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Excel/Excel Forward Compatibility



We have a complex Excel 2003 file to schedule our department that has been continuously updated since 2000.  The file contains no macros.  It works quite well in Excel 2003 and Excel 2007.  

When we try opening the file in Excel 2010, it indicates that "Excel found unreadable content.  Do you want to recover the content."  If we hit YES, the file opens, but loses most of its functionality.  We've re-installed Office 2010 to include all of its features, but it still doesn't work.

Any suggestions?



Hello Brian,

Thank you for your question and the opportunity to answer it.

I have a couple of solutions.  Hopefully one of them will work for you.  

By the way are you using a computer with Windows 7?  Other people have had this issue and it seems the one thing in common is that they were all trying to open the file on a computer with Windows 7 OS.  As I understand, the reason for this issue is Windows 7 performs an additional security scan that Windows XP and Windows Vista did not enforce.

Try Solution 1 First:

1. 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  
4. Move the .xlsx (or .xlsm) file back to the Win7 computer
5. Try to open the .xlsx (or .xlsm) version

If that fails to work, try Solution 2:

1. Open the file in Excel 2003
2. Go to File: Save As
3. Change the Save As type to Web Page (.html), save and close the file
4. Open the .html file in Excel
5. Save the file as a .xls (with a new name so the original isn't lost)

I have not personally experienced either of these issues, so I cannot guarantee either solution will work, but they are worth a try.

If you try both of these solutions and still experience the issue, you might contact Microsoft Support or ask one of the other experts here for a different solution.

Hope this helps you.

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David W. Cofer


I can answer MS Excel questions regarding Excel Formulas, Functions, Worksheets, Data Validation, Conditional Formating, Lookup, Pivot Tables and Logic Functions, as well as other general Excel questions. I do not answer questions regarding Charts, Macros, Visual Basic or Programming. Please include the version of Excel you are using. That helps me provide an answer that will work on your system. Also, do not submit duplicate questions to several experts at the same time. If several of us are answering the same question at the same time, it is a waste of time and resources. If the first expert you ask does not provide an acceptable answer, then ask a second expert. As we are volunteers, our time is valuable, and it is a waste of time for 5 of us to be working on the same question at the same time. Thanks for your understanding.


I have used MS Excel for over 20 years and am familiar with all versions back to 1993. I currently use Excel 2013 and assist those using versions going back to 2000. I use Excel extensively at both work and home.

I hold a B.A. degree in Psychology.

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