How To Repair an Excel File (With Multiple Methods)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 8, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you have a corrupted Excel file, repairing it can help you view and edit it once again. There are multiple ways to repair a corrupted Excel file, including restoring it to its previous version and saving it in symbolic link format. Understanding how to repair an Excel file can help you find the right method for your situation. In this article, we discuss how to repair an Excel file, with multiple processes you can try.

Related: How To Use Excel for Project Management (Benefits and Tips)

When is it important to repair an Excel file?

It's important to repair an Excel file so that you can access all its data in case something goes wrong. For example, file corruption may occur if a user implements improper shut-down practices. Some other possible reasons a user may need to repair an Excel file include:

  • Malware attacks

  • Computer viruses

  • Technical defects within Excel

  • Hardware failures

  • Sudden power outages

  • Files that are too large

Related: What Is Data Security? Definition, Importance and Strategies

How to repair an Excel file manually

If you try to open a corrupted spreadsheet, Excel initiates something that it calls "File Recovery" mode. This means that Excel tries to open and repair it. Excel is often unable to initiate this mode for corrupted files, so you can repair them manually. Here's a list of steps on how to repair an Excel file manually:

  1. Open Excel.

  2. Click on the "File" tab.

  3. Click on the "Open" button, which is directly below the "New" button.

  4. Click "Browse" to search the files on your computer.

  5. Within the pop-up window, select the file that you want to repair.

  6. Move your cursor to the arrow that's next to the "Open" button and click on it.

  7. Choose the option that says "Open and Repair."

  8. Click the "Repair" button to recover as much data as possible.

  9. Wait to see if the repair is successful.

  10. Close the "Open" tab if the repair was successful.

  11. If the repair was unsuccessful, you can try clicking "Extract Data" to extract the worksheet's formulas and values.

Related: How To Include Excel Skills on Your Resume

How to repair an Excel file by creating external references

If you don't need a spreadsheet's values or formulas, you can recover only the data by creating external references. Here's a list of steps on how to repair an Excel file by creating external references that connect to the problematic file:

  1. Open Excel.

  2. Click on the "File" tab and click "Open."

  3. Find the location of the problematic file.

  4. Copy this file's name to your clipboard.

  5. Click "Cancel."

  6. Click on the "New" button under the "File" tab.

  7. Search for the "Available Templates" section.

  8. Find the option that says "Blank workbook."

  9. Locate cell A1 in your new workbook.

  10. Using the file name from step four, type "=File Name!A1" into cell A1.

  11. Press the "Enter" key on your keyboard.

  12. Within the "Update Values" pop-up window, click on the problematic workbook and choose "OK."

  13. Within the "Select Sheet" pop-up window, click on the problematic workbook and choose "OK."

  14. Hover over cell A1 with your cursor and highlight it.

  15. Find the "Clipboard" area underneath the "Home" tab and select the "Copy" button.

  16. Beginning in cell A1, drag your cursor to highlight an area that contains a similar number of cells to the data in the problematic workbook.

  17. Navigate to the "Clipboard" area again and click the "Paste" button.

  18. Select the large range of cells once again.

  19. Click the "Copy" button within the "Clipboard" section.

  20. Click the arrow below "Paste" to reveal more options.

  21. Select "Paste Values" and choose "Values" to insert the data from the original workbook and remove all corrupted links.

Related: What Are the Primary Types of Data?

How to repair an Excel file by changing the calculation option

If you can't open your Excel file, here's a list of steps on how to repair it by changing the calculation option:

  1. Open Excel.

  2. Click on the "File" tab.

  3. Choose the "New" option.

  4. Search for the option that says "Blank workbook" underneath the "Available Templates" section.

  5. Within the "File" tab, select "Options."

  6. Navigate to the "Formulas" category.

  7. Change the "Calculation options" from "Automatic" to "Manual" and select "OK."

  8. Click the "Open" option within the "File" tab.

  9. Choose the problematic file and click "Open."

How to repair an Excel file by reverting an open worksheet to a previous version

Here's a list of steps on how to repair an Excel file by reverting an open workbook to a previous version:

  1. Click on the "File" tab.

  2. Select the "Open" option.

  3. Find the name of the workbook that you had opened.

  4. Double-click on this file.

  5. Select "Yes" to reopen the workbook.

  6. Notice that these steps transform the workbook into its most recently saved version, so it doesn't contain the elements that caused its prior corruption.

How to repair an Excel file by saving an open worksheet in symbolic link format

Saving a worksheet that you already have opened in symbolic link format may eliminate corrupted elements. Here's a list of steps on how to repair an Excel file by saving an open worksheet in SYLK format:

  1. Click on the "File" tab.

  2. Click on "Save As" instead of "Save."

  3. Select the drop-down menu for the "Save as type" section.

  4. Select the option that says "SYLK (Symbolic Link)."

  5. Click "Save."

  6. Click "OK" to confirm that you're okay with only saving the active sheet within your workbook instead of the whole workbook.

  7. Click "Yes" to confirm that it's acceptable if the workbook has elements that aren't compatible with the symbolic link format.

  8. Visit the "File" tab and select "Open."

  9. Select "Browse" and find the .slk file that you stored away in step five.

  10. Select "Open."

  11. Once you open this .slk file, visit the "File" tab a final time.

  12. Select "Save As."

  13. Select the dropdown menu for the "Save as type" section.

  14. Choose "Excel Workbook."

  15. Update the "File Name" box by typing in a new name.

  16. Click the "Save" button to create a new copy of your workbook.

  17. Repeat steps 1-16 as necessary for all separate worksheets, as the symbolic link format doesn't support multiple worksheets.

Are there alternatives to the above recovery options for Excel files?

If you're experiencing a network error or disk error, you may not have to try the above recovery options. Moving your Excel file to a new hard disk drive can be helpful if you're experiencing issues with your current disk drive. Alternatively, you may benefit from moving your Excel file from its current network to a local drive if the network isn't working properly.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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