Written By Rick de Groot

Rick is the founder of BI Gorilla. He believes learning is one of life's greatest pleasures and shares his knowledge to help you improve your skills.

Open multiple instances of Excel

This post describes how to open Excel files in separate instances. When working with multiple workbooks in Excel, you may sometimes experience issues.

During a resource intensive task in one spreadsheet, other spreadsheets within the same instance often become unusable. For example, you could be running a long macro or are refreshing Power Query. Or you may be pulling data from an SQL database or have Excel recalculate all your formulas.

When an operation has you waiting, you may want to continue working on something else. Yet within the same instance, you cannot use Excel while it’s working.

To prevent this, you can open two separate instances of Excel before running a resource consuming task. Having multiple instances open allows you to use one instance to run an intensive task, while you continue working in another.

It’s like having two independent applications open. Below I share 7 ways to open multiple instances of Excel.

1. Open New Instance of Excel

1.1. Alt + Open Excel

The first method to open a new Excel instance is the Alt + Open method. It works as follows:
Right click on the Excel icon in the taskbar. As the menu appears, hold down the Alt-key and left-click on the ‘Excel’ menu option.

Opening a new instance using the alt + open method

Hold down the Alt-key until the below window pops up. Press Yes to open a new instance of Excel.

Pop-up asking whether you want to start a new instance of excel

1.2. Alt + Scroll Wheel

The second and also my favorite way is by using the scroll wheel. First hover your mouse over the Excel Icon in the taskbar, click and hold the Alt-key and then click on the scroll wheel.

Keep holding the Alt-key until the pop-up appears, just like before. This directly brings you to a new Excel instance.

1.3. Double Click on a File then hold Alt

When you want to open a specific file in you can use a very easy 4 step proces:

  1. Navigate to your file using the file explorer as you always do.
  2. To open the file in a second instance, first double click (left mouse button) to open the file. This triggers an opening event.
  3. Right after clicking, press and hold your Alt-key until the new instance pop-up appears.
  4. After confirming yes you have now opened your Excel file in a another instance!

1.4. Create a Custom Shortcut

If you plan to open excel in a new instance more often, you could also create a custom shortcut to open excel in the right way. The easiest way to do that is to:

  1. First we need the target of our shortcut. To get it, right click on your Excel icon in the taskbar -> right click again on ‘Excel’ -> click properties. This opens the Excel Properties window.
  2. Copy the address that’s displayed in the Target field of the Shortcut tab. For me this is: “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\EXCEL.EXE”. This includes the quotes!
  3. On your desktop right click -> New -> Shortcut. This opens the screen to create a shortcut. The first thing you need to do is add the location of the item we make a shortcut for.
  4. As location paste the target we just copied. Then right after this code write the following: “ /x“. This time without the quotes! So for me the adjusted target is:
    “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\EXCEL.EXE” /x
  5. Press next and give your shortcut a name.
  6. Now click finish

You have now created a new shortcut. When you click this shortcut Excel will open a separate instance. You can also add this shortcut to your taskbar if you like. In that way you can simply click that shortcut. Thanks go to Mike Barrett who mentioned this in the comments.

1.5. Use the Run Window

One of the quickest ways is using the Run window. It uses a similar method as the previous example. To do this:

  • Click Start -> enter ‘Run’ -> fill in “Excel.exe /x” and press enter.
  • Or on Windows 10: enter “Excel.exe /x” in the start menu and press enter.

A new Excel instance will open.

Run window with the text "Excel.exe / X"

1.6. Use VBA

This method makes use of VBA. Run below VBA code to open a second Excel instance.

Sub OpenNewExcelInstance()
Dim xlApp As Excel.Application
Set xlApp = New Excel.Application
xlApp.Visible = True
Set xlApp = Nothing
End Sub

1.7. Edit the Registry: Force Excel to Open New Instance by Default

This section explains how to open each Excel spreadsheet in a new instance by configuring a registry key. From all methods, this one involves the most steps to configure. However, if you need Excel to open a new instance by default, this method may be worth your while.

Note: this method only works when you use the Excel icon to open a new spreadsheet. When opening a new spreadsheet from within a file by using File -> Open, the file still opens in the current Excel instance. The same happens when you open a file from within the file explorer.


Please be careful when adjusting the registry. Adjusting the wrong entries may cause serious problems. If you’re new to this, it could be good to make a backup of the registry before making any changes. In that way you can always restore it. To do this:

  • Click Start -> type ‘Regedit’ -> click on Regedit in the search results
Search bar looking for Run command Regedit
  • Press File -> Export -> Select Export Range ‘All’ -> Save the backup in a safe location.
File drop-down menu in the Registry Editor

Edit the Registry

Now we’re set to go. To edit the registry:

  • First, close all instances of Excel.
  • Open the Registry Editor (as explained in the backup step).
  • Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Options.
  • Click Edit in the menu, press New, and select DWORD value.
Adding a DWORD Value in the Registry Editor
  • Name the entry ‘DisableMergeInstance’, press enter.
  • Right-click the entry DisableMergeInstance, and select Modify.
  • In the Value data box, fill in 1, and click OK.

Next time you open a new Excel window using the taskbar icon, it will open in a new instance.

These were my favorite methods to open a new Excel instance. Which one is your favorite? I’d love to hear from you. Also if you know any other methods, nice to share? In that way we all learn from each other.

For continued learning, make sure to check out Grouping or Summarizing your Data in Power Query and learn How to Use the Data Model in Excel. Until next time!

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  1. This doesn’t work. You can check by setting both spreadsheets to manually calculate and then calculating one sheet. The sheet in the other ‘instance’ will also recalculate.

  2. I have been able to open excel in different instances but have the annoyance with the book.xltx then getting locked and getting the following prompt upon opening:
    book.xltx is locked for editing

  3. The closest I have found yet to what I have been searching for. When I view an Excel file in Win 10 Preview Pane and then double click it to open it, Excel is already running of course (to enable the preview) and I get the message that Personal.xlsb is locked.

    If “Notify” was the default I could live with that and just hit Enter, but “Read Only” is highlighted and I do not want that mode.

    With a registry change (or changes) can I either make “Notify” the default in these cases or force Excel to open another instance when I open the file?

  4. Nice article but you missed the easiest option. It’s similar to the ALT key method but this one is quicker as it bypasses the dialog window that pops up asking for a confirmation.
    Shortcut Method:
    Simply hold the SHIFT key and double click the Excel icon (located either on the desktop or task bar).

  5. OMG!!!! Fantastic! I was so annoyed with not being able to open a new instance of Excel and you just saved me the day!
    Thank you so much.

  6. Hello- I am using Office 16 64 BIT on Windows 10 and the registry edit suggested by Microsoft had zero impact. All my sheets are opening in the same instance. Is there another fix that anyone has found?

  7. Reg file work well – however what the best way to push this across a domain( many machines) – maybe via GPO?

  8. I’m using Excel 2013 x64 and made the changes to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTExcel.Sheet.12shellOpencommand default string to look like this “C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice15EXCEL.EXE” “%1” /x – and applied the same to the following keys:


    However when I check in task manager there is still just one instance. Trying to achieve this behaviour but for when a user double clicks on a file rather than opening excel via the icon https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/3165211/how-to-force-excel-to-open-in-a-new-instance-by-default

    I’ve also made the change to the registry as described in the MS article which works as expected. I’m just trying to make this work for when a user double clicks on a file.


  9. Hi,
    Just a variant of version 2:
    1) Copy an Excel Shortcut to your Desktop
    2) Rename it (IE: Excel [New instance])
    3) Edit shortcut (Add ” /x” and the end of the file path. Important: Add it after the double quote ” otherwhise you get an error when clicking OK.
    4) Press “OK” to validate the changes
    5) Use this shortcut whenever you want to start a new Excel instance

  10. Does not work in Excel 2010 Still stuck…used the old registry way for 2007, that worked for a while but Window did some update here in 2020 that disabled it..

  11. Rick, thank you for this solution! I am currently using Windows Task Scheduler to open Excel 2016 32 bit. Do you know if this solution will work when the app is opened through task scheduler? Is there another registry entry that would work with task scheduler?

    • Hi Joe,

      Thanks for your message. Unfortunately, I have no experience with the Task Scheduler. Hope you get it to work.


  12. Hey Gui,

    You got me a little excited there. However, for me it doesn’t work. The ‘shift’ method opens an Excel file within the same instance. I’m using Office 365 ProPlus.

    Thanks for sharing anyway!

  13. I use pinned shortcuts on the task bar. One is the normal Excel, then a separate one with the target set to…
    “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\EXCEL.EXE” /x
    (this is for Excel 2010)
    I also have a further pinned shortcut to open a specific Excel file (full macro app) in its own window.

  14. Hi John.
    I think your issue is with the personal macrobook. If you save macro’s to your personal macro book, Excel opens this file in the background (hidden). When you open a second workbook, Excel opens the hidden Personal Macrobook again. It will tell you that the (hidden) file is already open, so you can’t make changes to this version. Therefore it opens as read only.

    The read only part only refers to this personal macro book. An Excel file that you open in another instance, will save its data and is not regarded as read only.

    Hope this helps!

  15. I used option 4, but also had to use Scaggled’s answer which is required if you open excel using pinned files or by opening a file directly. I also had to edict Excel.CSV for it to work with CSV files.

    Scaggled, great find, thank you!

  16. For Excel 64bit add ‘ /x’ (without quotes) at the end of the command key for Excel,Sheet.12 and Excel,Sheet.8 Excel opens in a new instance every time :¬ )
    So HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTExcel.Sheet.12shellOpencommand becomes “C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeRootOffice16EXCEL.EXE” “%1” /x

    I did it for ‘Open’ and ‘OpenAsReadOnly’

    On the following keys:

  17. This doesn’t seem to work with Office 2016 64-bit (I tried it with a QWORD but that didn’t work either)
    any suggestions

  18. This doesn’t seem to work with Office 2016 64-bit (I tried it with a QWORD but that didn’t work either)
    any suggestions

  19. One liner in administrative command prompt (cmd or powershell):

    REG ADD HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice16.0ExcelOptions /v DisableMergeInstance /t REG_DWORD /d 1

    check that it worked:

    REG QUERY HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice16.0ExcelOptions /v DisableMergeInstance

    if you don’t like the change:

    REG delete HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice16.0ExcelOptions /v DisableMergeInstance /f

    no need for backups or all this GUI stuff.

  20. Method 4 does not take the most steps to complete. Just give us a .reg file or the right “reg add” command to be run in an administrative command prompt!

  21. Hi
    No:4 works like magic with me running office 365 until i updated to version 1809 , it merged the same extension like all .xls open in the same instance and all .xlsx open in the same instance.

    any idea ?

  22. Hi Trousers. Great question. As far as my knowledge goes, there’s no easy way to see what files are opened in each instance. One thing you could try is open a file and press CTRL+ Tab. This switches you to the next file within the instance. Keep on clicking CTRL + Tab to see what files are included in the instance.

    It would be great to have an easier way… If you happen to find out a different way, keep me updated! 🙂


  23. Rick… do you know how to easily identify different instances once they are open? I have the problem where I open files in different instances – often files with the same name or similar names. When I first open them excel keeps them in the order opened so I can tell which files are which instance, but it soon changes the order (when saving I think?). Soon I can’t tell which file is which instance (ultimately you can tell by trying to link to each but this is slow). I would be nice for windows to group them separately on the task bar… or even if excel had something after the “- Excel” in the name of the file on the task bar, so that at a glance you know which files are in which instance.

    • Hi all,
      maybe this would help: Switch Windows (in the View menu) seems to only show the execl files opened in the same instance.

  24. Absolutely BRILLIANT Rick. I first tried the ‘1. Alt + Open Excel’ method to see if it works on my PC and found that it worked just fine. However in my specific case, I would need to apply this method very often, because I need to open at least two or more instances of Excel every morning (day). That’s when I decided to try the 4th method and made the necessary changes to the Registry. It works perfect. You just solved a MAJOR problem I had with Excel and I am EXTREMELY grateful for it. Thank you Rick, thank you!

    • Dieter, thanks for leaving such a wonderful message! There’s so many great ways in which people use Excel. It energizes me to hear the registery-method helped you out so much.



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