Full Guide to Fix “Excel cannot open the file” Error [Updated 2020]

This article is going to highlight some of the reasons why Excel cannot open the file and full solutions on how to deal with such cases.

• Filed to: Document Recovery • Proven solutions

“Why is it that Excel not opening saved files is a common issue I currently face? What can I do to avert this annoying issue?”

- a question from Quora

It is quite embarrassing to realize that the workbook cannot be opened or repaired by Microsoft Excel when you really need to use it. Perhaps, you may want to work on very urgent stuff when you realize that Excel refuses to open. This compels you to try different ways you think would sort you out but unfortunately, nothing materializes. Just like two of my close friends who have been having trouble with excel not opening. Both tried to run excel in safe mode but still did not open. Also, you may have tried to run Office 365 quick repair which worked but only for 24 hours. What if the same problem resurfaces the next day? This extremely devastates and can make you hit your PC without giving a damn!

Part 1: What Brings, Error “Excel Cannot Open the File’ (Filename)’.Xlsx”

XLSX is Office Open XML based filed tailored by Microsoft to be used by Microsoft Excel to represent spreadsheets. It was meant for MS Office 2007 and other new versions on the market. It is better known as a spreadsheet. XLSX is a zipped file format that uses lossless data compression algorithm which reduces the file size without interfering with its quality.

Now, what are the symptoms and the cause of excel not opening saved files?


When the following text message appears on your system screen, know that you are in trouble.


The causes


Part 2: Here Are the ‘Common Solutions’ to End Your Troubles

SOLUTION 1: Change the excel file extension

It is quite obvious that your workbook cannot be opened or repaired by Microsoft Excel because the extension is invalid or incorrect file format. Here is how you can fix it.


SOLUTION 2: Open the excel file in safe mode


SOLUTION 3: Open excel file using Open and Repair feature


SOLUTION 4: Disable automatic calculation

Apparently, Excel recalculates every formula in your worksheet automatically whenever you open your worksheet, change entries, formulas or names which your formulas rely on. However, as the formulas get recalculated your mouse pointer becomes an hourglass blocking you from making any change on your worksheet. This can be easily evaded. Well, to turn off auto-calculation feature on excel you will have to:

i. Open excel and tap on the File tab:


ii. Press the Options item in the menu on the left:


iii. Click formulas in the menu located in the excel options dialogue box:


Now, move your mouse pointer down to the calculation options section then press Manual to bar the formula from being calculated any time you make a change to a formula, value or names or even open a worksheet containing formulas.


Alternatively, you can choose any of the three major calculation options using the calculation options button located in the calculation section of the formulas tab on the ribbon. Well, if you want to set the iteration options you will be forced to use the formulas page on the word options dialogue box.


SOLUTION 5: Open the corrupted workbook in WordPad or word

Majorly, a file will fail to open or exhibit unusual behavior because it is corrupted by macro virus infection or rather conflicting software which incorrectly modifies the file. That said it is still possible to recover lost data or corrupted file by simply opening it in a WordPad or word.

i. Save your document to another file format

ii. Open the file in WordPad

Part 3: Advanced Solutions - Reliable Data Repair Software

Well, apart from excel cannot open the file error, deleting the excel file is the most common experience one can have, especially ordinary excel users. But the good news is there is reliable data repair software such as stellar phoenix excel repair tool you can use to recover the lost file or backup your work.

It has been tested and proven that stellar phoenix Excel repair software is far better than the inbuilt excel repair tool. Multiple users who have tested the inbuilt excel repair tool have always been stranded when the tool fails to fix their corrupted files.

With cutting-edge features and easy-to-use interface, Stellar Repair for Excel tool is able to fix your excel troubles with ease.

  • Repairs damaged xlsx, xls and corrupted files
  • Fix all forms of excel related errors
  • Reliable to windows and Mac users
  • Recovers the worksheet plus properties
  • Timely pre-recovery preview of excel file
  • Easy and steady

User guide: how to repair excel file cannot be opened error

It is recommendable to use Stellar Phoenix Excel repair software, especially when you are confused and no idea on how to fix your excel cannot open problem. Stellar Phoenix excel repair tool stands out in the market as it boasts of a huge number of matchless features that solve all the problems related to excel file corruption. Here is a simple guide to show you how it works.

Step 1 Search for any file from the local drive you would want to fix using Select File button.

Step 2 Select all the corrupted files to be repaired then click the ‘Scan’ button to start fixing them.

Step 3 Excel repair to preview the corrupted files also.

Step 4 Press the Save button to begin fixing the file. You can choose whether to save the new file in the same folder with corrupted files or elsewhere.


This software is pretty simple to use. You only need to download it because excel file cannot be open error is a common problem that pops up any time. That’s why Stellar Phoenix excel repair software stands out as the best tool to recover lost files ever.

Part 4. Suggestion: Save a Backup Copy of Your Workbook

It must be daunting to save your workbook bit by bit as you work on it which is why automatic saving remains the main option. Here is how to save a back copy of your workbook.

Step 1 Open your Excel file and go to the “File” tab. Then press ‘Options’.

Step 2 Within the ‘Options’ dialogue box, press ‘Save’ located on the left option list, you will see two options “Save AutoRecover information every (x) minute” & “Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving”. Mark the boxes before the two options.


Within the minute box, select or type a number which specifies for intervals how frequent you want your file saved.

Now, there are things you need to put into consideration such as;

  1. To change the settings any time you want to clean your computer with any cleaning software. This will help secure your data.

  2. Because AutoRecover is not a surrogate for regularly saving your files you may end up losing your data if you fail to save the recovery file after opening it. When the file is deleted it will definitely get lost.


Generally, it hurts and a waste of time when double-clicking a file and what pops up is ‘excel cannot open the file’ or ‘excel not opening’. That is why you have no other option other than using the above-mentioned methods. Free yourself from constant trouble and start enjoy easy life now!

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staff Editor

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