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Excel found unreadable content in 'xxx.xls' (Windows 7 only)

    Question

  • I have several customers running into the Excel found unreadable content issue opening up excel docs generated years and years ago. This only happens when opening the doc using Windows 7 (and any version of Microsoft Office).  This is a know issue and many people have reported it online with no real solutions.

    I know it has something to do with the file generating application that created them incorrectly.  This is irrelevant from my point of view.  The documents cannot be changed.  Also, some of the file generating applications are legacy and cannot be modified.

    These files opened perfectly for years on operating systems other than Windows 7 on any version of Office 97-2010.  In fact, you can copy the physical file to a Windows XP machine and open it.  You can also use Open Office to open it on a Windows 7 machine.

    Is there any solution from Microsoft to patch Windows 7 or Office to allow opening of these files.  Why can Open Office support this and Microsoft Office hasn't released a solution to this problem since it was discovered over a year ago?

    Any help would be great.

    Thanks.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011 5:56 PM

Answers

  • Hello everyone,

    I finally got an answer from Microsoft Support.  This answer is for all of the developers out there that are getting questions about their apps generating Excel files that can't be opened on Windows 7 using any version of Excel.

    The answer will not make you happy.  The main cause for this is because Windows 7 performs an additional "security scan" that Windows XP and Windows Vista did not enforce.  There is an internal Microsoft article that talks about changes to the OLE32 dlls, specifically how it reads the OLEFAT table.   Microsoft has NO PLANS to change this behavior.  Yay... thank you.

    You can choose one of the following options:

    1. Open the file on a non-Windows 7 machine using any version of Excel, save as and overwrite the offending file.  This file can now be opened on a Windows 7 machine using any version of Excel.

    2. Try using the Microsoft Office Migration Planning Manager (OMPM) to perform a mass convert. Use at your own risk (backup your files before you try).

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=13580cd7-a8bc-40ef-8281-dd2c325a5a81&displaylang=en

    3. Use Open Office.  It opens the files without any problems.

    I hope this helps anyone that is running into this problem.

    Thanks and good luck.

     

     

     

     

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011 4:27 PM
  • Try the following:

     

    1. physically copy/move the file to a WinXP or Vista computer
    2. open the file with Excel 2010 or Excel 2007
    3. save a copy of the file as either .xlsx or .xlsm (as appropriate)
    4. move the .xlsx (or .xlsm) file back to the Win7 computer
    5. try to open the .xlsx (or .xlsm) version

    gsnu201011
    • Marked as answer by Bessie Zhao Monday, January 24, 2011 7:19 AM
    Thursday, January 20, 2011 6:07 PM

All replies

  • Try the following:

     

    1. physically copy/move the file to a WinXP or Vista computer
    2. open the file with Excel 2010 or Excel 2007
    3. save a copy of the file as either .xlsx or .xlsm (as appropriate)
    4. move the .xlsx (or .xlsm) file back to the Win7 computer
    5. try to open the .xlsx (or .xlsm) version

    gsnu201011
    • Marked as answer by Bessie Zhao Monday, January 24, 2011 7:19 AM
    Thursday, January 20, 2011 6:07 PM
  • Try the following:

     

    1. physically copy/move the file to a WinXP or Vista computer
    2. open the file with Excel 2010 or Excel 2007
    3. save a copy of the file as either .xlsx or .xlsm (as appropriate)
    4. move the .xlsx (or .xlsm) file back to the Win7 computer
    5. try to open the .xlsx (or .xlsm) version

    gsnu201011


    Thank you for you response, but yes, this approach has always been the workaround.  I even retested it to make sure that was still the case.  I can open the file using Office 2003 on an XP machine as save is back as an XLS (not even XLSX or XLSM) and that file can be opened on the Windows 7 machine using Office 2010.

    I am looking for a solution that doesnt involve touching every single XLS document (maybe a registry change, UAC change, etc).  Our customers have 100s of these documents.  They also have other applications (other than ours) that have this problem.

    Does anyone have a solution that doesn't involve touching every file?  I want it to work like it did prior to Windows 7.

     

    Thursday, January 20, 2011 7:44 PM
  • Hello Isaac,

    Thanks for posting. I marked the post above based on your reply. Actually, this is a forum for programmers. Your question is more an end-user level question, not a developer (programming) question. You're more likely to find people knowledgeable in this area on the Answers/TechNet sites:

    Microsoft Office Excel Forums:
    http://social.answers.microsoft.com/Forums/en-IN/category/officeexcel.
    Excel IT Pro Discussions:
    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en/excel/threads.

    If you have any concern for this post, just feel free to follow up. Have a nice day.


    Bessie Zhao [MSFT]
    MSDN Community Support | Feedback to us
    Get or Request Code Sample from Microsoft
    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help and unmark them if they provide no help.

    Monday, January 24, 2011 7:24 AM
  • Hi Bessie,

    The reason I posted it here is because I was looking for a technical response that didn't give the standard "Save As" response.  I am a developer so I was hoping for a developer response.

    What do you mean that you've "marked the post above based on your reply"? Does that mean this thread is dead?

    On a side note, I have a case open with Microsoft looking for the official answer.  I've been bouncing between the Windows 7 team and the Excel team.  I will update this thread (or a different moved thread) when I get the official response.

    The reason I am chasing this down is because the Windows 7 solution is to move to Open Office.  That wouldn't be a "good" solution if we want customers to continue using Microsoft products.

    Thanks.

    Monday, January 24, 2011 4:56 PM
  • Hello again Isaac,

    I marked the post above because that it is also a workaround from your post. If you have any concern on this point, just feel free to unmark it back.

    Since this forum is for programming questions, to get more support and responses, I recommend you could ask in Answer sites for end-user level questions.

    If I have mistaken this issue, just feel free to correct me. Have a nice day.


    Bessie Zhao [MSFT]
    MSDN Community Support | Feedback to us
    Get or Request Code Sample from Microsoft
    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help and unmark them if they provide no help.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011 3:36 AM
  • Hello everyone,

    I finally got an answer from Microsoft Support.  This answer is for all of the developers out there that are getting questions about their apps generating Excel files that can't be opened on Windows 7 using any version of Excel.

    The answer will not make you happy.  The main cause for this is because Windows 7 performs an additional "security scan" that Windows XP and Windows Vista did not enforce.  There is an internal Microsoft article that talks about changes to the OLE32 dlls, specifically how it reads the OLEFAT table.   Microsoft has NO PLANS to change this behavior.  Yay... thank you.

    You can choose one of the following options:

    1. Open the file on a non-Windows 7 machine using any version of Excel, save as and overwrite the offending file.  This file can now be opened on a Windows 7 machine using any version of Excel.

    2. Try using the Microsoft Office Migration Planning Manager (OMPM) to perform a mass convert. Use at your own risk (backup your files before you try).

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=13580cd7-a8bc-40ef-8281-dd2c325a5a81&displaylang=en

    3. Use Open Office.  It opens the files without any problems.

    I hope this helps anyone that is running into this problem.

    Thanks and good luck.

     

     

     

     

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011 4:27 PM
  • FYI, #2 (Utility) does not work.   The only options are #1 (non-Windows 7) or #3 (Open Office).
    Wednesday, February 09, 2011 4:38 PM
  • Thanks a lot for the post..!! Its working fine..!!
    Tuesday, December 06, 2011 7:27 AM
  • Hello Isaac,

    Thanks for posting. I marked the post above based on your reply. Actually, this is a forum for programmers. Your question is more an end-user level question, not a developer (programming) question. You're more likely to find people knowledgeable in this area on the Answers/TechNet sites:

    Microsoft Office Excel Forums:
    http://social.answers.microsoft.com/Forums/en-IN/category/officeexcel.
    Excel IT Pro Discussions:
    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en/excel/threads.

    If you have any concern for this post, just feel free to follow up. Have a nice day.


    Bessie Zhao [MSFT]
    MSDN Community Support | Feedback to us
    Get or Request Code Sample from Microsoft
    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help and unmark them if they provide no help.

    Pse be more specific, it takes to much time to search through thousands of topics ...
    Monday, December 19, 2011 1:04 AM
  • Thanks a lot for the post..!! Its working fine..!!

    Okay, what is working fine ...

    Pse tell us what you did to make it work fine.

    Monday, December 19, 2011 1:04 AM
  • Hi

    Just a note....

    We have a .xls document that arrives every month for the last couple of years- Newly generated from another dept.

    And since the move to WIN 7 - Office 2010 from XP - Office 2003 the error appears when opening it -> ''Excel found unreadable content in''

    It still opens fine in office 2003 & open office.
    The only work around so far is to re-save it on another XP machine and then it opens in 2010 ,
    Very odd because theres nothing in it only text and numbers on one sheet.

    Its definitly some change or ristriction in win7 /office 2010.
    Ive tested the file on a Non work Win 7 machine with a fresh install of office 2010. Same problem.
    Im off to try office 2010 on XP now just for the sake of it.

    Thumbs up to the answer from Isaac Alexander.

     

    Thanks
    Tuesday, January 10, 2012 12:24 AM
  • This (XP/2003) didn't work for me.  Got the same result.  My file is an .xlsx, so 2003 tried to convert it and failed.  I tried to open it with 2010 on an XP machine too... still didn't work with the same error.  Trying Open Office now.  I am only hoping that something works, because I probably have 10,000 xls files on this machine.  I have a backup, but what do I do? Restore them to an 10 year old XP machine?

     

    Google Docs opened the file, but of course, I lost a lot of my formatting, and some of my more complex formulas.  Open Office worked, though I lost some formatting (very little), and the formulas seem ok so far.

    Monday, February 06, 2012 3:02 PM
  • We had the same issue with many of the excel files we got from clients once we moved to Win 7 and found that the problem was that the style list was very long. Spreadsheets are rollforward from year to year,  So they could have 3 to 5 years of formatting within the file from previous users.   We used and Excel Style cleaner tool and that was the solution to our "Excel found unreadable content..." error. Maybe not for everyone but it wont hurt to try :)

    Thursday, March 08, 2012 9:09 PM
  • @Browneyesann how did you solve this? What do you mean with an 'Excel Style cleaner,' you used the style cleaner at development (code) level?? Or what do you mean with that?

    I'd thank you email me at jukarpenz@gmail.com

    Thnx


    • Edited by Jukar Penz Thursday, March 22, 2012 7:36 PM add email
    Thursday, March 22, 2012 7:33 PM
  • We had the same issue with many of the excel files we got from clients once we moved to Win 7 and found that the problem was that the style list was very long. Spreadsheets are rollforward from year to year,  So they could have 3 to 5 years of formatting within the file from previous users.   We used and Excel Style cleaner tool and that was the solution to our "Excel found unreadable content..." error. Maybe not for everyone but it wont hurt to try :)


    @Browneyesann how did you solve this? What do you mean with an 'Excel Style cleaner,' you used the style cleaner at development (code) level?? Or what do you mean with that?

    I'd thank you email me at jukarpenz@gmail.com


    Thnx



    • Edited by Jukar Penz Thursday, March 22, 2012 7:36 PM
    Thursday, March 22, 2012 7:33 PM
  • Hello you all,

    we also encounter the issue that some Excel files openend on a Win7 machine generate the "Excel found unreadable content..." error message.

    It looks to me very strange that this occures, as i wrote in the first line, on SOME Excel files.

    Weekly, I generate 10 files with the same layout, the same number of tabsheets, containing the same pivot tables.

    All of the files are updated with data generated with Access.

    With only ONE file, the problem occures and the pivot tables corrupting by opening the file.

    Seperatly, I generate the same amount of files based on SAP / BI data generated with BexAnalyzer (based on 7.10 with Support Packag 13 Revision 1705). In this case, EVERY file is corrupt.

    On the WinXP machines, no problem what so ever.

    The files are also available on our Intranet; thus first "Saved as..." and than published.

    The issue still stands but is it is strange that sometimes files can be onpened correctly.

    Any ideas ?

    Friday, April 06, 2012 8:14 AM
  • Try the following:

    1. physically copy/move the file to a WinXP or Vista computer
    2. open the file with Excel 2010 or Excel 2007
    3. save a copy of the file as either .xlsx or .xlsm (as appropriate)
    4. move the .xlsx (or .xlsm) file back to the Win7 computer
    5. try to open the .xlsx (or .xlsm) version

    gsnu201011

    I get only to #2, can not open the file on the XP computer either. Can the reason be that I renamed the original file?

    I was surprised to see that not all the files I touched corrupted, only about the half. I didn't save them on the Windows 7 computer, only opened the documents. About a third of the files I opened at one night in a 3 hours interval were corrupted, and I did't experience this since.

    Any other ideas how I can get my first sheet back? That was the key to the whole document and included about 2 months data since my last uncorrupted backup.

    Monday, April 23, 2012 11:10 PM
  • Excel found unreadable content in 'xxx.xls' (Windows 7 only)

    I have Windows 7 and am running Microsoft Office 2007. My document was saved in .xlsx format. The following are the steps I used to successfully bypass the unreadable content error:


    1. Go the Windows START Icon.

    2. Click on 'Control Panel'.

    3. Click on 'System and Security'.

    4. Click on 'Change User Account Control Settings'.

    5. Adjust the slider control down to the lowest setting, and select OK.

    6. Reboot your PC.

    7. Access your document.

    8. Save it; even if you've made no changes.

    9. Repeat steps 1 - 4.

    10. Adjust the slider control back to regular setting (typically the thirds selection up), and select OK.

    11. Reboot PC.


    After this, you should be back to original settings with the accessible document. :)

    • Edited by Mr JimmyB Sunday, May 27, 2012 4:06 PM
    Sunday, May 27, 2012 4:02 PM
  • For me, the root cause was name definitions. A few invalid names were found in [Formulas] - [Name Manager].

    Depending on the .xls/.xlsx file location, Excel considered the names as bad and declared 'unreadable content'. This happened mostly when opened through UNC path.

    The solution was opening the file via a mapped drive, filtering names by [Names with Errors] in Name Manager and removing them.

    Sunday, May 27, 2012 4:18 PM
  • What works fine?

    I have same issue here in our network. Some of the machines are xp and i am using windows 7. when the spreadsheets are edited in xp, the problem with unreadable content appears when i open the spreadsheet in windows 7. When I open the file, it says unreadable content was found and it asks if i trust the source, i would click yes and save then it would work fine. The problem is we are doing dataloading and i have to open every single files (which are too many) then save it before loading it (the tool i am using for dataloading rejects the file if i didn't open it and save it)

    Friday, July 27, 2012 3:26 AM
  • For anyone having problems with "Unreadable Content" when opening machine created .XLS files on Windows 7 or later, but don't have the same problems when opening these files on earlier Windows versions, in addition to earlier posts in this thread, here is the offical documentation for this:
    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2411912
    Friday, January 18, 2013 9:08 AM