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5 Ways to Fix the “Microsoft Excel Cannot Access the File” Error

You may encounter the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error when saving an Excel file. This error usually occurs if the Excel application fails to read the file you are trying to save. Many reasons can lead to such an issue. 

A few of them are:

  • The Excel file is already in use by another application. 
  • The Excel file is in protected view.
  • The file is not in the correct format.
  • The file path is too lengthy.
  • You don’t have the necessary permissions to access the file.
  • The file is damaged or corrupted.

Methods to Fix “Microsoft Excel cannot Access the File” Error

Incorrect file path is one of the reasons behind the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error. So, check and make sure the file path is correct. You can also check if the path is not too lengthy. If the file path is correct and proper, then follow the below troubleshooting methods to fix the error.

Method 1: Clear Microsoft Office Cache

Some Excel users have reported that they’re able to fix the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error by simply clearing the Microsoft Office cache. You can also try to clear your Microsoft Office cache and see if it helps. To clear the cache, follow the steps given below:

  • Close all active Office programs on your system.
  • Open the Run window by pressing Windows+R keys.
  • In the Run window, enter %localappdata%\Microsoft\Office\16.0\OfficeFileCache and hit the Enter key or click OK. (You can change the Office version with your current version.)
  • Clear all temp files in the OfficeFileCache folder.

Method 2: Update Microsoft Excel

Outdated Microsoft Excel application may have some bugs or issues that can lead to errors, including the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error. You can check and install the latest Excel updates, if available. The latest updates include bug fixes, security patches, and other improvements. Here’s how to update your MS Excel application:

  • In your Excel application, click File and then choose Account.
  • Click the Updates options in the Product Information window and then select Update Now.

Method 3: Disable Protected View

If you’re not able to open the Excel file due to any restrictions, try disabling the Protected View settings. Here are the steps to disable the Protected View in Microsoft Excel:

Note: Turning off Protected View can put your computer at high risk.

  • In your Excel application, click File and then click Options.
  • The Excel Options window is displayed. Select Trust Center and then click Trust Center Settings.
  • In the Trust Center Settings window, click Protected View in the left pane. 
  • Under the Protected View, unselect the following options:
  • Enable Protected View for files originating from the Internet.
  • Enable Protected View for files located in potentially unsafe locations.
  • Enable Protected View for Outlook attachments.
  • Click OK.
Excel trust center settings panel

Method 4: Check File Permission

The “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error can also occur if you don’t have sufficient permissions to modify the Excel file. You can check and provide the correct permissions. Follow the steps given below:

  • Press Ctrl + E to open File Explorer.
  • In the File Explorer window, search for the desired Excel file, right-click on it, and select Properties.
Excel file explorer excel properties
  • In the Properties window, click on the Security tab and then click Edit.
File permissions excel properties
  • Next, click on user’s name under ‘Group or users names’
  • Check if the below options are enabled:
  • Full control
  • Modify 
  • Read & execute
  • Read
  • Write 
  • If the above options are disabled, then enable them. 
  • Click Apply and then OK. 

Method 5: Repair your Excel File

Corruption in Excel file is also one of the reasons behind the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error. If your Excel file is corrupted, then try the “Open and Repair” utility. It is an in-built utility in Excel to repair corrupt Excel files. Steps to use the Open and Repair utility are:

  • In the Excel application, click the File tab and then select Open.
  • Click Browse to select the affected Excel file.
  • In the Open dialog box, select the corrupted file.
  • Click the arrow next to the Open button and then click Open and Repair.
  • A dialog box is displayed with three options – Repair, Extract Data, and Cancel.
  • Click on the Repair button to recover as much file data as possible.
  • After repair, you will see a message. Click Close.

What If Nothing Works?

If the above methods fail to fix the “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file”, chances are that the file is highly damaged/corrupted. In such a case, you can opt for a professional Excel repair tool, like Stellar Repair for Excel. It can easily repair severely corrupted Excel file and recover all the file components with complete integrity. This tool supports all MS Excel versions and is compatible with all Windows operating systems. You can free download the software to scan the corrupt file and evaluate its functionality. 


The “Microsoft Excel cannot access the file” error can prevent you from saving the Excel file. Any unsaved changes will be lost if you fail to save the Excel file. Hence, it’s essential to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Above, we have shared some effective troubleshooting methods to resolve the error. If the issue has occurred due to severe corruption in Excel file, you can use Stellar Repair for Excel. It is a professional Excel repair tool that can repair the corrupted Excel file and restore all the data by maintaining original formatting. 

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