Excel or Word files open very slowly, but fast from within program

PROBLEM: A user double-clicks an Excel file or Word document from Windows Explorer or the Desktop and it opens Excel or Word, but the file doesn’t open for a minute or multiple minutes, even if it on the local hard drive. If you open the file from within Word or Excel, it opens up perfectly fine and quick. My users are using Office 2007 currently with this problem.

I’ve run into this problem a handful of times now, and I dug for hours looking for a good solution. I found many with the problem, but not much good information on a good solution. HOWEVER, I found something that works. I found it Joel Clermont’s blog from 2004! (Thanks, Joel!) I have modified his instructions and added screenshots.

1. First, open any folder in Windows XP (Start > My Computer).

2. Click on the Tools menu, and choose Folder Options.

3. From the dialog that pops up, click the File Types tab. You will now be presented with a list of all document types recognized by your computer.

4. Scroll down to XLS, select it, and click the Advanced button.

5. Now you’ll see several “Actions” registered for Excel worksheets. Usually, Open is the default (indicated by being in bold). Select “Open” and click the Edit button.

6. The main piece of data in here is the field labeled “Application used to perform action.” This should point to your Excel executable, followed by some command-line arguments. Here’s how it modify it to fix the problem:

“C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\EXCEL.EXE” /e “%1” (see below for how I fixed Word)

It is very important to make sure that the %1 is surrounded by quotes. %1 is the variable representing the full path and file name of the document you are opening. If it contains any spaces, and this is not surrounded by quotes you will get a flurry of weird errors.

7. “Use DDE” is normally checked. Now, make sure that “DDE Message” is empty. Click OK. (Although this will re-enable automatically,Play Store Download since the fields are blank it doesn’t seem to matter.)

8. Click OK back at the Edit File Type dialog. Click Close on the Folder Options dialog.

9. Now try to open a file directly again.

10. Repeat from Step 4 for any other file types that aren’t working well — for my latest computer it was XLS, XLSX, DOCX (not DOC for some reason). If you modify the setting for XLS and it doesn’t fix your problem, try changing XLSX, also (same for DOC and DOCX).

For Word, here was how I modified it:

“C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\WINWORD.EXE” /n “%1”

I don’t know why this happens, but I suspect that these modifications we have to make are because something else got corrupted or modified (I consider this a workaround, not a fix).

15 replies
  1. Paul says:

    Wow thanks a lot! Just fixed an issue that I had for a user at work. Any type of word or excel file that was opening slow now opens really fast.

  2. AC_in_GA says:

    Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU! I’ve been struggling with these MS Office files opening slowly for the past 4 months and this seems to have fixed it!!
    I suspect that one of the XP “updates” screwed up some code that tells Windows to open the file, forcing Windows to search for a proper program to open the .doc or .xls files. Sometimes my computer would hang for over a minute “thinking” about how it should open a file.
    A simple fix–I love it!! Thanks!!

  3. brmorris says:

    I’ve never figured it out, either. I don’t think it is a Windows Update because it only affects one computer here, one computer there. Maybe I’ll figure out the why someday..

  4. Christian says:

    I have used this solution successfully and I feel it is great. Only problem is that the fix needs to be re-applied periodically as the problem keeps recurring for reasons unknown.

    Any idea what causes the problem in the first place?

  5. Yuhuuuu says:

    Thanks Brian! It worked for me; I am suspecting that this was caused by some XP updates, because i started experiencing this issue after such update. Maybe it is not happening with all computers because this problem is triggered under certain circumstances when downloading XP updates and therefore only impacting some of them.
    Well, don´t know I am only speculating, but the good news are that it worked!!

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