Understanding Phantom Macros

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 9, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Are you up for an experiment? Try the following: open a brand new workbook in Excel; one that has no macros in it. Record a quick macro, and then delete it. Save the workbook, close it, and reopen it. If all went as expected, Excel should have warned you about the workbook when you reopened it, and asked you if you wanted to disable the macros.

This sounds odd—after all, you know there are no macros in the workbook. Are there phantom macros at work here? No, not really. The reason Excel behaves this way is that when you create your first macro in a workbook, Excel creates a new module in which to retain the macro. When you later delete the macro, the module remains behind, ready to hold any other macros you may create. It is modules that Excel checks for when you open a workbook, not individual macros. If there is a module, you get the warning.

To fix this situation, you must follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the offending workbook (the one with the phantom macros) is open.
  2. Press Alt+F11, or choose Macros from the Tools menu and then choose Visual Basic Editor from the resulting submenu. Excel displays the Visual Basic Editor.
  3. Near the upper-left side of the editor is the Project Explorer. This contains a hierarchical tree that shows the different modules in your workbook. If the Project Explorer is not visible on your screen, press Ctrl+R to display it.
  4. Within the Project Explorer should be a folder called Modules. If it is not already open, double-click on the Modules folder to display its contents.
  5. Right-click on a module in the folder. A Context menu is displayed.
  6. Choose the Remove option from the Context menu. You are asked if you want to export the module before removing it.
  7. Click on the No button. The module is removed.
  8. Repeat steps 5 through 7 for each module in the Modules folder.
  9. Close the Visual Basic Editor.
  10. Resave your workbook.

At this point your workbook contains no modules, and you will not get any notification when you subsequently open it.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2011) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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