Opening Excel Files From Windows Explorer

As I’m sure you know, you can double click on an Excel file in Windows Explorer to open it in Excel. Sometimes this causes a problem, however. Typically, the problem encountered is that the file doesn’t open, but Excel opens with a blank area where the workbook should be. If you encounter this problem, the first two things you should do are:

1. Tools>Options>General and uncheck Ignore Other Applicaitons.

2. Close Excel and from Windows use Start>Run. Type in

C:MyPathExcel.exe /unregserver

then do the same thing, but type

C:MyPathExcel.exe /regserver

Replace MyPath with the actual path to Excel.exe. Neither of these commands will start Excel, but they will rewrite the registry items associated with Excel. I’ve never had to type the path, I’ve just used

Excel.exe /regserver

but better safe than sorry. And thanks to Dave Peterson for the /unregserver tip. Sometimes just using /regserver will fix the problem, but there have been occasions when the /unregserver step was needed.

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107 thoughts on “Opening Excel Files From Windows Explorer

  1. I had problem with the excel file , when opening from windows 2000 explorer. This solution really helped me
    Thanks Dick Kusleika

  2. Thanks! I was going crazy with this problem and this solution fixed it! Thanks a lot!

  3. I tried this option, but still I receive a message “Cannot find the file “abc.xls” (or one of its components). Make sure the path and filename are correct and that all required libraries are available.

  4. Excel.xls file is on the server but its giving bank screen ???? can any one tell me..

    there is no error

  5. Thanks so much, this was driving me crazy… whenever I opened a file from windows explorer in excel it would rename the file and forget where it came from. This fixed it! Thanks!!!!

  6. “Cannot find the file “file.xls” (or one of its components). Make sure the path and filename are correct and that all required libraries are available

  7. Thank you very much.

    This problem came up for me recently and was quite inefficient and annoying when you handle excel files all day.

    The solution suggested here fixed it. It took me a few minutes to get the path configured correctly.

    I believe there needs to be a space between the colon and the beginning of the path description. For example on my computer it was-

    C: Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice10EXCEL.EXE/unregserver.

  8. Dick – It’s actually a forward slash, but for some reason my blogging software can’t escape a forward slash. It should be c:Program Files… (we’ll see if that forward slash shows up)

  9. That has been a constant source of irritation for some time now and life is too short! Thank you so much.

  10. It was good r&d

    I would like to have more info about the troubleshooting windows os and application s/w


  11. Mine finally worked with just Run=>

    “excel /unregserver” and then “excel /regserver”

    with a space between excel and the slash

    Thanks my smile is back above horizontal now

  12. Thanks and step 1 fixed this annoying problem.

    Do you know hwta causes it? Thanks again.

    1. Tools>Options>General and uncheck Ignore Other Applicaitons.

  13. This was an absolutely fantastic fix for me. I have tried the unregistering and registering of excel before and it didn’t work – the “ignore other applications” combined finally did it. I had been searching for solution for ages. Many thanks.

  14. Thank you very much! Your fix worked. Its a shame microsoft does not have answers for these type problems.

  15. Great tip… finally I’ve gotten this working.
    Had to plead with centralised IT support for an admin passport just to be able to place run on my start bar.
    Now they’ve given me one – I’ve run riot and fixed numerous bugs.
    Thanks for the help – very much appreciated!!!

  16. hi,

    when i am trying to open excel file on dubble click.
    it taking so much time to open. but when i open same file from file menu—>open it open quickly.

    i reinstalled ms office but i still facing same problem.

    pls help me out of this problem



  17. I wish I found this before I went through the pain of uninstalling and reinstalling Office 2003. The “unregserver” tip worked famously. I’d be curious to know why and how this happens “all of a sudden.”

    Thank you so much!!

  18. I have tried the /unregserver and /regserver but it still did not fix the problem. I have also examined the XLS file type which appears correct.
    If I add the {pathname}excel.exe in front of the xls file from a short cut it opens with out an error.

  19. Works great!

    Unreg and regged the first time with no success.. Did Microsoft Office update to no avail.

    Tried this in Options, and worked right away.

    Using Office 2003

  20. This is somewhat related to th eproblem for some people and may explain a bit more.

    I think I have figured out this stupid Excel thing.

    Excel has this bast%^%^ized MDI SDI thing.

    I think most people run Excel with it’s child Window Maximized (which makes it really confusing).

    So when you click on another file it switches to that file, hides the other window but adds another icon on your task bar giving you the feeling you started another instance of excel (but it didn’t !!). I’ve been burned by this too many times and shutdown what I thought was one instance of excel turned out to be all of them. Word does not behave this way.

    So there is an option to disable this feature called “Ignore Other Applications” (under Options-> General). If you look at the help on this it basically shuts of DDE. What DDE basically does is when you click on a file it checks to see if Excel is already running and if it is, it passes the file to that already running instance. The problem with turning this switch on is the file mappings that are already installed assume DDE is on and things break. So when you shut that option off you suddenly start getting errors that Excel cannot find the file.

    To fix this go into your File Explorer (My Computer) and Choose Folder -> Options -> File Type. Find XLS and select it, then click advanced button. Now Select the “Open” Action and choose Edit button. Now this is the trick, shutoff DDE by unchecking it. Then edit the end of the action. The end should be something like this (note the “%1?) and note there must be a space between the /e and the first quote.

    “C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOFFICE11EXCEL.EXE” /e “%1?

    Now this allows you to create a SEPERATE instance of excel everytime you click on an Excel file. And when you close that excel instance it has no impact on any other. It also gets rid of the I can’t find the file problem. In some cases you will see a %1 without the quotes. That causes the problem that excel can’t find files when the path has spaces in it.

    You may want to repeat this for other files types that maps to Excel. Like .CSV

    If you have “ignore other applications” switch unchecked (default behavior) you get the funky SDI/MDI/Excel Instance behavior.

    If you have “ignore other applications” switch checked, you get the more logical MDI/SDI/Excel Instance behavior but the file type mappings must be fixed as I described above.

    This all assumes under WinXP.

  21. Why would you want a separate instance of Excel for each workbook you open? Is it just confusion over the View Windows in Taskbar setting? You’re better off unchecking View Windows in Taskbar, so you only see the instance of Excel, and not each workbook window. For the rare case in which you need another instance of Excel, simply start Excel from the Start menu.

    IMO, the MDI/SDI/Whatever behavior in Excel is much better than that of Word. When 2000 came out, you couldn’t change the Windows in Taskbar behavior of Word, and that made me nuts. Also, Word forces one set of menus atop each document window, not on the application window, so when you arrange windows, you get two or more blocks of UI taking up vital visual work space.

  22. MSWlogo-

    THANK-YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIP!!! I have been fighting with this stupid Excel to open a separate window each time I double-click on an .XLS file. To Jon Peltier above, I spend all day opening and closing Excel files and want to close one file but leave the other open, only to find I have closed them all because they appear in one window- and by the way lose the work I spent typing and pasting in data from the other files. You would think Microsoft would put an accessible switch in the options area to flip between SDI and MDI to accomodate everyone.


  23. Works for me. Great stuff. Thanks for making this knowledge available – been trying to fix the “Excel starts up empty” problem for months.

  24. Hi Mr. Dick Kusleika,

    Thank you for providing this solution as this really helped me and resolved the issue which I was facing since the last 2days.

    Thank you once again!

    Have a great time!


  25. It worked!!! Thanks so much. This issue was annoying for so long. Key things to note–you need a space between the colon when you type C: “mypath”excel.exe/unregserver, where “mypath” is the exact location of your excel program (for me it was “Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOfficeexcel.exe”)

    Thanks again!

  26. I dishoped to find back this such more convenient setting. For info, I used to enjoy this feature with Excel 2000 in former times, until it suddenly went away. When installing Office 2003 a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to see it again, until it faded away, again without any explanation.
    Thanks a lot for this great tip to run multiple Excel instances !

  27. Works on Excel 2007 (Beta 2) as well (Ignore other applications is now listed in the advnaced section)

  28. Hi everybody,
    Regards this issue, I had found out a strange phenomenon. Let say I have a pre-opened Excel E1 by using Microsoft Excel 2003 (blank document is also OK). And I open another Excel file E2 but using Internet Explorer 6.0 in this way:
    1. Page “parent.htm”:

    2. Page “child.htm”:

    function test_onclick() {“test.xls”,”_self”);

    No matter what “test.xls” is. (It can be an empty Excel file).
    Now when I open the “parent.htm” and clik on the non-Excel frame, the Excel file E1 WILL BE LOCKED (you can’t do anything except closing it).
    Do you have any idea on this?

  29. The comment 31 from mswlogo is really good. Sometimes you have two monitors and you want to compare two EXCEL files. Then you will know how helpful this tip is. Thanks a lot!

  30. mswlogo

    THANK YOU very much for the solution to the multiple instances problem.
    Very well introduced and explained.

  31. I cant uncheck the Use DDE box. That is, I uncheck it, click Ok, Ok, and Excel still opens in the same instance, I go back to the folder action settings, and it is back to having DDE checked!!!

  32. Thank-you so much! The Excel MDI experience has bothered me for years. The Excel UI is just not designed to properly accommodate a true MDI interface. Wait until you get a load of Excel2007, it’s even more akward than ever!

    Now I can finally double click on two files directly and compare them side by side on my DUAL MONITORS, something that was always a pain to do before. (open one, go to start menu, find it there, open it, wait, file, open…. finally!)

    Now, is there any way to get ride of the “Microsoft Excel” in the task bar buttons? I know what program it is, I can see the icon!

  33. To get rid of the “Microsoft Excel” in the title bar (and show only the workbook name) execute this VBA statement:

    application.Caption = ” “

    That’s a space between the quotes. Using empty quotes resets it to normal.

  34. Re:Point 31
    I like the way Excel works already. I stack up Excel applications when I need them and separate them so that if I want to link excel files or just Ctrl+F6 between them I keep them together and if I think one file is big slow and unstable and is at risk of crashing I open it up in an independant application so that I can kill separate “Excel’s” without trashing my other work.

    I would hate for Excel to start to behave like Word.

  35. Thank you so much. I have been looking for a way to open new instances of Excel every time I double click the files for a long time. I am not sure what the advantages of MDI in Excel are such that Microsoft made this the default behavior.

    I have dual monitors and need to look at two spreadsheets on separate monitors. MDI just can’t manage this very well (esp when monitors are of different sizes).

  36. Appreciate the info! I was fine until inducing the problem by turning on the “ignore other applications” trying to help someone else. Turned it off again but the problem with split file names remained.

  37. I have a different problem opening with Windows Explorer. When opening a file from Windows Explorer when I have Excel already open with a file active, the active file is deleted and the new file loaded up. Excel doesn’t give any warning nor does it ask if you wish to save the file. I have replicated this on both my desktop (Windows XP Media) and laptop (Windows XP Home) using the same software–Office 2003. Have you heard of this problem? Any solutions?


    Jimmy Griffith

  38. Thanks alot of this handy tip. It helped me solve a problem ive been having for a few days..

  39. Holly Molly – I can take my foil hat off, thought they (gov space people) finally had me that time.

  40. Thanks a lot. I can start excel files again via double click. However, it occured already after unchecking the Ignore other applications. Then comes the strange part…
    When I now try to run C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOfficeEXCEL.EXE /unregsever, I get the error Cannot find the file ‘C:Program’ (or one of its components). It seems the RUN command does not recognize the space in “Program Files”… Any idea how to solve this problem? With excel I don’t have problems with dirs or files having blanks.

  41. Jimmy: If you look in the Window menu, isn’t your previous file still there?
    Could there be an addin or a macro somewhere else that causes havoc?

    Andre: You need to put the entire string in quotes except the startup parameters:

    “c:program files….Excel.exe” /unregserver

  42. In regards to the Application.Caption = ” ” to shorten the names in the task bar, I get Invalid outside procedure. Is this due to missing admin rights?

  43. Although the registry method worked for me the results were temporary. Scotty’s advice led me to figure out where the problem was. I tried it and found it worked, but again only good for one more opening of my Excel file and suspiciously, the execution of a macro. I decided to turn the Excel macro recording on and took a look at what was recorded with Scotty’s method. It was Application.IgnoreRemoteRequests = False. Sure enough, I had a macro running that turned them true but did not turn them false so I just pasted the recorded macro on the end and problem solved. Not sure exactly why it worked but it probably has to do with what IgnoreRemoteRequests means. I used it to suppress the clipboard prompt that you often get in Office products but admittedly it was a bit of a hack-job. Just glad that I can now roll on. Great to have the help.

  44. I have similar issue with Excel 2007 opening Excel 2003 files. any path with a space Excel 2007 doesn’t like. I have some workstations that work fine. I have narrowed it down to a %1 on the end of the application path. The workstations the work correctly don’t have the %1. I find this under folder options, file types, xls, open, edit, application path. I have tried everything and can’t remove the %1. I delete it, try to open a xls document and it still fails. I go back an look and the %1 is there. I tried /unregserver and /regserver and still no fix. How do I permanently remove the %1?

  45. One thing we found to “fix” this issue is to go into File Types, XLS, Advanced and make “New” the default instead of “Open”

  46. Excel opens empty.
    I couldn’t get rid of %1 either. I ran an Office 2007 repair and that fixed that but I cannot get /unregserver /regserver to work. I go to Run and type the path: C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12EXCEL.EXE /unregserver but it says that it cannot find ‘C:Program’ I put the whole path in Quotes, followed by the switch, and it just opens EXCEL. I follow up with the /regserver switch, after the quotes, and it opens EXCEL again but still opens empty until I click open-cancel or minimize, then it brings up the doc. Ignoring other applications doesn’t help either. What are you folks doing differently? thanks!

  47. sorry. I read half way the messages then skipped to the “end of the book” and typed my comments to a post then I learned afterwards that others were having the same syntax issues. Sorry for the double post. Neverhteless, the problem remains. Thanks for any helpful comments that may be directed my way.

  48. well, “1%” works, but creates several instances of the program with many other problems. If /regserver do not work try “Problems in Windows Explorer or the Windows shell after you install security update MS06-015?.
    Only reapplying the update help me finally get rid of the delays

  49. HI
    I had this problem and I tried to uninstall and re install my office several times, but the problem still remained.
    Your method solved it in seconds

  50. I had a problem with opening excel files which had a space in the path, not file name. The settings were all correct in folder settings, but only was fixed by the regserver.


  51. Thanks for this solution. I was facing too much problems as my files are interlinked and was not able to work on them.
    Thanks once again

  52. mswlogo,

    I switched to excel 2007 a few months ago and never had issues opening files but suddenly last week I started getting failures on .xls files. If the path had spaces it failed to open the file. This was driving me crazy so today I decided to google the issue. This page was my second hit. It looks like I lost the ” around the %1 – no idea how. I added them and bingo!!!! it works!!!!. Thanks mswlogo!


  53. thanks a lot, worked for me so far. But one more thing, extending that issue: in my understanding I would have to register each file type individually. Usually this is also possible via right-click, “open with..” etc. But the Excel icon does not appear in this list, and if I browse for it it is not imported either. Does anyone know how to solve that? I have lots of different file types and changing all manually will be painful….

    Occured for me after installing Office 2007

  54. Thank you very much … this was driving me crazy and it worked without the path for me … again, thanks so much

  55. One disadvantage of opening Excel files in different instances is that yo can’t copy / paste cells with more than 256 chars between files. The contents get truncated. And with 2003 the closing issue was solved anyway. If I close a excel file from the taskbar, only that file will be closed, the other Excel files stay open.

  56. I have tried the solution of putting the “%1? on the end of the command line and turning off the DDE link

    Which is OK if you want every document you wanted on a seperate Excel session.

    I solved my problem by turning off the “Ignore other Applications” tick box on Tools -> Options -> General tab

    This solved my problem, and all documents will open within the same Excel Session.

  57. thnxs. but no thnxs. .. Cut&paste of the formulas also doesnot work. It only copies the values correctly but the formulas are completely ignored. Is there a work around for this.

  58. Jon Peltier asks about mswlogo solution:
    the reason why some would want to do what mswlogo says instead of simply unchecking the “Ignore Other App” is for multi-monitor setups. “Ignore Other App” is an easy way to view multiple workbooks show up on different monitors while being able to use your desktop/file shortcuts instead of having to start from the start menu.

  59. In microsoft office excel 2000, under general options, there is no always backup tab to check. Are you aware of this default…even though I am behind the times with a later version. Is there a work around for getint this to work in excel 2000. It is in word, etc.
    thank you

  60. I’ve just upgraded to Excel 2007 and when I open text files (.txt) in Excel through MS Explorer each one gets a new instance of Excel.exe, in 2003 they used to open as a window in the same instance and that is what I want so I can use Move or Copy Sheets to merge them. I know I can use File > Open, but how do you control whether the txt file will open with the same instance of Excel? Anyone know? Cheers, Martin.

  61. Thank you!!!!! I had tried uninstalling & reinstalling Office 2010. Nothing seemed to work. All I had to do was the 1st part (uncheck the “Ignore Other Applications that use DDE”, close Excel, and dbl click my file). I would have NEVER figured this out on my own.

  62. Using Office/Excel 2010. “Ignore Other Applications that use DDE” IS unchecked. Tried the runtime options “MyPath\Excel.exe /unregserver” and then “MyPath\Excel.exe /regserver”. Excel still opens a new instance when I double click “*.xlsx” or “*.xls” files in Windows Explorer. Very puzzling as this only started about one week ago on my machine and I don’t know what changes I made to cause it. When I look at *.xls file properties it shows that this file opens with “Unknown Application”. However, the file properties for *.xlsx files show “Microsoft Excel”. Regardless of which file type I open through double-clicking, I still get a new instance of Excel.

  63. Are you sure you’re getting multiple instances? Do you have two EXCEL.EXE process in the task manager? Or just two windows in the task bar?

  64. I was getting multiple instances / processes. I resolved it. It seemed to be an issue with a Bloomberg excel add-in. Disabling it and re-enabling it seems to have fixed the problem (for now at least).

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