Love using Microsoft Excel? So do more than half a billion people globally. After all, it’s one of the most popular spreadsheet software available on Windows as well as Android, iOS, macOS. And let’s not forget it’s packed with gazillions of computation or calculation capabilities, pivot tables, graphing tools, and more.
Sure – you can use databases as well as BI solutions to analyze CSV files. And honestly, power BI solutions like Power BI as well as databases can process your data a lot faster than Excel. In fact, Power BI dashboards are more interactive, customizable, and visually appealing.
But when it comes to the simplicity of spreadsheets – there’s no comparison. The reason why most people love using Microsoft Excel is that it’s simple and easy to use. And while it’s incredibly popular, the thing is – Microsoft Excel still has its limits.
If your spreadsheet file has exceeded the maximum Excel row and column limit, then Microsoft Excel may not be able to launch your file at all, or will open it and simply drop data. In addition, when you launch a large spreadsheet on Excel, sometimes you’ll see your screen turning grey along with the “Excel (Not Responding)” error message at the top.
And while there may be numerous reasons behind your Excel file being too large in size, what’s the solution to open it without Excel freezing or causing your computer to crash?
To help you understand how to open spreadsheet files too large for Excel, we have put together this blog post, where we’ll be covering:
We’re so excited to share this with you. So, let’s dive in.
Even though Microsoft Excel is one of the most popular spreadsheet software, it still has its limits which can cause the application to either not launch your spreadsheet at all or freeze. Some of the most common ones include:
First, let’s talk about the maximum row and column limit.
No matter where you’re fetching your data from, first it’s important to note that the maximum row limit in Microsoft Excel is 1,048,576 and the maximum column limit stands at 16,384. If you try to launch a spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel that exceeds this limit, you’ll get the following error message:
Now, you can either split this large file with more than 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns into multiple smaller files or look for an Excel add-in that supports additional rows and columns. But – it’s just too much work.
To dive deep into the Limitations of Microsoft Excel, we’d recommend reading Microsoft’s “Excel Specifications and Limits” guide.
Another big problem, apart from Excel’s specifications and limits reported by Microsoft, is Microsoft Excel struggling to launch and process a spreadsheet file that’s large in size.
Let’s say you have a low-end PC with 4 GB RAM and an Intel i5 Processor. With this computer, if you try to launch a 50MB Excel file with numerous rows and columns, then you’ll see Excel crashing within seconds or minutes.
Here, we’re not saying that Microsoft Excel will not open your spreadsheet file at all. You’ll obviously be able to open it.
But the thing is – you’ll face a hard time analyzing your data and tapping into Excel features – as it’ll be so annoyingly slow that you’ll end up wanting to shut down your computer due to frustration. And even if you manage to load it, there will be chances of data loss between actions you take on the file. Your cursor will freeze, calculations will be delayed, and it will be a generally frustrating experience.
Worse – what if you’re making changes to the file and it freezes all-of-a-sudden? In that case, maybe you’ll lose some data. Auto-save is a great feature, but when dealing with a huge file, it's advisable to turn this feature off. The reason is that a save may take several minutes. Thus, Excel gets into a loop of save after save, and you can never get any work done between saves.
So, if your Excel is freezing or crashing, turn off auto-save and get into the habit of manually saving your Excel File for every small change you make. Otherwise, if it crashes, you may have to start from scratch.
Low-end computers struggle to process a spreadsheet file that’s 20 or 30 MB in size. Whereas high-end computers can easily process it. But what if your spreadsheet file is 200MB in size? While it heavily depends on your computer memory and resources, the thing is - large spreadsheet files are always a problem when you’re trying to launch them on Microsoft Excel.
This brings us to our BIG question:
Wondering why your spreadsheet file is so big? Allow me to share a few common reasons behind Excel files getting so big in size and causing Microsoft Excel to freeze:
If your Excel file is too large in size and you can’t figure out the reason behind it, then allow us to share the best way to open such a file.
We don’t really like to brag about our platform. However, we’d like to highlight that no matter what your spreadsheet file size is or how many rows or columns your spreadsheet file comprises, Gigasheet can load and process your spreadsheet file in seconds. The reason Gigasheet can do this is that it is a database disguised as a spreadsheet!
All you need to do is simply upload your Excel file to Gigasheet. And the best part is – you can run powerful queries (no coding experience required) to analyze and filter your data. When you’re finally done filtering your data (depending on your needs), you can save the final results in the form of a separate spreadsheet and launch that spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. Wondering how?
Allow us to share the steps to start using Gigasheet:
Now, you can easily launch this file on Microsoft Excel. With Gigasheet, you can get rid of bad data and generate a spreadsheet file that you’ll easily be able to launch on Excel.
And the best part is – your data stays private. We don’t sell or use data.
While you can use BI tools or Python to launch large spreadsheet files, it’s just too complicated for anyone and everyone. Not everyone in your team may know how to code or use BI tools – however, using Gigasheet is easy and simple.
Other than using Gigasheet, if you’re wondering how to reduce your Excel file size, we’ve covered it in the next section.
Using Gigasheet is one of the best ways to launch large spreadsheet files. And you can use Gigasheet’s “Save As” option to save the modified version of the Excel file – with filters. But if you want to do it the old-fashioned way, you can apply three tactics to reduce your Excel file size:
Did you know that you can hide and unhide worksheets in Excel? There may be hidden worksheets in your workbook – which you may not be in front of you. And that specific worksheet may be the reason behind your large Excel file size.
Let’s say you see a workbook with three worksheets in plain view. But what if there’s a hidden one you can’t see in front of you?
To check whether there’s a hidden worksheet or not:
To unhide a worksheet:
Now, if you think this hidden sheet isn’t required, you can just delete it and reduce the Excel file size.
Formulas and calculations take up more space than numeric entries or normal text. And while there may be some instances that formulas are unavoidable – some non-essential formulas or calculations may be taking up too much space that you may not even know of. It’s not advisable to check every formula you’ve applied or the calculation you’ve made. However, allow us to share a few that can consume too much of your computer’s memory and cause Excel to freeze:
It’s advisable to use Pivot or Excel tables – if formulas can be avoided. Also, if there are any unused Pivot tables as well as charts, then you should get rid of them too.
Formatting, styles, and shapes can consume your computer’s resources and increase the file size of your spreadsheet. So it’s important to get rid of the non-essential ones.
To remove unnecessary formatting:
You should not use multiple styles in the same workbook. To remove unnecessary styles, it’s advisable to use third-party tools that are suggested by Microsoft, namely Remove Styles Add-in or XLStyles Tool.
Large spreadsheet files are always a problem. But they don’t have to be - as we want you to dive deep into your data without having to compromise on any front.
Despite getting rid of excess formatting, styles, and calculations or deleting hidden worksheets, what if your Excel file is still freezing or crashing? With Gigasheet’s ability to process billions of rows, you don’t have to worry about facing a hard time analyzing your large datasets.