Do you find that Microsoft Excel won’t open a file on your computer? If so, your file might be corrupt, or there may be an issue with your Excel app, Windows, or Mac system. We’ll show you how to get around this problem so you can view your spreadsheet data.

While the main reason a Microsoft Excel file won’t open may be that your file is corrupt, there are other causes, like the wrong extension on your file, an unresponsive external device, a problematic Excel add-in, and more.

Table of Contents
    image of microsoft excel app

    1. Make Sure You’re Using Excel to Open the File

    If you have multiple spreadsheet programs installed on your computer, chances are you’re using a non-Excel app to launch your file.

    You can fix that by forcing your system to launch your file with the real Excel app.

    1. Launch File Explorer or Finder on your computer.
    2. Right-click your spreadsheet and choose Open with > Excel.
    screenshot of opening a file using Excel

    If you don’t find Excel on the app list, select Choose another app, and you’ll see the app.

    2. Uncheck Excel’s Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) Option

    A known cause when Microsoft Excel won’t open includes the enabled DDE feature in Excel. You can turn this option off to see if that fixes your problem. Later, turning the feature back on if you want is easy.

    1. Open Excel on your computer and select Options on the left.
    2. Choose Advanced in the left sidebar.
    3. Turn off the Ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) option on the right.
    screenshot of setting ignore other applications that use dde
    1. Choose OK at the bottom of the window.
    2. Try to launch your file with Excel.

    3. Repair Your Corrupt Excel File

    Microsoft Excel includes an option that allows you to fix your faulty files and then open them with the Excel app. It’s worth using this option to resolve your issue.

    1. Launch Excel, select Open on the left, and choose Browse in the middle column.
    2. Open the folder containing your Excel file, single-click the file, select the down-arrow icon next to Open, and choose Open and Repair.
    screenshot of open and repair on an excel file
    1. Allow Excel to repair and then open your file.

    4. Make Sure the File Has the Correct Extension

    Your spreadsheet file must use an Excel-supported extension to launch the app. Your current file may be in an incorrect file format, causing issues in the app.

    Most Excel spreadsheets use either the XLS or XLSX file format. Yours can also be a CSV file, which Excel supports opening.

    If that isn’t the case with your file, change your file’s extension and see if that resolves the issue.

    1. Right-click your Excel file and choose Rename.
    2. Change the file extension to XLS or XLSX and press Enter.
    screenshot of editing an excel file extension
    1. Launch your file with Excel.

    If your file doesn’t open after changing the extension, launch the app you created your file with and use the app’s Save As or similar option to change your file’s format to XLS or XLSX.

    5. Copy Your Excel File From Your External Storage to Your Local Storage

    If you’re trying to launch an Excel file stored on an external device, such as a USB flash drive, that device’s connection with your computer might not be working, causing issues.

    In this case, copy the file from your external device to your computer, then launch the local copy of the file in your Excel app. That should resolve the issue when Microsoft Excel won’t open.

    6. Use Excel’s Office Safe Mode on Windows 10 or 11

    Excel offers various add-ins to help you get the most out of the app. Sometimes, one or more of these add-ins malfunction, causing issues with the app and your files.

    In this case, you can isolate those add-ins and launch Excel only with the bare essential files. You can do this by opening the app in Office Safe Mode. Note that this method only works on Windows PCs.

    1. Launch your PC’s Run dialog box by pressing Windows + R.
    2. Type the following in the box and press Enter:
      excel /safe.
    screenshot of running excel in safe mode
    1. Select File in Excel’s top-left corner.
    2. Choose Open on the left and select Browse in the middle column.
    screenshot of browsing to an excel file
    1. Access the folder containing your file, select the file, and choose Open at the bottom of the window.

    7. Turn Off Hardware Acceleration in Excel

    When you face issues like an Excel file not opening or an app crashing, it’s worth toggling off your app’s hardware acceleration feature to resolve your issue. Doing so ensures your app isn’t offloading its tasks on your PC’s hardware components.

    You can turn the feature back on any time you want.

    1. Launch Excel and select Options on the left.
    2. Choose Advanced in the sidebar on the left.
    3. Turn on Disable hardware graphics acceleration in the Display section on the right.
    screenshot of enabling disable hardware graphics acceleration
    1. Choose OK at the bottom of the window.
    2. Launch your file with Excel.

    8. Repair Your Microsoft Office Installation

    If your Excel file still doesn’t open, your Microsoft Office installation might be corrupt. This usually happens when a third-party program, system error, or virus modifies an Office app’s core files.

    You can fix that using Office’s built-in repair tool on your Windows computer.

    1. Open the Control Panel on your PC.
    2. Select Uninstall a program on the window that opens.
    3. Choose your Microsoft Office installation on the list and select Change at the top.
    screenshot of changing an installed program
    1. Select Yes in the User Account Control prompt.
    2. Choose Quick Repair and select Repair.
    screenshot of enabling quick repair on a file
    1. If your Excel app is still faulty, select the Online Repair option and choose Repair.

    9. Open Your Excel File in Another Spreadsheet Processor

    If your Excel file won’t open no matter what you do, use another spreadsheet program to view your file. Both Windows and Mac have multiple non-Office apps available that let you view and edit your Excel files.

    You can use a free office suite like Apache OpenOffice (Windows and Mac) or Apple Numbers (Mac) to edit your spreadsheets. This way, you don’t have to wait for the issue to be fixed to start working on your files.

    Open Problematic Excel Files on Your Computer

    There are various reasons your Excel file may not open on your machine. However, once you’ve fixed those issues with the file, the app, and your system, your file will launch just like it should, allowing you to start analyzing your data or performing other spreadsheet tasks.