How to Repair a Corrupt or Damaged Excel File

When your Microsoft Excel .xls, .xlw and .xlsx files are damaged or corrupted due to various reasons and you cannot open them successfully with Excel, you can use the following steps to repair the corrupt file:

Note: Before starting a data recovery procedure, you need to make a backup of your original corrupt Excel file. This is the most important step that many will forget.

  1. First of all, Microsoft Excel has a built-in repair function. When it detects there are corruptions in your Excel file, it will start File Recovery mode and try to repair the file for you. In some cases, if the File Recovery mode is not start automatically, then you can force Excel to repair your file manually. Take Excel 2013 as an example, the steps are:
    1. On the File menu, click Open.
    2. In the Open dialog box, select the file you want to open, and click the arrow next to the Open button.
    3. Click Open and Repair, and then choose which method you want to use to recover your workbook.
    4. Choose Repair option if you want to recover as much data as possible from the corrupt file.
    5. If Repair does not work, then use Extract Data to try to extract cell values and formulas from the file.

    The recovery procedures are little different for different versions of Excel.

    Based on our test, method 1 mainly works for the cases when corruptions occur in the tail of the file. But will not work when corruptions occur in the header or middle of the file.

  2. If method 1 fails, there are still several methods to repair your Excel file manually with Excel, including writing a small VBA macro, you can find more detailed information at
  3. There are also free tools from third-parties that can open and read Microsoft Excel files, for example,

    Sometimes when Excel fails to open your file, these tools may be able to open it successfully. If that is the case, then after the Excel file is opened, you can just save it as a new file which will be error-free.

  4. For xlsx files, they are actually a group of files compressed in Zip file format. Therefore, sometimes, if the corruption is only caused by the Zip file, then you can use Zip repair tools such as DataNumen Zip Repair to repair the file, as follows:
    1. Assuming the corrupt Excel file is a.xlsx, then you need to rename it to
    2. Using DataNumen Zip Repair to repair and generated a fixed file
    3. Rename back to a_fixed.xlsx
    4. Using Excel to open a_fixed.xlsx.

    There may still be some warnings when opening the fixed file in Excel, just let ignore it and Excel will try to open and repair the fixed file. If the file can be opened successfully, then you can just save the contents into another error-free file.

  5. If all above methods fail, then you need to use DataNumen Excel Repair to solve the problem. It will scan the corrupted file and generate a new error-free file for you automatically.