Workbook not Saving

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 13, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Tim has an Excel workbook that he's used for years. The file is approximately 18 MB, containing 22 worksheets. The largest worksheet extends to cell HB2000. Recently when he tries to save the file, he gets a "Document Not Saved" error. He can open and save the document in Libre Office with no problem. He wonders what could be causing the problem and how he can fix it.

There could be any number of reasons why this problem is happening. Most of them have to do with being a workbook that is experiencing some sort of corruption issue internally. This is more common in workbooks that have been used for quite a while and that are large and complex—all of which seem to be the case with Tim's workbook.

There are some things to try. First, try using Save As. Open the workbook and immediately press F12 to display the Save As dialog box. Make sure you give the workbook a new name, which can be as simple as appending a number at the end of the name. (For instance, save the workbook as MyWorkbook2 or MyWorkbook3.) Saving the workbook in this way causes Excel to refresh many of the internal pointers that it wouldn't otherwise bother with.

If that doesn't work, save the workbook as an XLSB file. Make sure you use the Save As Type drop-down list to select Excel Binary Workbook (*.xlsb) as the format. XLSB files are smaller than regular XLSX or XLSM files, which mean that they will load and save faster.

You may also want to look at somehow simplifying your workbook. For instance, get rid of PivotTables you no longer need or unused columns in PivotTables you do use. (PivotTables are notorious for using a ton of Excel resources.) You should also minimize the use of charts, complex formulas (or huge numbers of formulas), and excessive cell formats or styles. You might also consider breaking your workbook up into multiple workbooks.

For some more ideas of how to troubleshoot errors when saving workbooks, see this Knowledge Base article:

If you continue to have problems with the workbook, then the only option is to reconstruct it. That means you start with a new workbook and recreate all the formulas and data in the new workbook. You cannot copy of worksheets from the old workbook to the new one, as that may copy the problems as well. This can be a painful process, but it may be necessary if the old workbook is truly corrupted.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1644) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is nine minus 3?

2023-05-14 04:35:06

Alex Blakenburg

The microsoft article look to be wrong in terms of saying the Path-Filename limit is 218 characters. I believe it has been 256 for quite a while now.

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