Excel Error: Not Enough Memory: Understanding the Causes and Quick Fixes

Excel's out of memory error can appear on any version of Microsoft Excel. It is quite a common error and there are several ways in which you can solve it. You should be able to solve this rather basic error in no time as long as you try one of the solutions below.


Are you facing an “Out of Memory” error when working on Excel files? If so, implement one of the 7 solutions we’ve outlined in the article below to address this issue.

Reasons Why Excel Displays “Out of Memory” Error

Microsoft Excel typically displays an “Out of Memory” error when you open a file that exceeds 2GB. This error, named “There isn’t Enough Memory to Complete this Action,” may occur due to the following reasons:

  • Background applications consuming a significant amount of the system’s memory, leaving insufficient memory to launch Excel.
  • Excessive add-ins installed on Microsoft Excel.
  • Antivirus software possibly blocking Excel services and causing the error.

7 Ways to Resolve Excel’s “Out of Memory” Error

1. Close All Unused Background Applications

This is the first step we recommend if you encounter the “Not enough memory to run Microsoft Excel; please close other applications and try again” message. Simply follow these steps to close unused background applications:

Step 1: Hover your mouse over the taskbar > right-click and select Task Manager from the menu that appears.

Step 2: In the Processes tab, right-click on all unnecessary applications > click End task.

2. Run Excel as Administrator

Excel may display an “Out of Memory” error if you’re running it without administrative privileges. Here’s how to launch the software as an administrator:

Step 1: Click the search icon > type in the Excel application name.

Step 2: Right-click on the Excel application > select Run as administrator.

Step 3: If UAC is enabled > click Yes and check if the issue persists.

3. Update Windows

Each Windows update introduces new features and bug fixes. Therefore, if your Excel file is displaying an “Out of Memory” error, you should update your Windows version by:

Step 1: Go to the Windows icon > click Settings to open the settings menu.

Step 2: Click Update & Security.

Step 3: Select Windows Update > then click Check for Updates.

Step 4: The system will automatically search for and download available updates. Once the update process is complete, restart your computer and check if the issue has been resolved.

4. Update Microsoft Office

Updating Microsoft Office can effectively resolve the “Out of Memory” error. Here’s how:

Step 1: Open Microsoft Excel > click on Account.

Step 2: Click Update Options > select Update Now.

Microsoft Office will search for and install available updates; save and close any pending tasks to initiate the update process.

5. Disable Windows Cortana Virtual Assistant

Disabling the Windows Cortana virtual assistant can effectively address the Excel “Out of Memory” error. Here’s how to disable Cortana on Windows 11:

Step 1: Go to Settings > click Apps > select Apps & features.

Step 2: Click the three dots next to Cortana > select Advanced options from the dialog box > toggle the switch under Runs at log-in to the left (off) position.

Step 3: Restart Excel and check if the issue persists.

6. Open Excel in Safe Mode

Add-ins installed on Excel software can potentially cause the “Out of Memory” error. It’s recommended to launch Excel in safe mode by:

Step 1: Hold the Ctrl key and click on the Excel application to launch it in Safe Mode.

Step 2: If the issue is resolved, you can restart Excel in normal mode.

Step 3: Click File > select Options >  go to Add-ins > change Manage to COM Add-ins > click Go.

Step 5: Uncheck the add-in and click OK to disable it.

7. Modify Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) Settings

Adjusting the Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) settings within the software can promptly resolve this issue.

Step 1: Open Excel > click on File > select Options.

Step 2: Click on Advanced > select General > uncheck the box next to Ignore other application that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE).

Step 3: Click OK to save.

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Frequently asked questions

This error typically occurs when an Excel file exceeds 2GB in size, or there is insufficient memory due to background applications, excessive add-ins, or your antivirus software interfering.

To free up memory, close all unused background applications by opening the Task Manager and ending any unnecessary tasks. You can also try running Excel as an administrator to grant the application access to more system resources.

Yes, keeping your software up-to-date is important. Updates for both Windows and Microsoft Office introduce new features and bug fixes that may resolve the ‘Out of Memory’ error. Check for updates and install any available patches.

Disabling Windows Cortana, a virtual assistant, can free up memory used by this feature. Additionally, launching Excel in Safe Mode will temporarily disable all add-ins, which could be causing the error.

To manage Excel add-ins, first, try launching Excel in Safe Mode by holding Ctrl and clicking on the application icon. If the issue is resolved, restart Excel normally and go to File > Options > Add-ins to manage and disable any problematic add-ins.

Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) allows applications to exchange data and commands. To adjust these settings in Excel, go to File > Options > Advanced > General and uncheck the box next to ‘Ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE).’