How to troubleshoot startup problems in Excel


There are several reasons why you may experience problems when you start Microsoft Excel. This article discusses how to troubleshoot the cause of the startup problem, and possible remedies to correct the problem. The article also contains links to other Microsoft Knowledge Base articles that discuss known startup problems in greater detail.

Note It is important to keep track of any new software installations or updates that you performed just before you experienced the problem, because these may be directly involved. This information is helpful if this article does not resolve your issue and you need to call Microsoft Technical Support.

More Information

When you start Microsoft Excel, you may experience problems for any of the following reasons:
  • Corrupted shortcut to the Excel program
  • Problematic file in Excel startup folder or alternate startup file location
  • Corrupted Excel toolbar file (*.xlb) or Excel .pip file
  • Corrupted add-ins
  • Incorrect version of a core Microsoft Office file
  • Corruption in the registry keys
  • Other problems when opening Excel files

Note: It’s a good idea to make sure your computer has the latest updates installed for Windows and Office. Updates often fix problems that occur with software. Before using the repair steps below, try installing updates, restarting your computer, and then launching Excel. You can use the Update your computer article for more information about manuals updates and automatic updates.

If you receive an error message when you start Microsoft Excel, search the Microsoft Knowledge Base for the exact error message at the following Microsoft Web site: If you do not receive an error message, or if you cannot find specific information in the Microsoft Knowledge Base about the error message, use the following information to troubleshoot the Excel startup problem.

First, consider the scope of the problem. Does the problem occur when you start Excel by clicking a workbook file, or does it occur when you run Excel from the Start menu?

If the problem only occurs when you open an Excel file, refer to the "Other problems when opening Excel files" section. Otherwise, proceed to the next section.
Method 1: Fix the shortcut to the Excel program

Method 2 Start Excel in Safe mode

Did this fix the problem?

If Microsoft Excel starts as expected when you use the /s switch, "Safe Mode" appears in the Excel title bar. If Excel starts in Safe Mode, use a process of elimination to step through the following areas that Excel bypasses in Safe mode, until the problem is corrected.
If Excel does not start in Safe Mode, proceed to Method 3.

Excel startup folder

One of the more common reasons you may experience problems when you start Excel is that Excel is loading a problem file from one of its several different startup folders. Temporarily remove any files from the startup folders, and try to start Excel.
  1. Search the hard drive for xlstart folders. Move any files from these folders to a temporary location and note where they came from.
  2. Under File > Options > Advanced > General, look for a path under At startup, open all files in. Temporarily remove any files from that location
  3. Try to start Excel.
If Excel starts, replace the files one at a time to find the problem file.

Excel registry keys

Sometimes problems with the registry keys Excel reads for your user profile are corrupt, and cause startup problems. These are not read when you start Excel in Safe Mode. To test to see if something in your profile is the issue, Exit Excel and rename the user profile keys, for instance rename excel to excel.old. When you start Excel again it will trigger a repair to set your settings to the default settings.

Important This section, method, or task contains steps that tell you how to modify the registry. However, serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly. Therefore, make sure that you follow these steps carefully. For added protection, back up the registry before you modify it. Then, you can restore the registry if a problem occurs. For more information about how to back up and restore the registry, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
322756 How to back up and restore the registry in Windows
Note Removing the following registry keys may reset customized user settings for your Microsoft Office programs.

Excel 2003


Excel 2002


Excel 2000

When you restart Excel, a repair operation is triggered to set the settings to the default settings.

Excel 2007


Excel 2010

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Excel HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Excel

If this procedure does not resolve the issue, you can restore the original settings. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Exit Excel.
  2. Delete the newly created Excel registry keys.
  3. Rename the "Excel.old" keys "Excel."

Method 3: Investigate interference from other programs or services

If Excel still does not start as expected, a conflict with another program may exist. Use System Configuration to start Windows using Selective Startup.

For information on starting system configuration, go to, and choose your operating system in the dropdown.

If Excel starts in Selective Startup, you can enable drivers and startup programs one at a time to find and eliminate the issue.

Other problems when opening Excel files

If Excel experiences problems only when you open specific Excel files, you must use a different approach to troubleshoot the issue. You may need to do anything from disabling macros to rebuilding the workbook.

For more information, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

820741 How to recover data from damaged workbooks in Excel 2002 and in Excel 2003

179871 Methods for recovering data from damaged Excel 2000 workbooks

213951 How to troubleshoot the source of the problem when you save files in Excel 2000 and they become corrupted


Thanks to MVP Jan Karel Pieterse for contributing to the Fix it solutions contained in this article.

For additional information about startup folders, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

822107 How to use startup folders in Excel 2003

291218 How to use Excel startup folders in Excel 2002

240150 How to use the Excel startup folders in Excel 2000

For more information about Excel 2002 Safe Mode, click Microsoft Excel Help on the Help menu, type about office safe mode in the Office Assistant or the Answer Wizard, and then click Search to view the topics returned.

Article ID: 280504 - Last Review: Aug 5, 2016 - Revision: 1

Microsoft Excel 2002 Standard Edition, Microsoft Excel 2000 Standard Edition, Microsoft Office Excel Viewer 2007, Microsoft Office Excel 2003, Microsoft Excel 2010