Fix: Excel Not Responding

Microsoft provides the most popular spreadsheet software that is Excel. While this is a powerful analysis tool, it is not short of flaws. A very annoying and fairly common problem is when Excel becomes unresponsive. All you get is an hourglass or looping circle that indicates an intense activity that is yet to be completed. At the top of the Excel window, you get a message saying “Excel not responding”.

The Excel not responding message occurs in several instances. You could be opening a file, trying to save a file, copy-pasting data from a web page, or when typing into the workbook or worksheet. This throws Excel into the non-responsive state which might last over 10 seconds or not recover at all, forcing you to kill Excel from the task manager. Either way, you are not able to do any work at all hence creating an inconvenience on such important analysis. This article will explain why you might get this error and some methods to resolve it.

Why Excel is not responding

There are several reasons why Excel will freeze. Apart from corrupt Excel program files, corrupt workbooks can be the obvious cause of this problem. However, this is not the case when your supposedly corrupt Excel workbook opens in another computer. You can tell if the problem originates from the workbook or from the application by trying a new workbook or by trying your workbook file on another PC. If the problem points to the Excel application, then there might be a bad configuration. Excel usually gets information on your printers when opening and network printers have been known to cause the unresponsive problem. This problem usually occurs when opening a file. The first file to be opened will cause a freeze but the rest will work okay.

Files with extensive formulas are also a bother to Excel. This includes heavy VBA and filters. A misconfigured network will cause freezing when typing to an Excel workbook saved/accessed over the network. Copy pasting from internet pages (HTML format) usually takes ages for Excel to decode the HTML codes and format. It would be much faster if one pasted plain text only, but this is not as easily available on Excel as it is on Word hence many people overlook it.

To check if your Excel application is misconfigured, open it in safe mode. This eliminates any misconfigurations, bad add-ins, macros and codes. Press Windows Key + R to open Run, type ‘excel /safe’ and hit enter. Based on common causes, here are a few solutions to this problem.

Method 1: Reset the default printer to Microsoft XPS Document Printer

If you have the default printer as a network printer, Excel might have trouble initiating it. You can reset the default printer to the Microsoft XPS Document Printer.

  1. Press Windows keys + R to open Run
  2. Type ‘control /name microsoft.devicesandprinters’ (without the quotes) and hit enter to open the devices and printers window.
  3. Scroll down to printers. Right click on ‘Microsoft XPS Document Printer’
  4. Select ‘Set as default printer’
  5. If a warning message about Windows stopping your printer management comes up, click on ‘OK’

The down side to this method is that you will now have to manually select your printer every time you want to print your Excel workbook or worksheet. If you are using Apples Wi-Fi router (Airport) through which your network printer is connected, try using Bonjour for Windows from here to manage the connection since this solves the issue sometimes.

Method 2: Paste plain text only

Excel freezes when you paste with data copied from a webpage. This is because the data is in HTML format that has to be decoded in order to keep the source formatting. The problem goes away when you Paste Special Text. But when you just Paste (Keep Destination Formatting) Excel goes wild and you will need to use task manager to kill it. To paste special text:

  1. Copy the data you want to paste from your web page (doesn’t matter if you right click or you use Ctrl + C)
  2. In Excel, right click on the cell you want to paste the data into
  3. Select “paste special”
  4. In the paste options, select paste as ‘text’ and click ‘OK’ and your data will be pasted

Any tabs and paragraphs will be recognized as new cells/fields and as new lines/records respectively. There are also claims that using Ctrl + V instead of right clicking to paste (while keeping source formatting) with prevent Excel from being unresponsive. Others claim that copy-pasting from Chrome works better than pasting from Internet Explorer.

Method 3: Remove protection from workbook

Protecting your workbook can cause Excel to freeze especially if you are accessing the workbook over a network. To remove protection:

  1. Open your workbook file and enter your current workbook password
  2. Click on File and the select the ‘Info’ tab
  3. From the ‘permissions’ section, click on the ‘protect workbook’ icon and select ‘Encrypt with password’
  4. Delete the contents in the password textbox and click OK.

This will leave your workbook vulnerable but working. You can try to dictating what aspects of the workbook the users can change e.g. cell content, editing, formatting etc. from the “Protect Current Worksheet” option.

Method 4: Repair and save as a new file

If a specific Excel file/workbook is causing trouble, there is a way you can repair it and save to a new workbook.

  1. Open Excel from start menu (not through a workbook file)
  2. On the File menu, click Open.
  3. In the Open dialog box, browse for and select the file you want to open
  4. Click the arrow pointing downwards next to the Open button.
  5. Click Open and Repair, and then choose which method you want to use to recover your workbook as explained on the prompt message. Try “Repair” first and then “Extract data” if that fails.
  6. Once repaired save it in a different name (File > Save As > Type Name > Save) and verify the status
  7. If the issue still persists then try to recreate the file and check how it works. To do so open the Excel file > click on ‘View’ > click on ‘New Window’ under ‘Window’ group, save it with new name (File > Save As).

Method 5: Disable human interface devices (HID) touch screen

For some reason, the touch screen drivers cause Excel to freeze when you are filtering or keying in data. Disabling this device can make things hasty in Excel.

  1. Press Windows key + R to open Run
  2. Type devmgmt.msc and press enter to open the device manager window
  3. Expand the Human Interface Devices section
  4. Right click on the device named ‘HID-Compliant touch screen’ or a similar name
  5. Select ‘Disable device’
  6. A warning on disabling the device will pop up. Click on ‘Yes’

Your touchscreen will no longer work but it is worth it if it means you will get some work done.

Also try uninstalling antispyware software since they have been known to cause this problem (e.g. the Comcast Antispyware).


Kevin Arrows

Kevin Arrows is a highly experienced and knowledgeable technology specialist with over a decade of industry experience. He holds a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification and has a deep passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech developments. Kevin has written extensively on a wide range of tech-related topics, showcasing his expertise and knowledge in areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. His contributions to the tech field have been widely recognized and respected by his peers, and he is highly regarded for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise manner.