How to repair a corrupted Excel spreadsheet

I store all my documentations in my Dropbox so I can get access to them at anytime from anywhere. But this morning I found that one of the excel sheet I have in the Dropbox corrupted. And because it’s in the Dropbox, the corrupted version was on every single device I have Dropbox installed. Ooops, even on the Dropbox web console, I wasn’t luck enough finding a revision that works.

Out of luck of restoring it from any backup, I ran through number of options trying to repair it and finally got it repaired without paying a penny to any service or software. If you are down the road having the same problem, here are the things that you can try.

The error message that prompted is something like this:

Excel cannot open the file because the file format or file extension is not valid. Verify that the file has not been corrupted and that the file extension matches the format of the file.

And as you can tell, it doesn’t make too much sense, since the file in question is an Excel file with the right extension name associated. The only possible reason why I couldn’t open it is because it was corrupted.

1. Always try to recover it from a backup or a previous working revision

Even though it means that you may lose some current data, you get the file back with the data that is accurate.

2. Use Open & Repair in Excel

Open Excel, find and select the corrupted Excel file, instead of clicking open, choose Open & Repair from the down arrow in the Open button.


You will have the choice of Repair and Extract Data in the next dialog box after you click Open and Repair.


Go with the Repair first as it recovers the most out of the corrupted file, then Extract Data if the Repair failed.

3. Upload the corrupt file to Google Docs

What it ended up fixing my corrupted Excel is Google Docs. Can you believe it? I actually tried Office Web App first but got the same error as Excel client. Then out of curious what Google Docs might do to my spreadsheet, I uploaded to it and was open it successfully. I then downloaded to replace the one that was corrupted in my Dropbox.


4. Use Macro to extract the data

If none of above worked and the data in the spreadsheet is more important than anything else, the Macro shown in this document might be able to help you out.

5. Last resource

Of course, there are commercial repairing software out there that could also be helpful if you are REALLY running out of the options. Simply doing a Google search will bring you a bunch of them. But then you will have to try your luck to pick one that has the most possibility to fix your file.

9 thoughts on “How to repair a corrupted Excel spreadsheet

  1. Hi,

    Very effective excel file repair methods are listed in above post “open
    and repair” is one of the most effective method to repair corrupt excel
    file. In 5th method you didn’t mention some specific software? I would
    like to add Stellar phoenix excel repair software
    in that method.

  2. You may repair excel file with the aid of programming method
    I should advise next software it must aid you
    Application can’t change original info inside file during restoration

  3. Open
    & Repair is one of my favorite options.
    But, I have noticed that it get failed when excel file get severely
    damaged. In this case, I always preferred third party Excel Repair
    Software. My favorite tool is Stellar Phoenix Excel Repair!!!

  4. Very interesting repair excel file way are listed in above post but i have also share one more way is Kernel for excel file repair to recover and repair excel file due to any recession.

  5. In case of your XLS document is stored in Dropbox Folder, try exit from Dropbox (in windows) and open again your document. I think there is a problem while dropbox is running in the PC.

  6. Uploading to Google Docs worked for my corrupted Word files as well! I use the files on both a Mac and a PC and eventually couldn’t open some of the file on either. The error said that the file type did not match the file extension… which was not at all true. I uploaded these to Google Docs (you have to convert them to Google Docs; I uploaded them as Word Docs the first time, and they still couldn’t be opened) and was able to get all my work back.


  7. I am agree with Adam Gorge. I tired the Excel repair tool that he shared in the comment and downloaded it’s demo version. I repaired my file by this tool.

    Before moving to this software, I tried open and repair option, change the trust center setting, removed COM addins, open my Excel file safe mode but no option worked for me.

  8. Thank you so much – you’re Google Docs tip did the trick. It saved me hours of work!
    Again, many many thanks!

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