MS Office File Repair

How to Fix the “Microsoft Excel Cannot Access the File” Error?

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    Summary: The “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error usually occurs when there is an issue with the Excel file you are trying to save. This post summarizes the causes behind the error and mentions some effective solutions to fix it. If you suspect the problem is encountered due to corruption in the Excel file, you can use the professional Excel repair tool mentioned in the post to repair the file.

    You may experience the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error when saving the Excel file. This happens when the Excel application fails to read the file you are attempting to save. The error message indicates that there is an issue with the file name or its path. Sometimes, the error occurs if the file you are trying to access is already in use by another application. Some other reasons for the “Excel cannot access the file” error are:

    • Faulty or incompatible Excel add-ins.
    • The file is in Protected View.
    • The Excel file is damaged or corrupted.
    • You do not have the required permissions to access the file.
    • The Excel file is not in a compatible format.

    Methods to Fix “Microsoft Excel Cannot Access the File” Error

    Sometimes, changing the file location can fix the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error. You can try changing the file location, if the location is incorrect. If moving the file to a different location didn’t work, then try the below troubleshooting methods.

    Method 1: Check the File Name and Path

    You can get the “Microsoft Excel cannot access file” error if there is an issue with the file path – either the path does not exist or it is too lengthy, thus creating conflicts. Make sure the file path is correct. If the file name is too long, you can rename the file with a short name and also move the file to the parent folder instead of a subfolder. After that, remove the file from the Recent list that is created by Excel based on your recent activity. Follow the below steps:

    • Open the Excel application.
    • In the Recent list, right-click on the affected Excel file.
    • Now, select Remove from list.
    Selecting the "remove from list" option
    • Close the Excel application.

    Now, reopen the problematic file and check if the error exists. If yes, then follow the next solution.

    Method 2: Try Clearing the Microsoft Office Cache

    Sometimes, clearing the Microsoft Office cache can help eliminate the “Excel cannot access the file” error. To clear the Microsoft Office cache, follow the given steps:

    • First, close all the Office applications.
    • Press Windows+R to open the Run window.
    • Type %localappdata%\Microsoft\Office\16.0\OfficeFileCache and press the Enter key. You can change ‘16.0’ with your Office version.
    Clearing Microsoft Cache from officefilecache Window
    • In the OfficeFileCache window, clear all the temporary files.

    Method 3: Check and Update Microsoft Excel

    You can try updating your Microsoft Excel application. The latest updates include bug fixes, security patches, and other improvements. Updating the application can help fix several issues that might be causing the error. Here are the steps to update Microsoft Excel:

    • Open your Excel application.
    • Go to File and then select Account.
    • Under Product information, click Update Options and then click Update Now.

    Method 4: Disable Protected View

    You may get the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error if the Protected View option is enabled. You can try disabling the Protected View settings in Excel. This allows you to open the file without any restrictions. However, disabling the protected view can put your system at high risk. To disable the Protected View in Microsoft Excel, follow the below steps:

    • In Excel, go to File and then click Options.
    • In the Excel Options window, click Trust Center and then click Trust Center Settings.
    Go To Trust Center and Click on Trust Center Settings
    • Click Protected View from the left pane in the Trust Center Settings window.
    • Unselect the options under Protected View. Click OK.

    Method 5: Check and Disable Add-ins

    The “Excel cannot access the file” error can also occur due to faulty add-ins in Excel. To check if the error has occurred due to some faulty add-ins, open the application in safe mode (press Windows + R and typeexcel /safe in the Run window). If you can save the file without any hiccups in safe mode, this indicates some problematic add-ins are behind the error. You can remove the Excel add-ins by following these steps:

    • Open your Excel application and go to File > Options.
    • In Excel Options, select Trust Center and then click Trust Center Settings.
    • In Trust Center Settings, click Add-ins and thenselect “Disable all applications Add-ins”. Click OK.
    Go to 'Add ins' and select disable all application add ins

    Method 6: Check File Permission

    You can get the “Excel cannot access the file” error if you don’t have sufficient permissions to modify the Excel file. You can check and provide the write permissions to fix the issue. Here’s how to do so:

    • Open Windows Explorer.
    • Find the affected Excel file, right-click on it, and click Properties.
    Click Properties Option
    • In the Properties window, click the Securities option and click Edit.
    Go to Security and then click Edit option
    • In the Security window, select the user names under ‘Group or users name’.
    • Check the file permissions and make sure the write option is enabled. If not, then grant the permission. Click Apply and then OK. 

    The “Excel cannot access the file” error can also occur due to broken external links in the Excel file. External links are references to the data or content in other files. The link usually breaks if the file has been moved to another location or the file name is changed. You can check and change the source of link.

    Method 8: Repair your Excel File

    Excel may fail to read the file if it is corrupted or damaged. If the error “Excel cannot access the file” has occurred due to file corruption, then try the Excel’s Open and Repair utility to repair the Excel file. Here are the steps:

    • In the Excel application, click the File tab and then select Open.
    • Click Browse to select the problematic workbook.
    • The Open dialog box will appear. Click on the corrupted file.
    • Click the arrow next to the Open button and then select Open and Repair.
    • You will see a dialog box with three buttons – Repair, Extract Data, and Cancel.
    Click repair option
    • Click on the Repair button to recover as much of the data as possible.
    • After repair, a message is displayed. Click Close.

    If the Open and Repair utility fails to work, it indicates the Excel file is severely corrupted. Use Stellar Repair for Excel to repair severely corrupt Excel file. It helps recover all the components of the corrupted Excel file, such as charts, formulas, etc. without making any changes to the original file. It can also fix all types of corruption-related errors. You can use Stellar Repair for Excel to repair Excel files created in all Excel versions – from 2007 to 2023.


    The “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error can occur due to numerous reasons. Follow the troubleshooting methods, such as checking file location, path, permissions, etc., as discussed above to fix this error. Sometimes, Excel throws this error if the file you are trying to save is corrupted. You can try repairing the file using the built-in utility – Open and Repair. If the file is severely corrupted, then you can use Stellar Repair for Excel. It can repair damaged Excel files (.xls, .xlsx, .xltm, .xltx, and .xlsm) with complete integrity. 

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    About The Author

    Monika Dadool linkdin

    Monika Dadool is a Technical content writer at Stellar who writes about QuickBooks, Sage50, MySQL Database, Active Directory, e-mail recovery, Microsoft365, Pattern Recognition, and Machine learning. She loves researching, exploring new technology, and Developing engaging technical blogs that help organizations or Database Administrators fix multiple issues. When she isn’t creating content, she is busy on social media platforms, watching web series, reading books, and searching for food recipes.

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