Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Error Opening Second Workbook.

Error Opening Second Workbook

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 23, 2019)

When you open a second Excel workbook, do you see an error message indicating that "PERSONAL.XLS is already open?" If so, this problem has to do with how you are opening the second workbook.

There are two ways you can open workbooks: either from within Excel or from the operating system. Opening a workbook from within Excel is done by using the Open tool on the toolbar or by choosing File | Open. Opening a workbook from the operating system is done if you double-click on a workbook icon.

Every time you open a workbook from the operating system, you are starting another instance of Excel. The error message appears only if you have a Personal.xls workbook on your system and only if you open a second workbook using the operating system method. The first time you open a workbook, it loads Personal.xls. The second time you open a workbook (remember—you are actually opening another instance of Excel) the program tries to load Personal.xls again. Since it is already open, you get the error.

The solution is to open the second workbook from within Excel, not from the operating system. Use the method of opening a workbook appropriate within your version of Excel and you won't see the error message.

If you must open a second instance of Excel and you don't want the error message, find the Personal.xls workbook using Windows' Search feature. (Do this in Windows, not in Excel.) Right-click the file and choose Properties. In the Properties dialog box for the file, choose to make the file Read-Only. Once the file is read-only, you no longer get the error when you open up secondary instances of Excel. Why? Because the first instance doesn't leave the file open due to it being read-only.

You can also bypass the error condition completely if you make one small configuration change in Excel. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Excel displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the General tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The General tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. Make sure the Ignore Other Applications check box is not selected.
  5. Click OK.

According to Excel's help system, if the Ignore Other Applications check box is selected, then Excel won't share DDE information with other applications. This isn't all, however—it also affects how Excel starts when you double-click on a workbook in Windows and you already have Excel open. If the option is cleared (as it should be), then Excel starts the new workbook in the current instance of Excel. If it is selected (as it may be), then Excel tries to open a second instance of itself, and you will see an error message if you have a Personal.xls file on your system.

If changing the Ignore Other Applications check box causes unforeseen problems in other ways you use Excel, then you might also consider converting your Personal.xls file to an add-in. (How to create add-ins has been covered in other issues of ExcelTips.) Add-ins are opened in a special status, akin to read-only, and can therefore be opened by more than one instance of Excel.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2501) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Error Opening Second Workbook.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Make AutoCorrect Pay Attention to Character Case

If you rely on AutoText (as most Word users do), you may have noticed that it doesn't always give the desired results ...

Discover More

Odd Sorting

Word is great at sorting simple information in tables and paragraphs. If you have more complex information (such as ...

Discover More

Associating a Name with a Position

Wouldn't it be great if Word allowed you to have a small pop-up that showed you some information associated with a ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports

When importing information from a CSV file, you may get unintended results from time to time. Here's how to force Excel ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of "Copy of"

When you save a read-only workbook file under a new name, Excel automatically adds "copy of" to the beginning of that ...

Discover More

Saving a Workbook with a Preview

When you save your workbooks, Excel can also save a preview image (thumbnail) that can be displayed in the Open dialog ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is one less than 2?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.