6 Solutions When We Cannot Open Excel File - Compute Expert

6 Solutions When We Cannot Open Excel File

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In this tutorial, you will learn applicable solutions when you encounter an excel file that is corrupt and cannot be opened. Excel has become a staple in our daily jobs and takes an important part in our work process. When we cannot open excel file because of one thing or another, that can make us panic. Hopefully, one of the tips given here can help you to solve that problem!

Why do We Need to Learn What to Do When We Cannot Open xlsx File?

Have you ever been in a situation where you cannot open excel file during your work? What do you feel when that happened?

Spreadsheet tool has often helped most of us in the work that we do. Its capability to save and process data is dependable and can make our work easier to do. Because of that, we often make and update various spreadsheet files that contain the process and results of our daily work.

But, sometimes, bad things happen such as when we want to open our file and our access is denied. This can be a nightmare because all of our hard work results can be lost and become unretrievable. As a result, we need to restart all of our work processes from the very beginning. This, of course, is very annoying when it happens to us.

As an impact illustration when it happens at work, imagine we process data for the report of an important company project. The project has been run for weeks and the data and its processing are saved on our laptop.

However, when we want to report the project progress with spreadsheet data to our supervisor, the spreadsheet just cannot be opened. It is a bad situation because that might mean we lose all data we have inputted and the processing inside it. Things are worse if we don’t have a backup file to anticipate the problem. It will be hard to restart the project. This most probably causes our boss to be angry and the project becomes a total failure.

For that, it is better you understand various solutions that can be implemented when you cannot open excel file. The knowledge can make you calmer and potentially save your work results. It needs to be learned especially if you often use spreadsheets in your daily work.

What is the Event When You Cannot Open Excel File?

The event when you cannot open excel file is a situation where your spreadsheet seems broken and its contents are inaccessible. Usually, it happens when you make a mistake in saving or changing the property of the file. If you know the cause, then it should be easier for you to fix your spreadsheet according to your specific condition.

How do We Do Something to a Corrupted Excel File?

The following will explain what to do when we cannot open excel file, whatever your excel version is. There are 6 universal solutions that will be explained here. See and try them one by one to know which is the most appropriate to solve your problem.

Solution 1: Move It to a Local Folder

Sometimes, the source of the problem is because your file is placed in an error local network or server. For that, try to move it to your local folder first then try to open it again. If the problem still persists, see the following method.

Solution 2: Check and Change Extension

Probably excel cannot access the file because the extension is not valid? Excel version 2003 below has the preference of xls extension while 2007 above has xlsx extension (You can try both of them if you want). Probably, you unintentionally change your spreadsheet extension which causes the error when you want to open it. To make sure if this is the case, do these steps.
  1. Open the navigation program on your computer and direct it to where your error spreadsheet is located

  2. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 2-1

  3. Check whether its extension is already correct (xls or xlsx or others if it is a special spreadsheet)

  4. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 2-2

  5. If it isn’t correct, immediately right-click above it and change the extension so it becomes right again

  6. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 2-3

  7. Try to open it

Solution 3: Disable the Automatic Calculation

Sometimes, a spreadsheet can only be opened when its calculation option is changed to manual first. To check whether this solution is the right one for you, try these steps.
  1. Open your spreadsheet program
  2. Go to the Formula tab then click Calculation Options

  3. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 3-2

  4. Click the Manual option

  5. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 3-3

  6. Try to open your file again from the spreadsheet program screen

Solution 4: Open and Repair (For Windows)

Try this solution if you still cannot open excel file even after trying all the methods above. Unfortunately, this solution is only available on Windows and not available on Mac. About this method, here is the explanation of how to implement it.
  1. Open your spreadsheet program
  2. Click File then click Open

  3. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 4-2

  4. Navigate the dialog box screen to where your file is. Then highlight it

  5. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 4-3

  6. Click the dropdown from your Open button

  7. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 4-4

  8. Click the Open and Repair option

  9. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 4-5

  10. Choose Repair on the dialog box which shows up. If you tried Repair before but it didn’t work and you just want to take the data, click Extract Data

  11. Cannot Open Excel File - Screenshot of Step 4-6

Solution 5: Try to Find and Open the Auto Recovery File

Try this solution if you have tried all the methods above but you still cannot open excel file. This method tries to find out whether there is a backup saved by excel so it can replace your file. Of course, there might be some part of your work that hasn’t been saved yet even if there is a backup. But, at least, you don’t have to start your work from the very beginning again.

To know whether you have a backup, navigate to this place in your computer:

Windows: C:\Users\(username)\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles
Mac: Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery

Try to check whether there is a back up for your problem file there. If there is, congratulations! If there isn’t, try this last method.

Solution 6: Use a Third-Party Tool to Fix It

There are many third-party tool options that are made to help this problem. You can try to check it online and determine which is the best choice for you. Usually, this kind of program has a price so make sure you choose the best program according to your need.


If you cannot open excel file, try those methods above. Can they solve your problem? Hopefully, one of them is the right solution for you!

Additional Note

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To anticipate the time when you cannot open excel file, you may need to do these:
  • Ensure to always have a backup for each of your important work in this software
  • Ensure your computer’s anti-virus has protected your computer optimally. Sometimes, viruses are the main reason why you cannot open excel file on your computer

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