Common Microsoft Excel error codes and how to fix them

Arif Bacchus

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Occasionally when using Microsoft Excel, you might end up with an error code. This could be for a variety of reasons. Your file could be missing, or it can be corrupt. No reason to worry, though, we’ve got your back. Here’s a look at some of the most common Microsoft Excel program error codes and how you can fix them.

Excel cannot open (filename).xlsx

Excel Error 1

First on our list is a common error related to Exel not being open to open a file. This happens when the file you’re opening is corrupted, damaged, or moved from its original location. It also can occur when the file extension is invalid. If you’re looking to fix this issue, we suggest searching and opening the file manually from the location you last remembered saving it at, by finding the file and double clicking on it. Don’t open it directly through Excel or from the list of files in Excel. We also suggest checking your file types when saving files and making sure it’s in the .xlsx format or one that Excel is compatible with.

This file is corrupt and can’t be opened

Excel Error 2

Next up is an error about file corruption. If you’re seeing this error, then the issue is likely with the file. Something about the file is causing Excel to malfunction.

To resolve this issue, Excel will automatically attempt to repair the workbook. But, if this doesn’t work, then we suggest repairing it on your own. To do this, click File, followed by Open. From there, click Browse and navigate to the location and the folder where you have the workbook located in.

After you find it, click the arrow next to the Open button and click Open and Repair. You’ll be able to recover the data, but if this doesn’t work, you can Extract Data to extract values and formulas from the workbook. If all else fails, we suggest checking the solutions on Microsoft’s support website here.

This document caused a serious error the last time it was opened

Excel Error 3

Our third most common Excel error code is one that’s quite recurring with older versions of Excel (pre-dating the Microsoft 365 versions.) If you see an error saying “this document caused a serious error the last time it was opened,” then it’s likely related to a setting issue in Excel. According to Microsoft, this will happen when the file is included in the list of disabled files for Office. The program will add a file to this list if the file causes a serious error.

To resolve this issue, Microsoft recommends disabling add-ins. First, click File, then Options, and then click Add-Ins. In the Manage list, click COM Add-Ins, and then click Go. In the COM Add-Ins dialog box, clear the checkbox for any one of the add-ins in the list that’s selected, and then click OK. You should then restart Excel, and the document should reopen.

If all else fails, we suggest you try to recover the Excel document.

An error occurred when sending commands to the program

Finally, is another common issue with older versions of Excel. With this one, you’ll get an error message saying that “an error occurred when sending commands to the program.” If you get this error, it’s likely due to some process that is running in Excel, that is preventing Excel itself from closing.

Again, this isn’t an issue with the modern Microsoft 365 apps, and it only covers older versions of Excel. As a resolution, select File, followed by Options. From there, select Advanced and scroll down to the General section, and clear the checkbox for ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE.) After you do this, click OK. This should resolve the issue, but we suggest checking Microsoft’s support article if this doesn’t work.

Check out other coverage

As we dive deeper into the Microsoft 365 apps, this is just our latest coverage. We’ve also given a look at some of the most common Excel formula errors, and how to fix them. And, we’ve covered some of our top 5 tips and tricks for Excel, for both novices and Excel veterans. You can also keep tuned to our Microsoft 365 hub, for all the latest Office news and information.