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Excel 2003 error: Excel cannot complete this task with available resources.

Support for Office 2003 has ended

Microsoft ended support for Office 2003 on April 8, 2014. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

This article was previously published under Q292471
Symptoms
You receive the following error message:

Excel cannot complete this task with available resources. Choose less data or close other applications.

The error occurs when you:
  • Open or save an Excel workbook
  • Open an Excel workbook that references a relative name from another workbook
  • Use a defined name in a formula in an Excel workbook
  • Define or delete a name in an Excel workbook

Do you get this error in another version of Microsoft Excel?

To view information on how to resolve this error in another version of Microsoft Excel, click the link that matches your Excel version:

Excel 2010 error: Excel cannot complete this task with available resources.
Excel 2007 error: Excel cannot complete this task with available resources.

Resolution
We recommend that you follow the provided methods in this article in order. However, if you had previously tried one of the methods to fix this error and it did not help, you can jump to another method quickly from this list:

Method 1: Check whether you exceed limits

Click here to show information on how to check Excel 2003 limits.

The error can occur if you exceed certain Excel 2003 limits, such as running too many calculations in the workbook. Some of these limits are as follows:
  • The maximum worksheet size limit is 65,536 rows by 256 columns.
  • The total number of characters that a cell can contain is 32,767 characters.
  • The maximum selected range in a calculation is 2,048.
  • The maximum nested level of functions in a calculation is 7.
For a full list of Excel 2003 specifications and limitations, read the information in this Office Online article:



If you have checked and the worksheet or workbook is not exceeding Excel limitations, go to the next method.

Method 2: Make sure only one instance of Excel is active

Click here to show information on how to check if only instance of Excel is active.

The error can occur if multiple instances of Excel are running. This usually happens if you have more than one Excel workbook opened at a time. We recommend that you close out all instances of Excel and then reopen your Excel workbook to test. If you are not sure if you have multiple instances of Excel running, follow these steps to check:
  1. Open Task Manager. To do this, take any of the following actions:
    • Press CTRL + ALT + Delete, and then click Start Task Manager.
    • Press CTRL + Shift + Esc.
    • Right-click an empty area of the taskbar, and then select Start Task Manager.
  2. As soon as you are in Task Manager, click the Applications tab.
  3. Click the Task bar to sort the applications alphabetically.
If you see more than one line with Microsoft Excel, you are running multiple instances of it. We recommend that you go back to Excel, save your workbook and close it. Repeat this process until Excel no longer appears in Task Manager.

Once all instances of Excel are closed, open the Excel workbook and test. If the error continues to occur, go to the next method.

Method 3: Close all applications

Click here to show information on how to close all applications.

The error may occur if other applications are active and using computer memory while you are trying to use, open, or save the Excel workbook. We recommend that you close and exit all applications except for the Excel workbook.

You can close applications manually or you can follow the "clean-boot" steps provided in one of the following articles:Once all applications are closed, open the Excel workbook and test. If the error continues to occur, go to the next method.

Method 4: Test Excel in safe mode

Click here to show information on how to start Excel in safe mode.

The error can occur if you have too many Excel add-in programs running. To test whether an add-in is causing the problem, start Excel in safe mode:
  1. Click StartStart.
  2. In Windows 7, type excel /s in the Search programs and files box and press Enter.
    In Windows Vista, type excel /s in the Start Search box and press Enter.

  3. Check the title. It should read Book1 - Microsoft Excel (Safe Mode).
  4. Click File, and then select Open.
  5. Locate the Excel workbook to test and open it.
Open the Excel workbook and test. If the error no longer occurs, you may have too many add-in programs or a specific add-in may cause this error. We recommend that you follow the steps in this Microsoft online article to unload add-in programs:



If the error continues to occur, go to the next method.

Method 5: Turn off the preview pane in Windows Explorer (Windows 7 only)

Click here to show information on how to turn off the preview pane.

The preview pane is used to see the contents of most files in Windows Explorer. For example, if you click a picture, video, or text file, you can preview its contents without opening the file. By default, the preview pane is turned off in Windows 7. However, if it is turned on, it may cause a conflict with the Excel workbook you try to open leading to this error. We recommend that you turn off the preview pane and test opening your Excel workbook. To do this:
  1. Click Start Start, and then click Computer.
  2. Click Organize.
  3. Select Layout, and then click to clear Preview pane.
  4. Open the Excel workbook and test.
If the error continues to occur, go to the next method.

Method 6: Open Excel workbooks with relative names in sequence

Click here to show information.

The error can occur when you create a workbook that contains a relative name and then fill a range of cells referencing this relative name in a new workbook. For example, you create the workbook that contains a relative name, then, in another workbook, you press Ctrl + Enter to fill a range of cells with a reference to the relative name. You save the second workbook as an "Excel 97-2003 Workbook (*.xls)" file and then close both workbooks.

To work around this issue, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Excel workbook that contains the relative name first.
  2. Next, open the Excel workbook that contains the reference to the relative name.

If the error continues to occur, go to the next method.

Method 7: Change defined names to reference cells directly

Click here to show information.

You may have used a defined name to represent a cell, range of cells, formula, or constant value. The error can occur if you define names that indirectly refer to other nested names that are more than 20 levels deep and you do one of the following:
  • You add or use a name that exceeds the level of indirection in the formula
  • You delete a name that is referenced by more than 20 levels of defined names


To resolve the problem, change the defined names so that they reference the given cells more directly.

If the error continues to occur, go to the "References" section of this article.
References
If the information in this knowledge base article did not help resolve the error in Excel 2003, select one of the following options:

excel2003 excel2k3 xl2003 xl2k3 cannot complete task
Properties

Article ID: 292471 - Last Review: 10/02/2012 20:41:00 - Revision: 4.0

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