How to Repair and Restore Excel File?

When an Excel file turns corrupt, the file might become inaccessible or you might receive errors. You may encounter errors, such as ‘the file is corrupt and cannot be opened,’ ‘Excel found unreadable content in "filename>",’ ‘Excel cannot open "filename" because the file format or extension is not valid,’ etc.

Common Reasons for Excel File Corruption

There are several reasons that can turn the file corrupt. The most common reason is a damaged hard drive. Other factors that can cause corruption in an Excel file are as follows:

  • System crash or abrupt shutdown of the system while the file is still open
  • Viruses infecting the file with malicious code
  • Bug in the operating system
  • Bad sectors on the drive where the file is stored
  • Large spreadsheets with formulas and other components

Whatever be the reason, if your business is dependent on an Excel file, corruption in the file could hamper your business continuity. Also, you may lose crucial data. In such a situation, you could try to repair the file.

Before We Begin

It is important to identify the root cause behind Excel file corruption. If the problem has occurred due to a faulty hard disk drive, contact your hardware vendor to get it fixed. Also, move the file to another local drive and check if it opens. If nothing works, proceed with the methods discussed below to repair and restore the file.

Methods to Repair and Restore Excel File

Try the following methods to fix corruption in an Excel file and restore it.

Method 1 – Use the Built-in ‘Open and Repair’ Tool

    You can use the Excel built-in Open and Repair utility to repair the corrupt file. Follow these steps:

  • Open your Excel application and click on Blank workbook.

  • blank excel workbook

  • On the blank workbook screen, click on the File tab.

  • file menu
  • Click Open > Computer > Browse.

  • select the open option
  • Select the file you want to repair and then click on Open and Repair from the Open dropdown box.

  • open and repair excel file

  • Click Repair to fix corruption in the Excel file and recover maximum data.

  • repair or extract excel data

  • If you get the following error message, click Yes to open the file.

  • excel file format does not match error

  • If clicking Yes opens the file with garbage entries (see the image below), perform Step 1 – 5 and click Extract Data. This will only help you recover data without formulas and values.

excel file with garbage entries

: You may also try to recover the data from a corrupted workbook by using the methods suggested by Microsoft.

A better way to repair and restore an Excel file with complete data is to use a specialized Excel file repair tool.

Method 2 – Use Excel File Repair Tool

Stellar Repair for Excel is a powerful tool designed to help users fix corrupted .xls or .xlsx files without any technical assistance. Also, the tool recovers all the components from a corrupted workbook, including tables, pivot tables, cell values, formulas, charts, images, etc. You can preview the repaired file and its contents by downloading the free demo version from the link below. It is a useful feature that allows the user to validate the data before saving it.

Free Download For Windows

Here’s the step-by-step instructions to repair a corrupt Excel file using the software:

  • Run the software. The software main interface opens with an instruction to add some add-ins if you’ve engineering formulas in the file you want to repair.

  • software main screen
  • Click OK to proceed.

  • Select the file you wish to repair by using the Browse option.

  • Note: If you’re not aware of the file location, choose the ‘Search’ option to locate the file.

  • Press the Repair button.

  • repair excel file

  • A screen showing progress of the Excel file repair process is displayed.

  • progress of the repair process
  • Preview of the repaired Excel file and its recoverable data is displayed.

  • preview repaired excel file
  • After verifying the data, click on the Save File button on the File menu to save the repaired file.

  • save repaired excel file
  • Select the location where you wish to save the repaired file on the Save File window and then click OK.

  • save at default location

    A confirmation message will pop-up after completion of the repair process. You can now try to open the file in your Excel program.

    End Note

    Even if you’re taking preventive measures, you might still experience corruption in an Excel file. So, it’s crucial to take regular backups of your workbooks. For this, ensure that the 'Always create backup' option is enabled in Excel. You can find it in General Options by clicking on the Tools button in the Save As dialog box. Enabling it will ensure that the Excel backup file is updated with the changes made in a spreadsheet.

    Additionally, ensure that the Excel ‘AutoRecover’ feature is set to save a version of your Excel file after every 10 minutes. You can increase or shorten the interval as per your requirement.

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    About The Author
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    Charanjeet Kaur linkdin Icon

    Technical writer with over 7 years of experience

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