How to Repair Corrupted Excel Files

Excel is probably just as important to most workers as wearing clothes and eating food. I pretty much use Excel on a daily basis to do everything from managing finances to analyzing customer data. It’s so powerful, it’s hard to imagine life without Excel.

And that’s exactly why it can be so terrible when you end up with a damaged or corrupt Excel file! All of that work and it might be lost forever, unless you were smart enough to make a backup.

Luckily, most corrupted Excel files can be recovered, you just have to try out a lot of different ways. If your Excel file is corrupted, below are some ways you can hopefully repair the file or at least get some of the data back.

Method 1 – Run Repair

The first thing to try is to open it with the Repair option in Excel. You can do this by clicking on File and then Open. In the Open dialog box, single click on the Excel file and then click on the small arrow next to the Open button.

repair corrupt excel file

Go ahead and click on Open and Repair and you’ll get a message asking if you want to repair, which will recover as much data as possible or if you simply want to extract data, which will copy out the formulas and values.

excel open and repair

You can try to repair first and see if it can recover the whole file, if not, you can then try to extract the data.

Method 2 – Save File To Different Format

If you are able to open the file in Excel, you can try to save the file out into different formats and then re-open them in Excel and try to save them back as Excel workbooks.

Click on File and then Save As. Choose SYLK (Symbolic Link) from the Save as type list and click Save. Then close the workbook.

excel corrupt file

Next, click File and Open again, but this time choose the SYLK file. You may have to choose All Files from the Files of type list to see the SYLK file.

Once the file is open, click File and then Save As. Now you will choose Microsoft Excel Workbook and click Save. Note that saving using the SYLK format only saves the active worksheet. You will have to save each worksheet individually and repeat this procedure.

Along with the SLYK format, you can also save the file out using the HTML format. Once saved out, re-open it and try to save it as an Excel workbook. With the HTML format, you don’t need to save each worksheet individually.

Method 3 – Change Recalculation Option

If you can’t open the file at all, you can try a couple of more things. Firstly, try setting the recalculation option in Excel to manual. You can do this by going to Tools, Options and clicking on the Calculation tab. In the Calculation section, go ahead and choose Manual.

If you are using Excel 2007 or higher, the procedure is different. You have to click on the Office button at the top left, then choose Excel Options.

recover excel corrupt

Click on Formulas and then click on Manual under the Calculation options section.

excel calculation manual

Now try to open the corrupted Excel file and see if it opens. If not, keep reading!

Method 4 – Open in Word or WordPad

You can also try opening the damaged Excel file in Microsoft Word or WordPad. In order to do so, you first have to make sure you have the Microsoft Excel Converter installed. You can download it from the Microsoft website.

Even though you might be able to open the files, you will lost chart sheets, dialog sheets, macro sheets, and you will lose all cell formulas. However, you should be able to view the data.

If you have macros, try opening the file in WordPad as the Visual Basic code in your modules might show up. You will have to perform a search for “Function” or “Sub”.

Method 5 – Link to Corrupted File

In Excel, you can link to other Excel workbooks from within a worksheet. You can try to use this method to extract data from a corrupted Excel workbook.

Click File then Open and navigate to the folder that contains the corrupted file. Then click Cancel. Now go ahead and click File and then New and click OK.

In cell A1, type =FileName!A1 and press Enter.

corrupt excel file

If everything goes well, you should see the data from cell A1 of the corrupt worksheet appear in cell A1 of your new workbook.

excel corrupt data

If so, now you can simply drag the corner of the box and expand the selection out to however many rows and columns existed in the corrupt workbook.

recover excel data

Method 6 – Use Excel Viewer

You can also try to download Microsoft Excel Viewer, which may be able to open the file for you. All it lets you do is copy the cells and paste them into a new workbook, but it’s better than nothing.

Method 7 – Use Later Excel Versions

If the corrupted Excel file was created in Excel XP, Excel 2003, etc, try opening it in a later version like Excel 2007 or Excel 2010.

As the versions increase, the ability for the program to recover a file increases also, so you might get lucky and be able to recover your file.

Method 8 – Delete Temp Folder

At this point we’re hoping and praying, but it’s worth a shot. You can delete the contents of the C:\Windows\Temp directory and then restart your computer. Try opening the file again.

If you still can’t open your Excel file, post a comment here and I’ll try to help!

Comments [6]

  1. Hello!

    I came across your blog doing a Google search and have tried all your instructions to no avail. Would you be able to further assist me in opening a corrupted file? I’m desperate for the info it contains and now I’m running out of time.

    Thanks in advance for considering!

  2. Hi!
    OK! I have this problem. Suddenly and I mean I can’t remember when or why but if I click directly on my excel files an error comes up ” error when sending command to program”

    If I open excel and then go to the file and click on it….it opens?

    If I create new files and then save them as normal – I can’t open them later by directly clicking on the file?

    I have looked in the event file….nothing there. I have run diagnostic and that doesn’t find anything?

    I am really at a loss to understand what I need to do to fix the problem…

    If you have any suggestions – then I am all ears..



  3. Hi,

    I deleted a file (from the recycle bin) – recovered it but now it says the file extension is not valid (it used to be an xlsx). Originally the file was password protected…do you think it’s recoverable?

    Thanks for your help!!!

  4. Very informative, however, at times files corrupted by power outrage or excel crash just don’t get repaired even by the SLK method. On trying the trail version at

    I could figure out what could be recoverd from a corrupt file. The support staff was courteous enough of doing manual recovery of my data from excel file.

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