noodled. Blerg. (I’ll mentioned again how much I hate a cluttered view.) Technically I could delete my test case dataset, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. An idea occurred to me: let me download the newly uploaded file from the PBI Service, because logically it had created a new dataset to use when I uploaded it and the lineage showed it in the path.

I opened the report in the service, choose File–>Download this file, and then selected the “A copy of your report with a live connection to data online (.pbix)” option. (Actually I tried both, but the other way was a fail.)

Then I opened it in PBI Desktop… Meh. It looked the same.

Wait a minute! What is that at the bottom??? “Connected live to the Power BI dataset”!

I check the data source settings again under Transform data – BINGO! Now I had the option to switch the dataset from my Power BI service. Which I happily did.

After this was done, I saved and reloaded the report to PBI Service and checked the data lineage of the dataset – It was connected to the new dataset! YAY!!!!!! Since all the reports in this workspace used the same SSAS database, I could connect them all to the same singular dataset. Bonus that when it came time to setup the deployment pipeline, I only needed to change the data source rules for one dataset in each proceeding environment.

Some may say this is overly obsessive. Maybe. But when you think along the lines of maintenance or verifying data lineage, I now only needed to check 1 dataset instead of going through a whole list. That can be a timesaver when troubleshooting problems.

AND it’s prettier. AND there may be other reasons you want to change that connection and this should help along the way. AND there was another big reason I was going to list, but now I’m thinking of sticky buns again so we will just leave it right there. It’s time for lunch.

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