How to Recover and Repair Corrupted Excel Files on Mac?

Imagine a scenario where you’ve been working tirelessly to complete the editing of crucial lead data on Microsoft Excel with your Mac. Finally, you decide to take a well-deserved break. However, when you return to your desk, the system suddenly notifies you with the message, “The document is corrupted and cannot be opened.”

Based on your previous experience, you may:

A: Restart your Mac and open the corrupted Excel file again.

B: Use another Excel software or other spreadsheet programs.

However, if neither of them works, then what can you do to recover the original file data?

Fret not. Read this post and find the simple and practical solutions for you.

Excel File Corruption in 5 Situations

In fact, when an Excel file gets corrupted, you may be unable to open it; or you may open it and find some part of the data is incorrect or missing. To be specific, usually, there are five signs that indicate file corruption.

1️⃣ Data loss or character corruption: In this situation, you can still open the Excel file, but you may notice that some data is missing or damaged. Also, you may find it unable to display or properly use elements, such as worksheets, cells, formulas, charts, macros, etc..

2️⃣ Formatting errors: If you encounter problems like incorrect date formats, changes in number formatting, mismatched functions or formulas, or merged cells that appear abnormal when you open the Excel file, it may indicate that the file is corrupted.

3️⃣ Abnormal behavior and crashes: Sometimes, you might experience slow performance, unresponsiveness, frequent crashes, sudden closures, or the inability to save the file while using the Excel application.

4️⃣ System error messages: When you attempt to open a specific Excel file, the system may display error messages such as “Excel cannot find the file,” “The file is damaged or cannot be read,” or “Unable to repair the file.” These messages indicate that the file has been corrupted.

5️⃣ Unable to open the file: When the data corruption is severe, it becomes difficult to reopen the Excel file. In such cases, the Mac system may present a pop-up window with an error message stating that the file cannot be opened and requires repair.

How to Recover Corrupted Excel File on Mac?

In some cases where file corruption is indicated by system error messages or inability to find or open a file, you may try the instructions below to restore it.

Method 1. Recover Excel Files by Changing Its Extension

Sometimes the Excel software may present with an error message stating “File format is incorrect,” which makes it difficult for the computer to process the Excel file correctly. In this case, you can attempt to recover the Excel file by changing its file extension to the valid format.

How to recover corrupted XLSX files by changing the file extension:

Step 1. Locate the damaged Excel file in Finder.

Step 2. Right-click on the file, select “Rename.”

Step 3. Change the file extension to “.xlsx” or “.xls”.

change extension name xlsx

🌟 Note: Changing the file extension can be a quick and simple solution in certain cases. But it is important to note that this method does not actually fix any underlying data or structural issues within the file, especially when the file is genuinely corrupted or damaged because it only modifies the file’s format identifier.

So after adapting the file extension if you still find data missing or garbled, it is time to try other ways to fix it.

Method 2. Restore Backup Excel Files Using Time Machine

If you have previously set up Time Machine‘s backup feature on your Mac, you can use it to restore lost items or retrieve earlier versions of files in cases like accidental deletion or careless changes in data formatting. 

restore excel from time machine

How to repair corrupted Excel files by restoring them from Time Machine:

Step 1. Open the MS Excel. Click the “Time Machine” option from the “Others” folder.

Step 2. Insert the backup disk into the Mac and make sure they get connected successfully.

Step 3. Navigate through the arrows and timeline to find history versions of all the backed-up Excel files.

Step 4. Select the version of the Excel file you want to restore and click on “Restore.”

You will then find the recovered Excel file in its original folder.

🌟 Note: Time Machine to restore files can be effective when it comes to recovering a set of files, data, or setup because it normally entails a complete system restore rather than individual file or folder restore.

But if you attempt for a specific file or folder it is also supportive. Therefore, it helps to find the well-functioned file version before it gets corrupted.

Related Post: How to Recover Excel Files on Windows

Method 3. Use Professional File Recovery Software

To save time, you can try using third-party Mac data recovery software to fix the file and recover the data. The operation process is usually simple and suitable for beginners.

Professional data recovery software like ONERECOVERY can not only help you recover data from damaged Excel files, but it can also assist in recovering various types of data on different storage devices, such as data recovery on PC as well as on USB drives. If other methods do not help you solve your problems you may give it a try.

select location onerecovery

How to recover corrupted XLSX files using ONERECOVERY:

Step 1. Launch the software and follow the instructions to select the corrupted file.

Step 2. Let the software scan and analyze it for a few seconds/minutes.

Step 3. Click on the option to recover the file and save the recovered file.

How to Repair Corrupted Excel Files on Mac

When you find characters To quickly address your concerns, this blog will prioritize presenting a few commonly used solutions. Follow these steps and hopefully, they will help you resolve the issue promptly.

Friendly Reminder 🔔 : It is strongly recommended to back up your files before any file recovery to avoid further damage or data loss during the repair process. 

Solution 1. Use the Built-in Repair Tool in Microsoft Excel

This method can be particularly useful for minor file corruption issues or when the cause of the problem is related to Excel’s internal structure.

However, please be aware that different versions of Microsoft Excel may have slight variations during the actual operation. You need to choose this repair method based on your specific situation. 

built in repair tool excel

How to repair a corrupted Excel file using a built-in tool:

Step 1. Launch the MS Excel.

Step 2. In the menu bar, click on “File” and then select “Open.” Locate the damaged file.

Step 3. In the file selection dialog box, choose the “Open and Repair” option from the dropdown menu and click the “Repair” button.

Step 4. Once the repair process is successful, click “Save.”

Solution 2. Use Third-party Data Repair Software

In terms of authoritative data repair software, you can visit these websites: CNET, PCMag, and TechRadar as they provide comprehensive ratings and reviews of various file repair programs. 

How to repair a corrupt Excel file using third-party software:

Step 1. Search for reputable data repair software that suits your requirements, then download and install it on your Mac.

Step 2. Launch the software and import the corrupted file through a file browser 

Step 3. Click on the repair or scan button to initiate the process.

Step 4. Review the repair results and save the repaired file.

After the repair process, it is suggested to double-check the internal data to ensure its functioning by using MS Excel or other compatible spreadsheet applications.


This blog presents some practical methods to help you repair corrupted Excel files.

Generally speaking, using professional repair software, such as ONERECOVERY, to recover corrupted Excel files is suitable for the majority of cases. With the strengths of offering high reliability and quick recovery time, it can efficiently resolve the challenging issues you may face.

FAQs About Excel Not Working on Mac

Perhaps you still have many questions about the corrupted Excel files after reading this whole post. The following FAQs may answer your questions.

What are the Main Reasons that May Cause Excel Won’t Open on Mac?

There are several reasons why an Excel file may become corrupted. Here are some common possible causes:

Unexpected shutdown

Usually, it is the case where MS Excel crashes while editing or saving a file; or even worse: your Mac sometimes experiences unexpected shutdowns which may result in Excel file corruption.

Storage media failure

Sometimes, if there’s something wrong with the Mac hard drive, errors in flash drives, or other problems with the storage media, it can cause Excel file corruption or inability to read the file.

Virus or malware infection

Though the Mac platform boasts of its security, infections, and disruptions, the structure or content of Excel files by malicious software or viruses still happens from time to time, rendering them unable to open properly.

Mistakes in operations or editing

Human errors including accidental deletion or modification of important files and incorrect formatting can also result in Excel file corruption.

Are There Conflicts with Third-Party Add-Ins Causing Excel Not Working on Mac?

Yes, the conflicts with third-party add-ins may cause Excel won’t open on Mac. The reason for this situation is that those add-ins may not always be compatible with macOS updates. If you need to solve this problem, we recommend you disable or remove the third-party add-ins one by one to test if the error is fixed.

Read More:

How to Enable Autosave in Microsoft Excel

How to Sign Into iCloud for Data Backup & Sync

How to Backup Your Data? 7 Effective Ways

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