FIX: Excel shows a white screen when opening files

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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Affiliate Disclosure

  • Microsoft Excel is the dedicated spreadsheet tool that comes bundled with the Microsoft Office Suite of programs.
  • The guide below will be covering several fixes for an issue where Excel would show a blank screen when opening certain files.
  • If you have other issues with Microsoft Office products, check out our dedicated Microsoft Office Troubleshooting section.
  • If you want to read more about this amazing tool, check out our dedicated Excel Page.
Office detected a problem with this file [Protected View]

Microsoft Excel users have reported issues with the program with regards to 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 File > Open > Workbook, but its 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, because the files you may be trying to open are incompatible with the program’s Protected View feature.

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

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We share some quick fix solutions you can use to resolve the issue of Excel not opening your files so you can simply double click and access your workbooks.

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

  1. Uncheck the Ignore DDE box
  2. Reset Excel file associations
  3. Repair Microsoft Office
  4. Turn off add-ins
  5. Disable Hardware Graphics Acceleration
  6. Contact Microsoft Support

1: Uncheck 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.

Here are the steps to go about this solution:

  • Open Excel program
  • If it opens a new workbook, go to File

fix Excel won't open files

  • Click on Options

Excel options

  • Click on Advanced

Excel advanced options fix Excel won't open files

  • Locate General tab

Excel general tab

  • Uncheck the Ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) box
  • Click Ok

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 Excel file associations

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

  1. Right-click 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

fix Excel won't open files

  1. From the list of default programs, choose Excel
  2. Click Choose default for this program


  • The Set Program Associations screen will open up
  • Click Select All


  • Click Save which sets off the saving process
  • Click Ok

3. Repair Microsoft Office

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

  • Right-click Start button
  • Select Control Panel
  • Click Programs
  • Click Uninstall Programs
  • Click Microsoft Office
  • Click Changeexcel won't open files
  • Click Online Repair then click Repair

Once you do the above, reboot your computer.

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4. Turn off add-ins

There are two types of add-ins that can cause 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:

  • Open Excel program
  • If it opens a new workbook, go to File
  • Click on Options
  • Click Add-Ins

excel add-ins

  • Locate Manage at the bottom of the open screen

excel manage add-ins

  • On the drop-down, select COM Add-ins

excel COM add-in

  • Click Go
  • From the open box, clear one of the add-ins on the list


  • Click Ok

Once all these steps are followed, restart 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, in which case you can find an update or newer version of the add-in from the manufacturer’s website, or, if unavailable, you can leave it off.

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5. Disable Hardware Graphics Acceleration

Follow these steps to disable hardware graphics acceleration:

  • Open Excel program
  • Go to File
  • Click Options
  • Click Advanced
  • Find Display tab

excel display tab

  • Locate the Disable hardware graphics acceleration box and select it


  • Click Ok

6. Contact Microsoft Support

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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FAQ: Learn more about Microsoft Excel

  • What is Microsoft Excel used for?

Microsoft Excel is the dedicated spreadsheet tool included in the Microsoft Office Suite.

  • Can I download Microsoft Excel for free?

Unfortunately no, but there are several free alternatives out there, such as Google Sheets.

  • Can I just buy Microsoft Excel?

Standalone versions of Excel can indeed be bought, but you get a significant discount if you buy the entire Office Suite as a whole.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been since revamped and updated in June 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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