How to fix corrupted Excel files on Windows 10

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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Microsoft Excel

Steps to fix Excel file corruption problems

  1. Open and Repair the file
  2. Restore corrupted Excel file from previous version
  3. Calculation option set to manual
  4. Use external references to link to the corrupted workbook
  5. Recover TMP file
  6. Delete TEMP folder
  7. HTML method
  8. Use SYLK format
  9. Open in WordPad or Word
  10. XML method
  11. Open the Excel in Safe Mode
  12. Malware protection software
  13. Use later Excel versions
  14. Third party software

Excel is a crucial program for performing much work with documents in your office and at home, being used by an impressive amount of people. However, while using the program, you can encounter different unexpected problems, one of them being file corruption error due to the system, virus infections or other unknown reasons.

If you face this situation, you can find many possible solutions that can help you solve your problem, with different degrees of difficulty. You’ll find the list of solutions below.

Have you checked if the MS Excel file is really corrupted? Before starting any procedure to recover your workbook, it can be better carrying out two attempts to check for file corruption.

Solution 1: Open and Repair

You can try repairing your Excel file manually by Open and Repair utility of Microsoft Excel. Follow below mentioned steps to use this utility:

  1. Open a blank Excel document
  2. Go to File and click Open in order to open the Excel document that is corrupted
  3. In the Open dialog box, select the corrupted file and then click on the drop down menu next to Open to select Open and RepairOpen and Repair Excel

Note: To recover as much of the workbook data as possible, pick Repair. If Repair is not able to recover your data, pick Extract Data to extract values and formulas from the workbook.

Solution 2: Restore corrupted Excel file from the previous version

Another quick fix is to restore the corrupted Excel file from the previous version. In order to do this, please follow the steps described below:

  1. Right-click on the Excel file and select Properties
  2. Go to Previous Versions, find and select the latest version or the right version before Excel crashes, deleted or saved, click RestorePrevious versions

Note: The workbook opens without any changes you made that might have caused the workbook to become corrupted.

Check now: 4 ways to open Excel worksheets in separate windows at the same time

Solution 3: Calculation option set to manual

If Excel fails to open the file on its own and you have already tried the two methods described above, try setting the calculation method to manual and try again. To reset the calculation setting:

  1. Open Excel, click on File and choose New
  2. Click Blank workbook under NewBlank workbook
  3. Navigate to File and go to Options
  4. Click Manual under Calculation options in Formulas category and press OKcalculation-manual

Solution 4: Use external references to link to the corrupted workbook

Another solution you can try is using external references to link to the corrupted workbook. You will not be able to recover formulas, formats, charts, macros, and so on, but recovering the data is better than recovering nothing.

To recover data by referencing the corrupt workbook, do the following:

  1. Click File and go to Open
  2. Go to the folder that contains the corrupted workbook and right click the file name of the corrupted workbook
  3. Click Copy, and then click Cancel
  4. Click File and go to New
  5. Under New, click on Blank workbook
  6. In cell A1 of the new workbook, type =File Name!A1, where FileName is the name of the corrupted workbook that you copied in step 3 (without the name extension), and then press Enter
  7. Select corrupted Excel if the Update Values box appears and click OK
  8. Choose the appropriate sheet if the Select Sheet dialog box appears and click OK
  9. Select cell A1 and click Home and then Copy
  10. Select an area, starting in cell A1 that is approximately the same size as the range of cells that contain data in the corrupted workbook
  11. Click Home and Paste
  12. Repeat to copy all selected cell again by clicking Home and then Copy
  13. Click Home go to Paste and click Paste Values under ValuesPaste values

Note: Pasting values will remove the links to corrupted excel and leave you only with the data by then.

Solution 5: Recover TMP file

Like most Microsoft Office products, Excel will automatically save recovery versions of files, meaning that you may be able to restore a partial version of your corrupted Excel document:

  1. Click on This PC and then double-click on your computer’s hard drive (usually C: )
  2. Double click the Users folder and then double-click the AppData folder
  3. Double-click the Local folder, find the Microsoft folder and double click on it
  4. Locate the Office folder and then go to UnsavedFiles
  5. Locate and find the temporary excel files begin with “$” or “~” and end with “.TMP
  6. Copy these files and save to another safe spot by changing the extension from.TMP to .XLS/.XLSX

Solution 6: Delete TEMP folder

If saving a temporary excel file did not work, another suggestion is to delete some of the temporary files and folders on your computer. These files and folders can be found in C:/Windows/temp directory. Once you have deleted these files, restart your computer and then try opening the Excel document again.

If you can’t delete temporary files, use this guide to fix the problem.

Solution 7: HTML method

This HTML method has been known to work in certain circumstances and it might prove to be the right solution for you:

  1. Open the Excel file and go to Save As
  2. Choose other formats from the drop-down menu in the Save As Type option
  3. From the options in the drop-down list, select Web Page
  4. Make sure entire Workbook is selected and then click on SaveSave as webpage
  5. Right-click on the web file and choose Open with Microsoft Office Excel
  6. Once the document is open, go to Save As again and choose the Excel format
  7. Choose a different name than the original corrupted file and press Save

Solution 8: Use SYLK format

Another method recommended by Microsoft is using the SYLK format to filter out corrupted elements. If you are able to open the file in Excel, you should definitely try this method out:

  1. Open the Excel file and go to Save As
  2. Choose other formats from the drop-down menu in the Save As Type option
  3. From the options in the drop-down list, select SYLK(Symbolic Link) (*.slk)Save as SYLK
  4. Click File and Open again, but this time choose the SYLK file
  5. Once the file is open, click File and then Save As
  6. Choose Microsoft Excel Workbook and click Save

Note: Using the SYLK format only saves the active worksheet. You will have to save each worksheet individually and repeat this procedure.

Solution 9: Open in WordPad or Word

Another solution that we recommend is to try opening your corrupt file in WordPad. If it works, WordPad will convert everything to text but unfortunately, this method will not recover formulas. On the other hand, the good news is that unlike many other data recovery methods, WordPad will recover your macros.

Simply search the recovered text for Sub and Function to find them. You might also be able to open the corrupted .xls file in Word, but the results will be limited. In order to do so, you first have to make sure you have the Microsoft Excel Converter installed. You can download it from Microsoft.

Solution 10: XML method

Here is how to use the XML method to try and recover the corrupted Excel document:

  1. Open the corrupted file, go to File and click on Save As
  2. From the list of possible formats next to Save as Type select XML Spreadsheet and then click Save
  3. Open the document again
  4. Go to Save As again and then this time save the document as an Excel Workbook by choosing Excel format from the drop-down list next to Save as Type

Solution 11: Open the Excel in Safe Mode

Another solution you may want to consider is opening the Excel document in Safe Mode. This may disable your macros and Add-ins but it is a great solution because you can move the data to a new document. To open the document in safe mode, follow these very simple steps:

  1. Press Windows+R keys to open the Run dialogue window
  2. Type the command excel /safe and click OK
  3. Copy all of the data to a new document and open it in Normal Mode

Solution 12: Malware protection software

It is also very likely that your document could be malfunctioning due to a virus attack. In this case, it might be a good idea to use whatever Malware Protection software you have on your computer to scan the file for viruses. The program should eliminate any viruses found and you should be able to open the document.

For more information on the best antivirus tools to use on your Windows 10 computer, check out this guide.

Solution 13: Use later Excel versions

Although it seems like a very simple solution, you should definitely try it as well. Try to use a later Excel version because as the versions increase, the ability for the program to recover a file increases also, so you might be able to recover your file using this simple method.

Solution 14: Third party software

If all of the above did not work, your best bet would be to make use of a professional data recovery program to recover corrupted Excel files. Reliable file recovery tools for MS Excel repair corrupt or damaged Excel spreadsheets and restore the data stored in them.

Has any of these solutions helped you to fix your corrupted Excel file? Let us know in the comments section below.


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