How to Open Excel Files in a New Application Instance (Windows 7 or Vista)

Question:  I have dual monitors and want to compare two spreadsheets side by side.  How can I open Excel files in a new application instance/window?  

One obvious answer is to launch Excel twice and open one workbook in each instance.  However, that gets tiring and annoying if you have to do it frequently.  If you are on Windows XP, this is the best guide that we could find.  The problem is if you are on Windows 7 or Vista, you’ll find that the instructions in Vergel’s blog only applies to XP.  So for Windows 7 / Vista users, we have the answer right here. 

First, a word of caution!  The instructions below involve modifying the Windows Registry.  Modifying the registry can sometimes lead to system problems.  Always keep track of what you do and keep backups so you can undo any changes you make.  If you don’t feel like you’re up for it, then we suggest that you do not proceed.  Otherwise, let’s move forward with the instructions.

1. Run the registry editor as an administrator.  In case you’re not sure how to do that, open the start menu, then search for “regedit.exe”.  Right click on the regedit.exe file then click on “Run as administrator” option.

2. In the Registry Editor, go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.xls key.  You can do this by expanding the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT node, then start typing “.xls”, or just search for “.xls”, or just scroll down and hunt for it.  You should see something like this:

Look at the (Default) value, in the screenshot above, that is “Excel.Sheet.8″.  Now, go to that key in HKEY_CLASSESS_ROOT.  In other words, go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Excel.Sheet.8.

3. Expand the Excel.Sheet.8 key and you’ll see that it has several keys under it.  One of those keys is named “shell”.  Go ahead and expand the “shell” key too.  you’ll see something like this:

Notice that the keys under shell correspond to the options you see when you right click on an excel file in Explorer.  The idea is that we want to add an “open in new instance” option here.  So, right click on the “shell” key, then choose New->Key.

Give the key any name you like.  For example, “OpenInNewInstance”.  When the key is created, double click on (Default) to give it a default value.  The default value will be the option that you will see on the right click menu.  So, for this example, we’ll use “Open In New Instance”.  You should have something like this:

4. Add a new key under “OpenInNewInstance”.  This time, name it as “command”.   To set the default value of the “command” key, you will need the path to the EXCEL.EXE file.  I have Windows 7 64bit and Office 2010.  So I set the value to this:

“C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\EXCEL.EXE” “%1″

If you have the same setup as mine, you can just copy the above.  Otherwise, make necessary adjustments to match your setup.   You should now see something like this.

5.  That’s it!  You’re done.  Go to Windows Explorer and right click on any .xls file.  You should now see your “Open in New Insntance” option.  Congratulations!

Click on “Open In New Instance” and Excel opens the workbook in a new application window.  Right click on another .xls file and open it in a new instance, Excel opens it in yet another application window.  :-)

6.  If that’s not enough, and you want this to be the default behavior.  In other words, every time you double click an .xls file in Explorer, you want Excel to open it in a new application instance, then, there’s one simple step to do.  Go to the “shell” key and set it’s default value to “OpenInNewInstance”.   :-)

The instructions above allows you to add an option to the right click menu of *.xls files.  Excel 2007/2010 files have a different extension (.xlsx or .xlsm).  Just follow the same steps, but look for the correct extension (xlsx or xlsm instead of xls) in #2.

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28 Responses to How to Open Excel Files in a New Application Instance (Windows 7 or Vista)

  1. Pingback: How to Open Excel Files in a New Application Instance » Vergel’s Excel and Visual Basic Blog

  2. James Robertson says:

    With W7 SP1, 64 bit and Excel 2010, I don’t see those exact keys in the registry.

  3. I have implemented these instructions on 3 different machines all running wiondows 7, 2 on a domain and 1 not on a doamin and never has been on a domain. The laptop non domain I have full admin access locally as it is my own personal laptop. These options are not working for the options decribed and needed. Is there some steps that I might be missing? I followed them to a tee and didnt miss a step?

  4. Brian says:


    Firstly, I want to state what a fantastic guide this is! I’m using it to work around an error that a client is having. The error seems prevalent in Windows 7 / Office 2010, and has many causes. However, I cannot find a solution. The error occurs randomly when having one or more workbooks open, and then attempting to open yet another workbook. I’m using this guide as a workaround, thinking that if each workbook runs in its own instance, then this problem will not happen.

    I noticed, however, that opening workbooks directly from an attachment do not open in a new instance of EXCEL.EXE, but instead open using an instance which is already running. Therefore, the issue (randomly) persists. Would you have any idea how to force an attached workbook (in Outlook) to open in a new instance?


  5. James says:

    It appears that Microsofts virtualization handler is the only means by which I can launch excel files (Win7, Office 2010). Any idea if there is a command I can give the virtualization handler to launch excel in a new instance?

  6. James says:

    fwiw, I had a click to run version of office installed. Switched to the MSI version and now the above mod works just fine. also, loading excel is much faster with the msi v. click-to-run.

  7. KagerouXD says:

    Thanks alot, It works.

  8. Jason says:

    The way that Excel and Word behaved differently (ie: Word’s SDI and Excel’s MDI) bugged me for years. Of greatest irritation was not being able to specify which of the many instances of Excel I had running at the time, I wanted the workbook attached to an e-mail to open in to. Before I made the changes you detailed perfectly above, I would have to save the attachment to disk and then either drag & drop the file into the instance of Excel I wanted the file to open in or create a new instance of Excel and drag & drop the file into it. With this change, ALL Excel files open into their own instance. It’s wonderful – thank you!

    If I can now find a way to rid of the sporadic, pesky freeze that occurs when the taskbar popup appears allowing switching between Excel instances, a great deal of my irritations will be gone.

  9. Guillermo says:

    I followed the steps you indicated to have OpenInNewInstance as the default action. I have Excel2007. The location of the Excel file is C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12\EXCEL.EXE. If I specify as default “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12\EXCEL.EXE” “%1″ for OpenNewInstance I get a message thet says “windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file. You may not have the appropriate permissions to access the item”.

    If I specify as defaul C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\EXCEL.EXE without the ” marks and without the %1, when I try to open a new instance of the existing xls file, it opens a new blank xls file

  10. Guillermo says:

    Oooops! Sorry. I just figured it out. The problem is that I was including the quotation marks “. I just tried it like this:

    C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\EXCEL.EXE %1

    without the quotation marks and it worked!


  11. Sam says:

    Thanks very much!

  12. Jeroen V says:

    This works great! Thanks a lot.

    Only the quotation marks need to be replaced by normal quotation marks.
    Regedit seems to see “ as a symbol or something like that.
    That causes the problem Guillermo describes (“windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file. You may not have the appropriate permissions to access the item”.) …

  13. Jeroen V says:

    Okay, now the quotation marks look both the same…
    but if you copy/paste “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\EXCEL.EXE” “%1″ into regedit you will see it is a different (”) sign if you type it.

  14. Andy S says:

    Awesome, this worked a treat for me.

    Many thanks!!!

  15. Pingback: Tired of excel sheets opening in the same window? | Corneredge Blog

  16. Eric says:

    This is really nice, but when I open an attachment from the web it opens into an existing instance. Do you know what I need to change to get this to work there as well?

  17. Garynb says:

    Excellent post. Well done

  18. Excelsior says:

    Very well written and just the solution I was looking for–thank you! I agree that you do not want to copy-paste the quotation marks and you need to type the quotation marks in yourself when in regedit.

  19. Hai says:

    Great Thanks to the genius……

  20. Pingback: Setting to open files in new instance of excel?

  21. Lord Baddkitty says:

    Great post. Works very well in 2010.

    Next challenge: Excel 2013.

    You can either:

    1) Win+R > “Excel /x”
    2) Hold down “Alt” while clicking the taskbar Excel Icon.

    Is there a way do make this into a Registry tweak?

  22. D Wang says:

    Thanks, that actaully works!

    Remember not to include the ” ” marks for the excel path and the 1%. Otherwise, excel does open but it’s in same instance.

  23. MPC says:

    two instances of excel can be opened from the start menu in windows7 without any registry changes.

  24. Roje says:

    Great, Superb

    At least one reason less to hate excel (still a few thousand more to go though).

  25. Very Pleased says:

    Over the past several years I have tried many registry tweak solutions posted on the web. This one is the best. Just works and is reliable. Just remember to do it for both .xls and .xlsx file types. I highly recommend making it the default option instead of Open.
    One last point: You may have to re-do if someone uses System Restore to roll back the registry to a point in time before you added this feature so go back to regedit and export copies of the keys you created. That way you can click on the .reg files and they install themselves.

  26. Hollow Monkey says:

    Thanks! That worked a treat! (Windows 7, Excel 2007).

  27. Michael Stonek says:

    Worked like a charm! Thank you!

  28. haxor says:

    The trick is to not copy paste this article path for Excel. The quotation marks are not ASCII and are not recognized properly by the register.

    Or copy paste this for Win7 32bit :
    “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\EXCEL.EXE” “%1″

    cheers, changed my life 8)

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