How to Fix the ‘Excel Cannot Open the File’ Error

The ‘Excel Cannot Open the File’ error usually occurs when attempting to open an older Excel file with a newer version of the software. This problem frequently arises if the file has been renamed with the wrong file extension or saved in a different file format. Additionally, this error can manifest if the Excel file is corrupted or unreadable.

In this article, we will explore various methods to resolve this issue.

1. Change the File Format

An Excel file is typically saved with a .xls or .xlsx file format. Opening a file with an incorrect or incompatible version can trigger the error. To fix this, you can try modifying the file’s extension.

  1. Locate the file in File Explorer.
  2. Click on the View tab at the top and check the File name extensions box.
  3. You should now see the .xlsx, .xls, or a similar extension at the end of your Excel file.
  4. Right-click on the file and select Rename.

Now, alter the extension from .xlsx to .xls. If the file is in a different format altogether, utilize an online conversion tool to convert it. For instance, if it’s a .csv file, use an online CSV to XLS converter.

2. Check the “Enable all macros” setting

Excel, by default, blocks files containing macros to ward off potentially harmful code. Consequently, opening a macro-enabled file may provoke an error. If that’s the case, you’ll need to activate the “Open files that contain macros” option.

Note: Ensure the file is from a trusted source before enabling macros and disable this feature after use.

  1. Open the File menu and select Options.
  2. Click on Trust Center > Trust Center Settings
  3. In the Trust Center Settings dialog, click on Macro Settings.
  4. Finally, check the Enable all macros option.

3. Repair Your Excel file manually

Your Excel file may be corrupted causing the error. Fortunately, Excel has an inbuilt repair tool that you can use to repair the file.

  1. From the File menu, choose Open.
  2. Find your Excel file, click the dropdown arrow next to the Open button, and select Open and Repair.
  3. Choose the repair option to fix your corrupted Excel file.

4. Open the Excel file locally

Errors can also occur when an Excel file is stored in OneDrive and not synced locally. To resolve this, save the file to your local drive first.

  1. Open File Explorer and navigate to the OneDrive folder.
  2. Find the Excel file, right-click on it, and select Cut.
  3. Paste the file into a local folder that is not synced with OneDrive.

5. Run in Safe Mode

Opening a file in Safe Mode can improve the likelihood of it functioning if it’s corrupted or unreadable.

  1. Press the Windows + R keys simultaneously.
  2. Type the command excel.exe /safe into the run box and hit Enter.
  3. Go to File > Open and select your Excel file.

After opening the file in Excel Safe Mode, save it in a different format through File > Save As, selecting either .csv or .xls.

Use LibreOffice to Re-save the File

For those cautious about third-party software, LibreOffice is a free and open-source alternative that supports various file types. If the file opens in LibreOffice, save a duplicate, which will then be readable by Excel.

By following these steps, you should be able to overcome the “Excel Cannot Open the File” error and regain access to your data.


Hamza Mohammad Anwar

Hamza Mohammad Anwar is an intermediate JavaScript web developer with a focus on developing high-performance applications using MERN technologies. His skill set includes expertise in ReactJS, MongoDB, Express NodeJS, and other related technologies. Hamza is also a Google IT Certified professional, which highlights his competence in IT support. As an avid problem-solver, he recreates errors on his computer to troubleshoot and find solutions to various technical issues.