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. Have you ever experienced the frustration of having your Excel application freeze or slow down when working on a complex spreadsheet? Or have you ever needed to use Power Query in Excel but couldn’t switch to another workbook in the same instance? If so, you’re not alone.

The good news is that there’s a solution – opening multiple instances of Excel. In this article, we’ll explore 7 different methods to do just that so you can work more efficiently and tackle even the most complex tasks in Excel.

Table of contents

Why Open Multiple Instances of Excel

When working with Excel, there are many scenarios where you might want to open multiple instances. One of the main reasons is to boost your productivity. If you have a large and complex spreadsheet, it can take time to process, and your Excel application might slow down. Opening multiple instances will let you work in one instance, while the other one is performing the calculations in the background.

Another reason is when you’re working with Power Query. When you open Power Query in Excel, you won’t be able to switch to another workbook that’s open in the same instance. Having a separate instance lets you use Power Query and continue working in another Excel file at the same time.

In short, opening multiple instances of Excel can save you time, boost productivity, and make it easier to work with complex spreadsheets and Power Query. It’s like having two independent applications open. In the next sections, we’ll explore seven different ways to open multiple instances of Excel.

How to Open a New Instance of Excel

Now that we know why it’s helpful to open multiple instances of Excel, let’s dive into the different methods you can use to do so. In this chapter, we’ll explore 7 different ways you can open a new instance of Excel, from using the taskbar to modifying your Excel shortcut properties. By the end of this chapter, you’ll have a range of options to choose from depending on your preference and workflow.

Alt + Open Excel

The easiest method to open a new Excel instance is:

  1. Right-click the Excel icon in the taskbar.
  2. Hold down the Alt – key and left-click the Excel icon in the menu.
  3. Keep holding the Alt-key until the window appears.
  4. Click Yes to open a new instance of Excel.
Opening a new instance using the alt + open method
Pop-up asking whether you want to start a new instance of excel

Alt + Scroll Wheel

Easily open a new instance of Excel with this method:

  1. Press and hold the Alt-Key
  2. Hover your mouse over Excel’s Taskbar Icon and click the scroll wheel
  3. Keep holding the Altkey until a window appears.
  4. Click Yes to open a new instance of Excel.

This directly opens a new Excel instance with just a click of the scroll wheel.

Double Click on a File, then hold Alt

When you prefer to open a file directly in the file explorer, you can use the third method. The fastest way to open a specific file in a new instance of Excel is by:

  1. Find your file in the file explorer.
  2. Double-click the file to trigger an opening event.
  3. After clicking, directly press and hold your Alt – key
  4. When the pop-up appears, select Yes to open a new Excel instance

After confirming, you have now opened your Excel file in another instance. For this method, make sure that in step 3, you hold your Alt – key directly after you double-click the file. Doing this during the clicking won’t work.

Create a Custom Shortcut

If you plan to open excel in a new instance more often, you can 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. You first need to add the location of the item we make a shortcut for.
  4. For the 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.

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"

Use VBA Macro

For those who prefer a more customized approach, VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) can be a valuable tool. To create a VBA script that opens multiple workbooks in separate windows, follow these steps:

  1. Press ALT + F11 to open the VBA editor.
  2. Click on Insert and select Module.
  3. Enter the following code into the module:
Sub OpenNewExcelInstance()
 
Dim xlApp As Excel.Application
Set xlApp = New Excel.Application
xlApp.Workbooks.Add
xlApp.Visible = True
Set xlApp = Nothing
 
End Sub

Run the above VBA script to open a second Excel instance.

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. Of 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.

Backup

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’, and 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.

Conclusion

By combining these techniques and tips, you’ll be well-equipped to manage multiple Excel workbooks in separate windows and maximize your efficiency. So go ahead, give it a try, and see the difference it makes in your workflow.

These were my favourite methods to open a new Excel instance. Which one is your favourite?

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. Hi Rick,
    Wondering if there is a way to get Hyperlinks to open files in a new instance of excel. I have a resource consuming dashboard with links to many files & opening each link in a separate session would be great. However I don’t want this to be the default for any other excel sheets as it is sometime great to cut and paste in the same session.

    Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
  3. 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

    Reply
  4. 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?

    Reply
  5. 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).
    Enjoy!

    Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
  7. 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?

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

    Reply
  9. 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:

    Excel.Sheet.8
    Excel.SheetBinaryMacroEnabled.12
    Excel.SheetMacroEnabled.12
    Excel.Template.8

    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.

    Thanks

    Reply
  10. 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

    Reply
  11. 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..

    Reply
  12. 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?

    Reply
    • Hi Joe,

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

      Rick

      Reply
  13. 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!
    Rick

    Reply
  14. 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.

    Reply
  15. 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!
    Rick

    Reply
  16. 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!

    Reply
  17. 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:
    Excel.Sheet.12
    Excel.Sheet.8
    Excel.SheetBinaryMacroEnabled.12
    Excel.SheetMacroEnabled.12
    Excel.Template.8

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  19. 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

    Reply
  20. 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.

    Reply
  21. 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!

    Reply
  22. 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 ?

    Reply
  23. 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! 🙂

    /Rick

    Reply
  24. 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.

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

      Reply
  25. 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Rick

      Reply

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