How to Repair Excel File Effortlessly with Few Easy Manual Tricks?

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool for businesses. Over the last few decades, it has become an integral part of most of the organizations around the world. This popular spreadsheet software is commonly used for financially-related activities. Microsoft Excel has great features that you may not get in other spreadsheet software. But just like any other software program, it has a major drawback. The files created by Microsoft Excel are prone to corruption. In this article, we’re going to discuss the most common reasons which can damage or corrupt Excel file. Also, we’ll learn how to repair Excel files by using a few easy manual solutions.

Reasons behind Corrupt Excel file

Just like any other computer file, an Excel spreadsheet is also prone to corruption. Generally, when you try to open a corrupt Excel file, you’re likely to receive an error message something like this, “The file is corrupt and cannot be opened”.

corrupt Excel file

Below is the list of the most common error messages which you may receive at the time of corruption:

  • “Excel file cannot be accessed. The file may be read-only.”
  • “Excel can’t open the file because the file format or file extension is not valid.”
  • “File is not in a recognizable format.”
  • “Excel found unreadable content in the file.” 
  • “Microsoft Excel has encountered a problem and needs to close.”

Do you know how an Excel file becomes corrupted? Have you ever tried to find out the reason for corruption? You must know the reasons in order to prevent corruption in the future. The most common reasons are discussed below:

Viruses and Bugs

A computer virus is the most common reason for file corruption. It’s malicious software aka malware that can easily modify the software programs and the files created by them. Generally, viruses enter a computer through an email or by inserting an infected removable media. It can replicate itself and insert its own code into other software programs. Such an action will cause corruption in the computer files. An Excel file ain’t immune to virus infection. Also, the internal bugs of a software program can cause corruption in the files. Almost all software programs have internal bugs which can lead to severe problems including file corruption.

Power Failure

If you ain’t using the UPS device, you’re likely to face power outage issues. Whenever a computer shuts down abruptly, it can cause a severe damage. How? A computer system needs sufficient time to be turned off properly. But if it shuts down unexpectedly due to power failure or any other reason, it may put your data at high risk. It may lead to situations like data loss or corruption. While working on an Excel spreadsheet, if the system shuts down abruptly, it may corrupt the file. Next time you’ll open the file, it’s likely to be corrupted.

Software Malfunction

The collision of software applications with one another is very natural. And such an action can cause software malfunction that can lead to file corruption and data loss. If Microsoft Excel collides with any other software application, it might be harmful to Microsoft Excel as well as its files. Sometimes software malfunction may also occur due to the internal bugs in the application.

Storage Media Failure

Storage media, be it internal or external, stores your data. Any sort of error in the storage media can cause a great loss. If the Excel files are stored on a storage media, and due to any reason if storage media failure occurs, it may put Excel files at high risk of corruption.

Abruptly Closing Excel Program

If you close any software application abruptly, it may cause harmful effects especially when you’re working on a file. Next time you open the file, you’ll find it corrupt or inaccessible. System power failure is the primary reason behind this situation. Closing the Excel program abruptly can cause corruption in Excel files.

Human Errors

A human error might be anything, i.e. a mistake done by you. Human errors include:

  • Adding invalid content to Excel files;
  • Abruptly closing Excel program while working on a file;
  • Modifying or deleting system files;
  • Installing software applications downloaded from unauthorized sources; etc.

These are the most common and highly responsible reasons for a corrupt Excel file. But now the question is “how to repair Excel file”.

corrupt Excel file

You’re lucky if you have the backup. You should use the backup to restore Excel file from it. If you regularly take backup of your Excel files, then you can easily recover them without using any 3rd party software. But make sure the backup file is valid and updated. A valid backup file plays the role of a lifesaver. You can use it whenever corruption takes place due to accidental deletion or corruption. But if you don’t have any valid backup file, then you have to repair Excel file.

Important note: Do you know that OpenOffice Calc can also open spreadsheet files (XLS & XLSX) created by Microsoft Excel? Before you can try anything to repair Excel file, you must try to open it in OpenOffice Calc. If the corruption in minor, it can open the corrupt Excel file so that you can recover your data from it.

How to Repair Excel File?

Generally, a professional Excel Recovery tool is considered one of the best ways to repair Excel file. However, you should try a few easy manual tricks to repair Excel file. The manual tricks I’m sharing here don’t require any 3rd party software. Microsoft Excel has a few built-in features which you can use here.

Solution #1 – Open and Repair Excel File

Microsoft Excel has a built-in repair feature, “Open and Repair”. It can repair Excel file and open it with no problem.

Step 1: First, launch Microsoft Excel on your system. Don’t open the corrupt Excel file.

Step 2: On the taskbar, click the File tab > Open. Or simply press Ctrl + O.

Step 3: On the Open dialog box, browse to the path where the corrupt Excel file is stored. Click the file once to select it.

Step 4: You can see a drop-down arrow next to the Open button. Click it to expand the list and choose Open and Repair… in the options. Step 5: On the Microsoft Excel dialog box, you’ll receive this message:

open and repair Excel file

Now choose what you want:

  • Click Repair if you want to recover as much of your work as possible.
  • Click Extract Data if Excel was previously unable to repair the workbook.

You should click Repair to repair Excel file and recover your maximum possible data. Within a few seconds, it’ll fix corrupt Excel file and open it.

In a case of severe corruption, the “Open and Repair” trick may not work. In such a situation, you should try other manual tricks.

Solution #2 -Use SYLK Format to Recover Data

If the “Open and Repair” trick doesn’t work, you should try another built-in feature of Microsoft Excel. You can convert the corrupt Excel file into SYLK (symbolic link) format in order to recover data from it. It’s one of the highly recommended solutions to filter out the corrupt elements from an Excel file. If you think corruption has taken place due to any sort of printing error, you must try this trick.

Step 1: First, launch Microsoft Excel on your system. Don’t open the corrupt Excel file.

Step 2: On the taskbar, click the File tab > Save As.

Step 3: On the Save As dialog box, browse to the path where the corrupt Excel file is stored. Click the file once to select it.

Step 4: Now type a new name to this file, and click the drop-down arrow next to Save as type.

Step 5: Select SYLK (Symbolic Link) in the list and click Save. You’ll receive this message

Excel file into SYLK

Click OK to save only the active sheet.

Step 6: You may receive one more message

Excel file into SYLK

Click Yes to keep this format, which leaves out any incompatibility features.

Now on the taskbar, click the File tab > Exit.

Step 7: Launch Microsoft Excel on your system. On the taskbar, click the File tab > Open.

Step 8: Browse to the path where you’ve saved the filename.slk file earlier. Note: To see the .slk file, click All Files or SYLK Files in the files’ types list.

Step 9: Select the file and click Open. You can now see the file. On the taskbar, click File tab > Save As.

Step 10: On the Save As dialog box, type a new name for the new file. Then, click Save as type box and select Excel Workbook. Click Save.

Solution #3 – Extract Data from Corrupt Excel File

There’s one more feature in Microsoft Excel which you can use here. You can try to extract data from the corrupt chard of an Excel spreadsheet. You need to create a macro here:

  • Create a module sheet and enter the following macro code:
Sub GetChartValues97()
Dim NumberOfRows As Integer
Dim X As Object 
Counter = 2

' Calculate the number of rows of data.
NumberOfRows = UBound(ActiveChart.SeriesCollection(1).Values)

Worksheets("ChartData").Cells(1, 1) = "X Values"

' Write x-axis values to wosksheet.
With Worksheets("ChartData")
.Range (.Cells (2, 1), _
.Cells (NumberOfRows + 1, 1)) = _
End With

' Loop through all series in the chart and write their values to

' the worksheet.
For Each X In ActiveChart.SeriesCollection
Wosksheets ("ChartData").Cells(1, Counter) = X.Name

With Worksheets("ChartData")
.Range(.Cells(2, Counter), _
.Cells(NumberOfRows + 1, Counter)) = _
End With

Counter = Counter + 1

End Sub
  • Now insert a new worksheet in the workbook, and rename it ChartData.
  • Select the chart from which you want to extract the underlying data values.
  • Now run the GetChartValues97 macro.

Excel Repair Tool

If the manual solutions fail to repair Excel file, you should consider using a professional Excel Recovery solution. There are many vendors in the online marketplace which provide Excel Recovery software. Most of them provide the demo version for free evaluation. So before you can purchase any paid software, you must download the free demo version. By using the demo version, you can scan the corrupt Excel file and check the preview of your recoverable data prior to saving. And if you’re satisfied with the results, then only you should purchase the software.

The Excel Repair tool provided by SysInfoTools Software is one of the best Excel recovery solutions. It can repair Excel file and restore Excel file items like textsformulae, text formatting, tables, charts, graphs, cell’s data, Unicode characters, images, etc. You can save all the recovered items into a new Excel file. This Excel Recovery software supports both XLS and XLSX files created by all versions of Microsoft Excel.

Repair XLS File

Microsoft Excel 2003 and earlier versions save the spreadsheet in XLS format. Also, the XLS file can be created by Microsoft Excel 2007 and later versions including the latest 2016. So if you’re facing corruption, you can use this software to repair XLS file.

Repair XLSX File

Microsoft Excel 2007 and later versions save the spreadsheet in XLSX format. So if you’re using any of these versions and facing corruption in the Excel files, you should use this software to repair XLSX file.


In this article, we’ve discussed the most common reasons for corruption in the Excel files. Also, we’ve seen the most common error messages which occur at the time of corruption. The article explained three different manual tricks which you can use to repair Excel file. If the manual tricks don’t work for you, then you should consider using a professional Excel Repair tool recommended here.

About The Author:

I'm a content writer in the field of Email Migration, Data Recovery, Email backup, and File Management. I started this writing career two years back. I think the vast range of information in this industry is the reason I am so fascinated to read about the newer techniques and technology.

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