How To Repair Corrupt Excel Files

MS Excel is among the most used applications in the Microsoft Office suite. It is a popular spreadsheet application businesses and individuals use for storing and managing data. It allows you to organize, visualize, format, and calculate data. 

However, Excel files sometimes become corrupt for numerous reasons, risking your important data. When the file is damaged or corrupted, you may not be able to access the file or may receive various errors. 

In this guide, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about Excel file corruption and repairing and recovering it. It also mentions the possible causes of Excel file corruption, symptoms to detect corruption, and some useful tips to prevent it. 

How to Repair Corrupt Excel Files

How to repair corrupt Excel files.

Reasons For Excel File Corruption

An Excel file may get corrupted or damaged due to different reasons. Issues related to hardware, software, or the application can cause corruption. Below, we have explained some common causes that may lead to corruption.

Excel Application or System Crash: If the system or Excel application suddenly crashes when you are working on the file, it can damage or corrupt the file. Sometimes, you may be unable to open the file and lose access to the data.

Abrupt System Shutdown: If the system is shut down abruptly due to power failure, faulty battery, or any other reason, it may result in corruption in the Excel file. 

Forcefully Closing the Excel Application: If it fails to respond due to an issue with the system hardware, you try to force close the Excel application. Force closing the application can sometimes cause corruption. 

Incompatible Add-ins: Faulty, outdated, or incompatible add-ins can damage or corrupt the Excel file. It usually happens when you install add-ins from untrusted sources.

Malware or Virus Attacks: Malware or virus can also corrupt the Excel file and make it inaccessible. It usually occurs when your system does not have an antivirus or anti-malware protection tool.

Issues with Storage Drive: Some storage media issues, such as bad sectors or file system errors, can corrupt the Excel file. Sometimes, your drive stops responding, leading to corruption.

Network Issues: Poor or unstable network connections can cause corruption. It usually happens when your Excel file is stored on a network drive.

Large-sized Excel File: Large-sized file is prone to corruption. Excel has certain workbook specifications and limits. For example, it allows 1,48,576 rows by 16,384 columns (total number of rows and columns) on a worksheet. If your file size exceeds the prescribed limits, it can lead to slow file loading or crashing. 

How To Know If Your Excel File Is Corrupted?

When the Excel file gets corrupted, it usually displays errors. However, all the error messages that appear in Excel are not due to corruption in the file. 

Various other factors can trigger the errors, like File Registry problems, compatibility problems, storage media issues, etc. So, verifying whether it is corrupted or damaged before repairing your Excel file is important. 

Below are some signs and indications to help you know if your Excel file is damaged or corrupted.

Frequent Freezing or Crashing of Microsoft Excel 

Your Excel application may frequently crash if your workbook is corrupted. When you try opening the file, you can get error messages such as Microsoft Excel not responding.

Fail to Open Excel File 

When your file gets corrupted, you may be unable to open the file. Sometimes, you can get errors such as Microsoft Excel has stopped working, Unable to read the file, or Excel cannot open the file.

Missing Data in the File

When you open a corrupted Excel workbook may not display all the data. Sometimes, formulas, fields, or other information need to be included.

Error Messages

When you try to open a corrupted Excel file, you may get various error messages.

Some common errors related to Excel file corruption are:

  • Excel is unable to read the file.
  • The file name is not valid.
  • Microsoft Excel has encountered a problem and needs to close.
  • This file is not in a recognizable format.
  • abc.xls file cannot be accessed. The file may be read-only.

Methods to Repair and Restore Excel Files

When Excel detects corruption, it automatically launches the File Recovery mode and starts repairing it. 

However, if the recovery mode fails to start, you can try the manual methods below to repair and recover the corrupt Excel workbook.

Method 1: Revert to the Earlier File Version

Auto-recover is a powerful feature in Microsoft Excel that automatically saves a version of the file you are working on. 

If you’ve enabled this feature beforehand, you can revert to the earlier version of the corrupt file.

Here are the steps:

  1. First, open your Excel file. 
  2. Locate the File button and click on the Info option.
  3. Under Manage Workbook, click on the desired file, then click the file labeled with the unsaved one. 
How to open the Manage Workbook option.
  1. Click the Restore option. 

Method 2: Delete all Unwanted Temporary Excel Files

If the AutoSave option is enabled, Excel saves all temporary files on which you are working in a temporary folder. Both temporary files and original files are saved at the same location.

When a large number of temporary files accumulate, they can create conflict with the original files. You can locate and delete all unwanted temporary files on your system. 

The default directory for the folder with MS Excel temp files is either:

C:\Documents andSettings\ApplicationData\Microsoft



Method 3: Set Calculation Option from Automatic to Manual in Excel

When the automatic option is enabled, Excel calculates entire calculations even if you make minor changes. When you have a large file with formulas, it can slow down the file loading. You can change the calculation settings from automatic to manual to avoid this.

Here are the steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Excel and go to File Menu > New.
  2. Click on Blank workbook.
  3. Click File Menu > Options.
Excel Options Menu.
  1. Go to the Formulas tab and click the Manual option under Calculation options. Click OK.
How to select Manual Workbook option.

Method 4: Save Excel File in a Compatible Format

You may only open the Excel file if the format matches the version. You can change the file format to a format supported in your Excel version. For example, if you are using the latest version of MS Excel, i.e., 2016, save the file with .xlsx or .xlsm extension instead of .xls.

Here are the steps:

  1. In Excel, navigate to the File Menu.
  2. Click on Options.
  3. In Excel options, go to the Save tab.
  4. Under Save workbooks section, click on the dropdown corresponding to “Save files in this format.
Save workbooks in Workbook format.
  1. Select the desired format and then click OK.

Method 5: Turn Off Protected View

You may fail to open the Excel file due to protected view settings. The protected view helps to protect the application from the malicious files you download from external sources, such as the internet. If you face issues when opening it downloaded from a website or received from an external source, you can try turning off Excel’s protected view settings.

Here are the steps:

  1. First, Open Microsoft Excel.
  2. Once opened, navigate to the File Menu and then click on Options.
Open the file options.
  1. Click on the Trust Center button to open the Trust Center Settings window.
How to open the Trust Center Settings.
  1. In the Trust Center Settings, click on the Protected View tab.
  2. Unselect all the options below the Protected View. Click OK.
Deselect all Protect Views.

Method 6: Check and Remove Add-ins 

Sometimes, faulty or incompatible add-ins can also lead to issues when opening Excel workbooks. So, open Excel in safe mode to check whether the add-ins are creating the problem. 

If the file opens in safe mode without error, it means some faulty add-ins are causing the issue. You can then find and remove the faulty add-in to resolve the issue.

To do this, follow these steps:

  1. First, close the Excel application.
  2. Press Windows+R to open the Run window.
The command is entered into the run command box to start Excel in safe mode.
  1. In the Run window, type excel /safe and then click OK. 
  2. Excel will open in safe mode.
  3. Open the affected Excel workbook. Check and remove the latest installed Excel Add-ins if it opens without error.
  4. In Excel, go to File Menu and then click Options.
  5. The Excel Options window will be displayed. Click Add-ins.
How to open the add-ins option.
  1. Under the Add-ins section, select the option “Disable all application Add-ins”. 
  2. Now check if the error is fixed or not. If not, then follow the next method.

Method 7: Use the Open and Repair Tool

Microsoft offers a built-in utility, named Open and Repair, in Excel to repair corrupt Excel files.

To use this utility to repair the corrupt Excel file, follow these steps:

  1. Open your Microsoft Excel.
  2. Navigate to File Menu > Open. 
  3. In the Open dialog box, click on the affected Excel file. 
  4. Click the arrow next to the Open button and click on Open and Repair from the dropdown.
  5. A dialog box will be displayed, asking you to choose one of the below three options:
    • Repair.
    • Extract Data. 
    • Cancel.
  6. You can click the Repair option to recover as much of your data as possible. Click on the Extract Data option to recover the data without formulas and values. 

Method 8: Use a Third-Party Excel File Repair Tool

If none of the above methods works, you can try a professional Excel file repair tool, such as Stellar Repair for Excel. It is an effective tool that can repair the file even in severe corruption. 

It can recover all the data from the damaged file in its original state. This DIY software has a simple-to-use interface that simplifies the repair process even for non-technical users. The software offers a preview option to see the recoverable data in the Excel file before saving. 

You can download a free trial version of the Excel repair tool to scan your file and see the preview of recoverable data. Once satisfied with the results, you can purchase the activation key to save the repaired file. 

Tips to Prevent Corruption in Excel Files

After repairing the Excel file, you cannot be sure it will not happen again. Therefore, you can take some preventive measures (given below) to prevent corruption in the future. 

  • Ensure your system has decent hardware configuration and is installed with updated applications.
  • Always use a reliable, uninterrupted power supply/UPS to avoid sudden power failure.
  • Regularly check your laptop battery. It should not be defective.
  • You should download compatible add-ins and use a trustable source, such as the Microsoft Store, to install any add-ins.
  • Make sure your system’s hard drive is healthy.
  • Download the latest Antivirus or Anti-malware software on your system/laptop to prevent viruses and other malicious attacks.
  • Large-sized Excel files are highly prone to corruption. So, keep a tab on your file size and ensure you follow the specifications and limits defined by Microsoft for Excel file size. 


In this guide, we have described the detailed causes of corruption in Excel files and the signs to identify corruption in files. You can try the above troubleshooting methods to repair and restore the corrupt file. The Open and Repair utility can repair the damaged file. 

However, this tool may not provide the expected outcomes in specific scenarios. You can opt for a more advanced repair tool, like Stellar Repair for Excel

It can repair even severely corrupted Excel files and recover all the data from the damaged file without changing its original formatting. The tool is compatible with all Windows operating systems, including Windows 11.