4 Ways to Open Multiple Instances of Excel

4 Ways to Open Multiple Instances of Excel - Featured Image

When you work with multiple workbooks in Excel, you may sometimes experience issues. During a resource intensive task in one spreadsheet, other spreadsheets within the same Excel 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. Because who likes to wait? Yet within the same Excel 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 Excel applications open.

Below I share 4 ways to open multiple instances of Excel:

1. Alt + Open Excel

The first, and also my favorite method 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.

New Instance Excel - Alt Open - 1.1

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

New Instance Excel - Alt - Open - 1.2
Tip: you can also hold down the ALT-key, hoover your mouse over the Excel icon in the taskbar and click your scroll-button. This has the same effect and takes even less clicks.

2. Run Window

One of the quickest ways to open a new Excel Instance is using the Run window. 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.
New Instance Excel - Start Window - 2.1

A new Excel instance will open.

3. Use VBA

This method makes use of VBA. Run below VBA code to open a second Excel instance. Do note, this method does not show a pop-up to indicate you opened a new instance.

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

4. Edit the Registry: Force Excel to Open in a 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.

Backup

Please be careful when adjusting the registry. Adjusting the wrong entries may cause serious problems. Before making changes to the registry, please make a backup for restoring purposes. To do this:

  • Click Start -> type ‘Regedit’ -> click on Regedit in the search results
New Instance Excel - Registry - 4.1
  • Press File -> Export -> Select Export Range ‘All’ -> Save the backup in a safe location.

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.
New Instance Excel - Registry - 4.3
  • 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 are my favorite methods to open a new Excel instance. Which one is your favorite? Please leave a comment below with your favorite method or with any questions you have.

Rick de Groot

Rick is the founder and editor of Excel Gorilla. He believes learning is one of the great pleasures in life and wants to share his knowledge to help you improve your skills. Learn more about him here, connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and subscribe to his YouTube Channel.

21 Responses

  1. 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.

      Rick

  2. 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 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

      • 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

  3. 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 ?

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

    REG ADD HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Options /v DisableMergeInstance /t REG_DWORD /d 1

    check that it worked:

    REG QUERY HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Options /v DisableMergeInstance

    if you don’t like the change:

    REG delete HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Options /v DisableMergeInstance /f

    no need for backups or all this GUI stuff.

  5. 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_ROOT\Excel.Sheet.12\shell\Open\command becomes “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Root\Office16\EXCEL.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

  6. 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!

  7. I’m using Excel 2013 x64 and made the changes to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Excel.Sheet.12\shell\Open\command default string to look like this “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15\EXCEL.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

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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?

    • 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

  11. 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.

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