Unresponsive Excel when Double-Clicking a Workbook

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 20, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Stuart frequently finds that upon trying to open a workbook by double-clicking on it in Windows Explorer, the CPU goes into overdrive and he has to wait several minutes before Excel becomes responsive. This doesn't happen when he opens the workbook from within Excel. Stuart wonders why this occurs and how to stop it.

There are a few possible reasons for this, and none of them have anything to do with your workbook. I say this because Stuart indicated that the exact same workbook opens just fine from within Excel—it is only when opening it from Windows that things bog down. So ideas about potential workbook corruption, size, or complexity aren't borne out by this behavior.

So, that means that the problem is either with Windows or with something in your system. The first thing to check related to Windows is whether Windows Explorer is configured to show a preview of anything selected within it. (Previews appear at the right side of the Explorer window.) If so, opening a workbook through Explorer needs to accomplish three things:

  1. Open the workbook to display the preview in Explorer
  2. Start Excel
  3. Open the workbook within Excel

Notice that there are two separate openings of the workbook that may have to occur—one by Explorer and one by Excel. This means twice as much work. And, if your system is like mine, I cannot even double-click on a workbook in Explorer until such point as the preview is being displayed in the Explorer window. That can result in quite a slowdown in opening workbooks!

If you have the Explorer previews turned off and it still takes inordinately long to open the workbook, then you'll need to consider what may be happening with your system. It is possible that there is a problem with your hard drive or with your installation of Excel. For instance, Excel could be stored on your hard drive in a place where the disk sectors have some errors, and it takes Windows longer to load the program. You can figure out if this is the problem or not by simply starting Excel without double-clicking on a workbook. If it opens quickly, then chances are good it is not a system-related issue.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13046) 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 3 + 4?

2023-05-22 10:43:25

Willa Bundy

Thanks for this tip, Allen. I've been wondering why I kept having trouble opening a document. It's good to know the possible causes and how to open a document easier in Excel.

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