How to Fix Excel Cannot Open the File

How to Fix Excel Cannot Open the File?

Excel file corruption is a common issue that may occur due to several reasons. When you try to open a corrupt or damaged Excel file, the MS Excel usually displays the following error message, “Excel cannot open the file ‘filename.xlsx/xls’ because the file format or file extension is not valid.’ 


The error may appear in any Excel version in Office 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007, and 2003. In this blog, we discussed the reasons that may lead to “Excel cannot open the file…” error and solutions to fix the error and access the inaccessible Excel file in Windows. 

Reasons for Excel Cannot Open the File Error

The error may occur due to several reasons which are as follows,

  1. Compatibility issue

If the Excel file was created in a newer MS Excel version or program, there could be a compatibility issue with earlier versions, which may lead to Excel cannot open the file error. 

  1. Excel file is corrupt or damaged

Excel file corruption may occur due to program crash, system crash, abrupt shutdown, force close Excel while a file is open, and virus or malware intrusion. In such a case, you must repair the Excel file by using a reliable Excel repair software such as Stellar Repair for Excel.  

  1. Network issue if the file is stored on Network Drive

If you are trying to access the Excel file from a network drive, the error may appear if the connection is not stable. 

  1. Excel file is affected by bad sectors or file system errors on the drive

Bad sectors on the drive can also damage the Excel file. Such a file when accessed may display the error – Excel cannot open the file. 

  1. Excel file name contains special characters

While naming an Excel file, if created on another platform, do not use special characters such as \ / ? : * ” > < |. If the Excel file you are trying to open contains special characters, MS Excel may fail to open the file.

  1. Damaged MS Office installation

Lastly, damage to the MS Office installation directory or registry files can also lead to this error.

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Solutions to Fix Excel Cannot Open a File Error

Following are a few troubleshooting methods that may help you resolve the error in MS Excel. However, if these methods fail, use Stellar Repair for Excel to repair the Excel file and save your lost data in a new Excel file. The software repairs even a severely corrupt Excel file while preserving the worksheet properties such as Freeze panes, gridlines, split, formula bar, etc. It repairs both XLS/XLSX files and is compatible with MS Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007, & 2003.

Method 1: Rename the Excel File

Try to rename the Excel file to anything short, such as MyFile.xlsx. It doesn’t contain any special characters. Then try to open the Excel file again. If the error persists, move to the next method. 

Method 2: Change the Excel File Extension

Sometimes, the error occurs due to unrecognized or unsupported file extension. In such a case, follow these steps to rename the file extension and then try to open the file.  

  • Open File Explorer and go to ‘View’ 
  • Then enable the ‘File Name Extension’ checkbox. This will display the Excel file extension
  • Right-click on the Excel file and choose ‘Rename
  • Edit the Excel file extension to xls, if it’s xlsx or vice-versa
  • Then try to open the Excel file

If Excel still cannot open the file, follow the next method.

Method 3: Open Excel File from MS Excel

Instead of opening the Excel file directly via double-click or right-click, follow these steps to open the Excel file,

  • Open MS Excel first and then go to ‘File > Open’ 
  • Click ‘Browse’ to choose the Excel file and open it
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If this doesn’t work, set the Calculation to manual. For this, 

  • Open a blank Excel document and then go to File > Options > Formulas
  • Choose Calculation options, pick Manual and then click OK
  • Now try to open the Excel file

Method 4: Repair Excel File via MS Excel

In MS Excel, there is an option to “Open and Repair” damaged or slightly corrupt Excel file. The steps are as follows,

  • Open MS Excel and navigate to “File > Open
  • Click on “Browse” and then select the damaged Excel file
  • Choose the “Open and Repair” option from the options
  • Click on ‘Repair’ to repair the Excel file
  • After repair, the file should open up automatically. If it doesn’t, retry the steps and this time choose Extract data

At this stage, the Excel file should open successfully. If it doesn’t, it might be severely damaged or corrupt. As mentioned earlier, in such a case, you can repair the Excel file by using Excel file repair software. 


The ‘Excel file cannot be open’ error can be resolved through troubleshooting methods and solutions discussed in this post. However, if the error is not resolved through troubleshooting, it indicates Excel file corruption. In such a case, you can repair the Excel file by using Excel repair software. The software is the easiest way to resolve this error and extract Excel data without losing the Excel file properties and formatting. Moreover, it’s compatible with all MS Excel versions and supports XLS/XLSX files.

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