7 Ways to Open Multiple Instances of Excel

Open multiple instances of Excel

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 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 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. Alt + open Excel

The first method to open 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.

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

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.

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 new 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 new instance!

4. Create a custom shortcut

If you plan to open new instances a lot, 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 in a new 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.

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"

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

7. 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.


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!

Rick de Groot
About 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.

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