How to Work on Large Excel Files Without Crashing (5-Step Guide)

Do you know how to work on large Excel files without crashing in Windows 10? This post outlined five steps to ensure a stable working experience in Microsoft Excel 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, etc. Use one or many tips together to protect big Excel files from freezing, crashing or running slowly on your PC. Whenever your Excel files get lost, download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to get them back.

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How's your experience in working on a large Excel file in Windows 10, like ~10MB? In fact, accountants for example, are producing Excel files with much bigger size than 10MB. Some people noticed that large files are likely to cause a crash in Excel. Is the file size reponsible for the crash? 

As a matter of fact, big file size is not the real culprit for the Excel crashing issue. It's said that unstable, crashing or freezing workbooks only tend to happen when your spreadsheets have grown to at least 20MB in size, given how much processing power the modern computers have. Hence, you should consider other factors that crash Excel when the file you're working on is far less than 20MB in size.

Why Large Excel Files Crash

Except the fact that the excel file is really large over 20MB, chances are that there are other factors that make your Excel unsteady to use. The factors are basically as follows:

  • Formatting, styles and shapes in a worksheet
  • Calculations and formulas in a worksheet
  • Computer's RAM issue

How to Make Large Excel Files Work Faster Without Crash

Important
A large excel file usually contains hundreds of rows of critical data with many styles and formulas in it, so you must take good care of the workbook by making a real-time backup, in case one day unexpected data loss happen due to the Excel crash, not responing or stop working suddenly before you can click Save. We suggest every one turn on auto save in Excel, to save the workbook every 1~5 minutes.

Next, we're going to troubleshoot a slow workbook upon opening or editing in Excel around the discussed three factors. No matter it's a small or big Excel file, since it causes crashing issue in Excel, the given solutions in each section should help.

Step 1. Remove Excessive Formatting

Formatting cells on your worksheet can make the right information easy to see at a glance, but formatting cells that aren't being used (especially entire rows and columns) can cause your workbook's file size to grow quickly. Microsoft has its own add-on called Clean Excess Cell Formatting, which is available on Excel's Inquire tab in Microsoft Office 365 and Office Professional Plus 2013. If you don't see the Inquire tab in Excel, do the following to enable the Inquire add-in:

  • Click File > Options > Add-Ins.
  • Make sure COM Add-ins is selected in the Manage box, and click Go.

clean excess cell formatting 1

  • In the COM Add-Ins box, check Inquire, and then click OK. The Inquire tab should now be visible in the ribbon.

To remove the excess formatting in the current worksheet, do the following:

  • On the Inquire tab, click Clean Excess Cell Formatting.

clean excess cell formatting 2

  • Choose whether to clean only the active worksheet or all worksheets. After excess formatting has been cleared, click Yes to save changes to the sheets or No to cancel.

Step 2. Remove Unused Styles

Too many different styles on an Excel workbook is likely to cause a specific error of "Too many different cell formats", and the alongside symptom is a constant crash in Excel. Hence, you should avoid using multiple styles on one worksheet. To clean up workbooks that already contain several styles, you can use one of the following third-party tools suggested by Microsoft.

Step 3. Remove Conditional Formatting

  • Under Home, click Conditional Formatting.
  • Choose Clear Rules.
  • Select Clear Rules from Entire Sheet
  • If multiple sheets adopts the rule, repeat the steps to clear them all

clear conditional formatting

Step 4. Remove Calculations and Formulas

If you've gone through the above three-step check and removable of unnecessary cell formatting, styles and conditional formatting, but still work clumsily on a large Excel workbook, you may need to look at the formulas and calculations in your worksheet. You don't have to check every calculation and fomula you've applied in the file, but those primary ones that tend to eat a lot of your computer's resources.

  • Formulas that reference entire rows or columns
  • SUMIF, COUNTIF, and SUMPRODUCT
  • Large number of formulas
  • Volatile functions
  • Array formulas

Step 5. Examine the Computer RAM Issue

Last but not the least, if none of the four-step effort speed up the performance in working on a large Excel file in Windows 10, it may be an issue with your computer's memory. Follow the 10 tips on how to solve high RAM memory usage issue in Windows 10.

How to Recover Unsaved Large Excel Files

What if Excel has crashed but you haven't saved the Excel file? Is it possible to recover unsaved Excel files after a crash? Generally, if you've turned on the autosave feauture in Excel, there is a chance to retrieve the lost file content from the temporary folder related to Office.

Click for the full guide How to Recover Unsaved/Lost Excel File.

Chances are that you recovered a workbook but it cannot open after recovery. That is to say, the recovered Excel file has corrupted. You cannot access the file data until repair the corruption. In this case, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can do you a favor. This reputable file recovery software can recover lost, deleted or formatted files of all file types from a computer, hard drive, external HDD and USB flash drive, at the same time, repair the corrupted items after being found.

To repair a large Excel file that cannot open after recovery, follow the below guide:

Step 1. Select a location to start finding corrupted Excel files

Launch EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, and then scan the corrupted or damaged Excel files.

repair Excel file - 1

Step 2.  Scan for the corrupted Excel document

Find the damaged files through the filter, file path, search, etc.

repair damaged Excel files

Step 3.  Repair and save the Excel file to a secure location

Double-click the corrupt excel file, and this program will automatically repair corrupted and damaged Excel files. Click "Recover" to save the repaired Excel files to a safe location.

Save repaired Excel files

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Updated by Jean

Author Jean has been writing tech articles since she was graduated from university. She has been part of the EaseUS team for over 5 years. Her special focuses are data recovery, disk partitioning, data space optimization, data backup and Mac OS. By the way, she's an aviation fan!

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