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: Locked File Puzzle.

Locked File Puzzle

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 23, 2014)

Eric was having a problem with one of his workbooks. It seems that every time he opened the workbook he saw a dialog box that said the file was locked and that he would have to save changes under a different name. Even when he does that, the dialog box still appears on the new workbook.

The first thing to try is to restart your machine, or copy the workbook to a different folder on your system. The reasoning for this is simple: Sometimes Excel can get confused and think that a file is "locked" by another user, when in fact it is not. Restarting or copying the workbook can help clear the confusion.

The most likely cause of this problem, however, is that there is some sort of macro running when the workbook is opened. Even if you save the workbook under a different name, the macro would be saved with the new workbook, and the process would repeat itself all over again. To test this, try the following:

  1. Open the workbook like normal, dismissing the dialog box.
  2. Select all the worksheets in the workbook. (Click on the left-most worksheet, then hold down the Shift key as you click on the right-most worksheet.)
  3. Choose Move or Copy Sheet from the Edit menu. Excel displays the Move or Copy dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Move or Copy dialog box.

  5. Using the To Book drop-down list, choose (new book).
  6. Make sure the Create a Copy check box is selected.
  7. Click OK.

Now you have two workbooks: the one you opened and a new, unnamed workbook. Close the original workbook without saving, and then save the new workbook under any name desired. You should be able to open the new workbook with no problems, as macros are not copied in the above steps.

If you cannot complete step 3 because the Move or Copy Sheet option is not available, it means that the worksheets have been protected. You would need to remove protection from the worksheets before you could copy them.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2705) 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: Locked File Puzzle.

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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