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[Fixed]Excel Cannot Open Because the File Format Error

Ever had that moment when you're all set to open your Excel file, but then bam! An error pops up, stopping you dead in your tracks. Yes, we've all been there. It's called the "Excel Cannot Open Because the File Format Error" and it's a real head-scratcher.

The "Excel cannot open file because the file format " error can occur due to several reasons, leaving users unable to access their crucial data stored in Excel files.

This comprehensive guide will explore the potential causes of the "Excel cannot open because the file format" error and provide proven solutions to help you regain access to your Excel files.

Part 1: What Triggers the "Excel Cannot Open File Because the File Format" Error?

Before we jump into fixing the problem, it's important to grasp why Excel might throw the "Excel cannot open file because the file format" error. Here are some typical reasons behind this issue:

  • File Corruption: Sometimes Excel files get messed up. This could happen because of all sorts of things like your computer crashing, catching a nasty virus, or if a file transfer gets interrupted. When this corruption occurs, Excel can't figure out the file format properly, hence the error.
  • Incompatible File Formats: Excel can handle a bunch of different file types, but if you try to open something in a format it doesn't recognize, it'll throw a fit and give you that error message.
  • Damaged or Missing File Extensions: Think of file extensions like a file's ID card. If that ID card gets lost or messed up, Excel won't know what to do with the file. It needs that extension to recognize the file format.
  • Temporary File Problems: While Excel's doing its thing, it creates temporary files to help it along. Sometimes these files get corrupted or just don't get cleaned up properly, which can cause trouble when opening or saving files, leading to the file format error.
  • Permission Issues: Ever tried to open a file and got stopped in your tracks because you didn't have permission? That could be the case here too. If you don't have the right permissions to access or modify the Excel file, you'll see this error. It's like trying to get into a room when you don't have the key.

Part 2: Excel Cannot Open the Files? Try These Solutions

Now that you understand the potential causes, let's explore some effective solutions to resolve the "Excel cannot open file because the file format" error.

Fix 1: Use Wondershare Repairit to Fix Corrupt Excel File

If your Excel file is corrupted, try using Wondershare Repairit. It's an easy-to-use tool that can fix various types of damaged files, including Excel files.

Wondershare Repairit is a powerful and user-friendly application designed to repair and recover various types of corrupted files, including Excel files.

  • Repair damaged Excel files with all levels of corruption, including blank files, files not opening, unrecognizable format, unreadable content, files layout changed, etc.

  • Repairs all kinds of data stored in damaged excel files such as tables, charts, formulas, comments, images, etc.

  • Support all formats of Excel files: XLSX/XLSM/XLTX/XLTM/XLS (Note: XLS is only supported by Win)

  • Perfectly repair corrupted files with a very high success rate, without modifying the original file.

  • Except Excel, Repairit also supports all formats of PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Zip, and Adobe files.

  • No limit to the number and size of the repairable files.

  • Support Windows 11/10/8/7/Vista, Windows Server 2003/2008/2012/2016/2019/2022, and macOS 10.10~macOS 13.

Unlike Excel's built-in repair capabilities, which are limited to minor corruption, Wondershare Repairit employs advanced algorithms and powerful scanning techniques to repair even the most severely corrupted Excel files.

Here's how you can use it:

Step 1: Launch the Repairit application on your PC and select "File Repair" from the options. Click "Add Files" and browse to the file location of the corrupted Excel file.

wondershare repairit file repair module

Step 2: Hit "Repair All" to initiate the repair process.

add excel files

Step 3: Once the repair is complete, you can preview and save the repaired file to a desired location on your device.

repair corrupt excel files

Wondershare Repairit's advanced algorithms and powerful scanning capabilities can effectively repair various types of file corruption. This increases your chances of recovering your valuable Excel data within no time.

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Fix 2: Change the Extension of the Worksheet

If the issue is caused by a damaged or missing file extension, you can try changing the extension manually. Here's how:

Step 1: Locate the Excel file that is causing the error. Right-click on the file and select “Properties" from the context menu.

Step 2: The Excel file Properties window will now appear on the screen. Switch to the “General” tab. Here you can check the current file extension (e.g., .xlsx, .xls) next to “Type of File”.

excel file properties

Step 3: Right-click on the file again and select "Rename." Now, try renaming the Excel file to any other extension. Press OK to confirm the change.

Step 4: Try opening the file in Excel and see if the issue was resolved.

By temporarily changing the file extension to .zip and then reverting it back to the correct format, you may be able to bypass the file format error and open the Excel file successfully.

Fix 3: Utilize the Open and Repair Feature

Excel includes a built-in "Open and Repair" feature that can help resolve minor file corruption issues. Here's how to use it:

Step 1: Launch MS Excel on your computer. Navigate to the File menu and select "Open." In the Open dialog box, locate the problematic Excel file.

Step 2: Instead of double-clicking the file, click the arrow next to "Open" and choose "Open and Repair".

open and repair excel file

Step 3: Click "Repair" in the next dialog box. Excel will initiate the repair process. If the repair is successful, you should be able to access the file's contents without encountering the "Excel cannot open because the file format error" message.

Fix 4: Configure the File Permission Settings

If you're encountering the "Excel cannot open because file format is not valid" error due to permission issues, you can try changing the group permission settings of the Excel document. Here's how:

Step 1: Right-click on the problematic Excel file and select "Properties." In the Properties window, navigate to the "Security" tab. Click the "Edit" button.

change excel file permissions

Step 2: In the Permissions for System window, check the "Full control" box under the "Allow" column.

manage permissions of excel file

Step 3: Hit "Apply" first, and then hit "OK" to make sure your changes are saved. After that, give opening the Excel file another shot.

By granting full control permissions to your user account, you may be able to bypass the file format error caused by permission restrictions.

Part 3: Tips to Avoid "Excel Cannot Open File Because the File Format" Error

While the solutions provided above can help you resolve the Excel cannot open because the file format error, it's always better to prevent the issue from occurring in the first place. Here are a few tips:

  1. Regularly back up your Excel files: Maintain a regular backup routine for your important Excel files. This way, if a file becomes corrupted or inaccessible, you can restore it from a recent backup.
  2. Use reliable storage devices: Store your Excel files on reliable and high-quality storage devices, such as solid-state drives (SSDs) or external hard drives from reputable manufacturers. Avoid using low-quality or unreliable storage media, as they can increase the risk of file corruption.
  3. Ensure proper system shutdowns: Always shut down your computer properly by following the recommended shutdown procedure. Improper shutdowns can lead to data corruption and increase the likelihood of encountering the error.
  4. Use authorized software: Always use licensed and authorized software when working with Excel files. Unlicensed or pirated software may contain vulnerabilities that can lead to file corruption and other issues.
  5. Regularly clear temporary files: Excel creates temporary files during its operation. Periodically clearing these temporary files can help prevent issues and improve overall performance.

By following these tips, you can significantly reduce the chances of encountering the "Excel cannot open the file because the file format or file extension is not valid" error and ensure a smoother experience when working with Excel files.


The Excel cannot open because the file format error can be frustrating, but it's not an insurmountable problem. By understanding the potential causes and following the proven solutions outlined in this guide, whether you're a professional, student, or casual user, you can effectively resolve this issue and regain access to your valuable Excel data.

  • Q1: What should I do if none of the provided solutions work for resolving the "Excel cannot open xlsx file because format file" error?

  • If none of the solutions work, it's recommended to seek professional assistance or consult with Microsoft Support. They may be able to provide more advanced troubleshooting techniques or identify any underlying system issues contributing to the problem.

  • Q2: Can I prevent the "Excel cannot open because file format is not valid" error by saving my files in a specific format?

  • While there is no guaranteed way to prevent file corruption or format errors, saving your Excel files in the latest .xlsx format can minimize the risk. The .xlsx format is more robust and less prone to corruption compared to older formats like .xls.

  • Q3: Is there a way to automatically repair corrupted Excel files without using third-party software?

  • Excel does have a built-in "Open and Repair" feature that can attempt to repair minor file corruption issues. However, for more severe cases of corruption, third-party tools like Wondershare Repairit may be more effective in recovering data.