Meet the problem “Excel cannot open the file”? Can’t open the Excel file because the extension is not valid? Excel cannot open the file because it is corrupted? Check the 5 solutions in this post from MiniTool to fix Excel cannot open the file issue, repair corrupted excel file, recover corrupted/unsaved Excel files, and recover deleted/lost Excel files.

Some of you may encounter this issue when using Microsoft Excel on Windows and Mac: Excel cannot open the file.

Many of Excel users may ever face these common issues: Microsoft Excel is unable to read the file; this file is corrupt and cannot be opened; the spreadsheet you’re trying to open is invalid; Microsoft Excel cannot recognize the file; etc.

This tutorial provides 5 solutions to fix “Excel cannot open the file” error of various Excel versions, repair/recover corrupted spreadsheets. and recover unsaved Excel files. This post also offers guides to help you recover deleted, lost Excel files.

Excel cannot open the file issue normally can be caused by two reasons: the file is not supported by the app version, or the file is corrupted or damaged.

Tip: MiniTool Power Data Recovery - Recover any deleted or lost files incl. Excel workbooks from computer and external drives like USB, external hard drive, etc. 100% clean program.

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Way 1. Fix Excel Cannot Open the File by Changing the File Format

If Excel cannot open the file because the file format or file extension is not valid, you can change the default file format and file extension to fix this issue. Check the step-by-step guide below.

Step 1. Open MS Excel App

You can double-click the Excel app on your computer to open it.

Step 2. Change Workbook File Format

Next you can click File tab in the toolbar and select Export option in the left column.

Then click Change File Type, and select the .xlsx extension option under Workbook File Types. Click Save As to save the changes.

change Excel file type

Then you can open the file again to see if it can be opened with no hassle.

Way 2. Run Excel in Safe Mode to Fix Excel Cannot Open the File

If Excel cannot open the file, you can also try to run it in Safe Mode to see if the worksheet can be smoothly opened.

The simplest way is to use /safe option.

Step 1. You can press Windows logo and R keys on the keyboard to open Run dialog.

Step 2. Then you can type the following command: excel /safe, and press Enter or OK.

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Way 3. Fix Excel Cannot Open the File with Excel Open and Repair

If the file is damaged or corrupted, it may be unable to open. Microsoft Excel has a built-in file repair feature – Open and Repair - to help you repair corrupt Excel files. You can use this feature to fix minor corruption in the file and recover corrupted Excel chart sheet by following the steps below.

Step 1. You can open Microsoft Excel app, and click File menu in the toolbar.

Step 2. Next you can click Open from the left column. In Excel Version 2016 and Version 2013, you can click Browse to choose the corrupted file you want to open.

Step 3. Please don’t open the chosen worksheet directly. You need to click the drop-down arrow next to Open button and choose Open and Repair option.

recover corrupted Excel file

Step 4. Click Repair button in the pop-up dialog box and it will automatically check and attempt to repair any file corruption it detects. In this way, you can repair and recover corrupted files.

Tip: If this built-in repair software doesn’t repair the corrupted file, you can repeat this process several times. If it fails, you may also click Extract Data button to extract the formulas and values from the workbook. You can also use some professional file repair software to have a try.
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Way 4. Recover Lost/Deleted Excel Files with MiniTool Data Power Recovery

Excel data loss is not only caused by the “Excel cannot open the file” error, but also by accidental deletion, virus attack, computer OS crash, hard drive error, etc. How to recover lost/deleted Excel sheets?

MiniTool Power Data Recovery, one of the most powerful data recovery software for Windows 10/8/7, enables you to recover any lost or deleted files, incl. Excel, Word documents, PDF, PPT, any kinds of files, photos, videos, music, any data from PC hard drive, SSD, external hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card, etc.

In one word, you can use this best data recovery software to recover any data from almost any storage device in 3 simple steps. It is a 100% clean and safe data recovery tool.

Free download and install this best file recovery software on your PC or laptop, and follow the detailed guide below to recover lost/deleted Excel files.

Free Download

Step 1. Run MiniTool Power Data Recovery

Double-click MiniTool Power Data Recovery to open this free file undelete software. Choose a main device category from the left panel in the main UI.

You can click This PC to get ready to recover deleted/lost files from your computer hard drive.

You can also click Hard Disk Drive to recover data from external hard drives; click Removable Disk Drive to recover deleted/lost files from USB pen drive, USB-connected SD card, etc.; click CD/DVD Drive to recover data from DVD disc. To recover data from these devices, you need to connect them with computer beforehand.

recover deleted/lost Excel files

Step 2. Choose a Location to Scan

Next you can choose a drive/partition where contains your lost files, and click Scan button to start scanning all data and files on the chosen hard drive including lost/deleted files. The scanning time depends on the drive size and computer performance.

Tip: If you only want to scan and recover lost/deleted Excel files, you can click Settings button before clicking Scan button. You can set to scan files by file format and file extension, e.g. only scan Excel .xlsx files.

Step 3. Find, Preview and Recover Files

After the scanning process is finished, you can check the list of files to find needed files, and click Save button to specify a new location (different from the original path) to save the files.

You can utilize Show Lost Files, Find, and Filter feature to quickly find needed files to recover.

recover lost Excel files

Tip: If you meet Microsoft Word error like Word not responding, you can check this post to fix MS Word common errors and recover Word files: Fix Word Not Responding & Recover Files [10 Ways]

Way 5. How to Recover Unsaved Excel Sheet

Excel cannot open the file is a common issue for users. Another common issue in using the app is that you don’t save the sheet when it is unexpectedly shut down.

If you meet problems when using Excel to do work and don’t save the file, you can try to recover unsaved file.

#1. Recover Unsaved Excel Files through Excel

  • You can open Excel and click File -> Info.
  • Click Manage Versions -> Recover Unsaved Workbooks.
  • If the app finds some unsaved files, it will list them. You can browse the unsaved files to find the one you want to save it.

#2. Restore Unsaved Excel Sheet with “Show Recovered Files”

Excel tries its best to save your edits on a regular basis. If it shuts down unexpectedly, you have a chance to recover the unsaved content.

  • Open the spreadsheet again, and you should see the Recovered column in the left panel.
  • Click Show Recovered Files and it will open a Document Recovery sheet in the left panel listing the files it recovered.
  • Click one file and check the an earlier version to keep it.

#3. Recover from Previous Versions

If the Excel cannot open the file, you may try this way to restore previous versions of the file. Though you may lose some recent changes in this file, it helps you get back some of the data in the file.

  • You can right-click the target file which can’t be opened and select Properties.
  • Click Previous Version tab, and it will list all previously saved version of this file.
  • Then you can select the preferred version and click Restore button to recover the previous version of the workbook.

#4. Recover Unsaved Excel File from AutoRecover

Another method to recover unsaved worksheet is to use AutoRecover/AutoSave feature. And this method works if you have enabled the AutoRecover feature in Excel. (As for how to turn on AutoRecover feature, you the check the following part in this tutorial.)

  • You can open Excel, and click File -> Info.
  • You can view all automatically saved versions beside Manage Versions.
  • You can click one file to open it, and click Restore.
  • Set a new file name for the recovered file and choose .xlsx extension.

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Use AutoRecover/AutoSave to Prevent Data Loss

As mentioned above, you can turn on AutoRecover feature to avoid data loss. With AutoRecover feature enabled, you can easily recover unsaved files and restore previous versions.


Excel AutoSave is a tool which can automatically save a new created file which you don’t manually save yet. This feature can help you avoid losing important data in case of a computer operating system crash or power outage.


Excel AutoRecover can help you retrieve unsaved files in the case that the application is closed or crashed unexpectedly. You can use this feature to restore the last saved version of the file in Document Recovery pane when you open the app next time.

The AutoRecover feature works only if you’ve saved the file at least once. If you don’t save the file for at least one time and the computer suffers a system crash, the Document Recovery pane will not show up.

The AutoSave/AutoRecover feature is enabled by default. If you are not sure if it is turned on, you can check and turn on them manually.

How to turn on Excel AutoRecover

  • After you open the app, you can click File menu and click Options.
  • Next click Save icon from the left panel in Excel Options.
  • Make sure Save AutoRecover information every 10 minutes (you can customize the time interval), Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving, these two options are ticked. And click OK.
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Fix Excel Found Unreadable Content Error in filename.xlsx

"Excel found unreadable content in filename.xlsx. Do you want to recover the contents of this workbook? If you trust the source of this workbook, click Yes."

If you encounter this error message when trying to open a file, it’s probably because of the corruption of the file. You can try to install the Visual Basic component of Microsoft Office to see if the error can be fixed.

  • You can click Control Panel -> Programs, and select the Microsoft Office app, right-click it and click Change.
  • Next click Add or Remove Programs -> Next, and click the + icon next to Office Shared Features to expand it.
  • Right-click Visual Basic for Applications, and select Run from my computer. Click Continue. After it finishes, you can reboot computer and open the file again to see if this error has been fixed.


Here are the all-around fixes for “Excel cannot open the file” error. Some effective solutions to help you recover corrupted Excel files, as well as recover lost, deleted, unsaved Excel files are also provided.

Have problems when using MiniTool Software, please contact [email protected].

Excel Cannot Open the File FAQ

How do you fix Excel cannot open the file?
You can change the file format see if it can open the target file. If it still can’t open the file, you can continue trying to use Excel Open and Repair to repair it since it may be corrupted. Check the detailed guide above.
How can I open a corrupted Excel file?
Excel may not be able to open a corrupted file, you can firstly repair the file corruption with app’s built-in Open and Repair feature. And then you can try to open the file again. As for how to repair a corrupted a corrupted file with its Open and Repair feature, you can check the detailed instructions in Way 3 in this post.
Why Microsoft Excel cannot open?
Microsoft Excel cannot open or save more documents, this may be caused by there is not enough memory or disk space available. You can close some workbooks or applications you no longer need, and delete some unnecessary files to release more RAM and disk space.
How do I open an XLSX file?
You can open XLSX or XLS files with Microsoft Excel. There are many other free file viewers online to allow you to open and view files with .xlsx/.xls file extension. You can search in Chrome for “XLSX file viewer” or “XLSX file opener”, you’ll get a list of free tools.
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