Excel File Not Opening? Here Are 5 Easy Methods to Fix It

If tweaking the program's settings fails, run an expert Excel repair tool.

by Milan Stanojevic
Milan Stanojevic
Milan Stanojevic
Windows & Software Expert
Milan has been enthusiastic about PCs ever since his childhood days, and this led him to take interest in all PC-related technologies. Before joining WindowsReport, he worked as... read more
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Vlad Turiceanu
Vlad Turiceanu
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Passionate about technology, Windows, and everything that has a power button, he spent most of his time developing new skills and learning more about the tech world. Coming... read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • Excel is the dedicated spreadsheet tool that comes bundled with the Microsoft Suite of programs.
  • The guide below will be covering several fixes for the Excel file not opening issues.
  • If you're unable to open Excel files directly by clicking on the file icon or a blank screen appears when opening certain files, you've come to the right place.
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Microsoft Excel users have reported issues with the program with regards to Excel not opening files.

If you’ve had a similar experience, you’ve probably noticed that when you try to double-click on an Excel file or an icon for a workbook, the program starts up but you get a blank white screen instead of the intended file.

Some users have circumvented this issue by using this path File > Open > Workbook. But it’s much easier to just double click, right?

However, the issue, as described by Microsoft Support, arises from the fact that Excel got a security upgrade such that there are changes in the behavior of certain types of files in the way they open in Excel.

This change, as explained, came with three security updates: KB3115322, KB3115262, and KB3170008.

Unlike the former times when you would try to open HTML or XLA files with an Excel .xls extension, the program would caution over the disconnect between the file and contents but open without Protected View security.

After these updates, the program will not open workbooks but will show a blank screen instead.

It doesn’t even warn you that it did not open the file.

What do I do if Excel doesn’t open files?

Excel file not opening cases are more common than you think. Even more common is for the issue to happen because the files you may be trying to open are incompatible with the Protected View feature.

Don’t worry, we have prepared some quick-fix solutions you can use to resolve Excel file not opening issues, and keep on using the easy way to access your workbooks by double-clicking them.

1. Fix Excel file not opening by unchecking the ignore DDE box

One of the reasons your Excel program is not opening files may be caused by the Ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) option selected.

The function of the DDE is to send a message to the program once you double-click, which then instructs it to open the file or workbook you have double-clicked to open.

1. Open Microsoft Excel.

2. Go to File in the top left corner of the screen.

Excel File open

3. Click on Options.

excel options

4. Select Advanced from the menu.

Excel advanced options

5. Navigate to the General tab.

Excel general tab

6. Uncheck the Ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) box.

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7. Click Ok to apply and save the changes.

8. Check if you can open the desired Excel file.

Note: if you select Ignore, Excel ignores all DDE instructions sent from other programs to itself, thus it will not open the workbook you have double-clicked.

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2. Reset file associations to fix Excel file not opening

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Select Control Panel.
  3. Click Programs then click Default Programs.
  4. Under Default Programs, click the Set your default programs. A search process will begin to find your default programs.
  5. From the list of default programs, choose Excel.
  6. Now, click on Choose default for this program.
  7. The Set Program Associations screen will open up. Click Select All.
  8. Click Save which sets off the saving process and OK.

You’ll need to reset the Excel file associations to default settings, and here above are the steps to follow.

3. Fix Excel file not opening by repairing the program

  1. Right-click the Start button and select Control Panel.
  2. Click Programs and select Uninstall Programs.
  3. Now, click Microsoft Office and select Change.excel won't open files
  4. Finally, click Online Repair, then select Repair.

Sometimes the only other solution would be to repair your Microsoft Office programs. Here’s how to go about this.

Once you do the above, reboot your computer.

4. Turn off add-ins to fix the Excel file not opening error

There are two types of add-ins that can cause the Excel program not to open files. These are:

  • Excel add-in
  • COM add-in

These add-ins need to be turned off one after the other if you have to test, disable and isolate the issue, and here’s how to go about it:

  1. Open Excel program
  2. If it opens a new workbook, go to File.
  3. Click on Options and select Add-Ins from the left pane.
  4. Locate Manage at the bottom of the open screen.
  5. On the drop-down, select COM Add-ins and click Go.
  6. From the open box, clear one of the add-ins on the list and click OK.

Once all these steps are followed, restart the Excel program by double-clicking on a file or icon of the workbook you want to open.

Note: in case the problem recurs, repeat the first seven steps, then choose a different add-in to clear, and try this as you go along.

If it opens, then you’ll know the add-in you selected last is the one causing the issue. Then, you can find an update or newer version of the add-in from the manufacturer’s website, or turn it off if unavailable.

5. Disable Hardware Graphics Acceleration if Excel won’t open files

  1. Open the Excel program and go to File.
  2. Now, click Options and select Advanced.
  3. Find the Display tab. Then, locate and check the Disable hardware graphics acceleration box.
  4. Click OK and you should be done.

Follow these steps to disable hardware graphics acceleration and let us know if you managed to fix the Excel file not opening issue by doing so.

If none of the above solutions worked, then contact Microsoft Support for further options.

Did any of these solutions work for you? Share with us in the comments section.

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