How to open multiple instances of Excel

Excel Multiple Instances

In this post, I want to share the answer to a question I received from a reader.  They had recently been upgraded to Excel 2016 from Excel 2010 and were struggling to open multiple instances of the Excel application.

Each instance of Excel can have it’s own application settings (such as calculation modes).  This is extremely useful when needing to run a macro which takes a long time.  It is possible to run the macro in one instance, whilst continuing to work in another.  Apart from sharing the same system resources, the instances are entirely separate from each other, therefore running the slow macro does not prevent you from working.

In Excel 2010 and prior, workbooks open within a single parent window (i.e., they all share the same Ribbon and interface).  This was called the Multiple Document Interface (MDI).  In these versions it is easy to create a new instance of Excel, right click on the Excel application in the dock and click the Excel icon from the menu.  This action creates a new instance.

In Excel 2013, Microsoft introduced the Single Document Interface (SDI), where each workbook has its own Ribbon.  Technically, some elements are shared between the Ribbons, such as the fill color (the paint can icon).  Changing the fill color in one instance will change the fill color in all other instances.  Generally, the Ribbons are separate, but they are certainly not independent instances of the Excel application, as the application settings are shared between all the windows.

The previous process to create a new instance will, in Excel 2013 and later, open a new workbook in the same instance, rather than a separate one.  If you’re in this situation, don’t worry, there are still plenty of options available, 3 of which I have detailed below.

Alt + Launch Excel

Right click on the Excel icon in the dock, a menu appears, hold down the Alt key and left click on the Excel icon.

Right Click, ALT + Left Click - new instance

Keep holding the Alt key until the following window appears.  Click Yes to open a new instance.

Start new instance Excel

Bonus tip – don’t confuse the Alt and the Ctrl keys.  Holding Alt will open a new instance, whilst holding Ctrl will open Excel in Safe Mode (which really is something different).

Using Run window

Using the Windows Run application, type Excel.exe /x (there is a space between the “.exe” and the “/x”), then press return.  A new instance will open.

In Windows 10, it is possible to enter this directly into the search box.

New Excel instance Windows 10

Using VBA

The final method is to create a new instance using VBA.   Running the following code will launch a new session of Excel.

Sub CreateNewSession()

Dim xlApp As Excel.Application
Set xlApp = New Excel.Application

xlApp.Visible = True

Set xlApp = Nothing

End Sub


Whilst Excel 2013 may have outfoxed us slightly by not creating new instances in the same way; we are still able to do so.

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Don’t forget:

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you have a better approach, then please leave a comment below.

Do you need help adapting this to your needs?

I’m guessing the examples in this post didn’t exactly meet your situation.  We all use Excel differently, so it’s impossible to write a post that will meet everybody’s needs.  By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site) you should be able to adapt it to your needs.

But, if you’re still struggling you should:

  1. Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic.  You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
  2. Ask the ‘Excel Ninja’ in your office.  It’s amazing what things other people know.
  3. Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community.  Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free.  So take care to craft your question, make sure it’s clear and concise.  List all the things you’ve tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
  4. Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner.   They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.

What next?
Don’t go yet, there is plenty more to learn on Excel Off The Grid.  Check out the latest posts:

9 thoughts on “How to open multiple instances of Excel

  1. Dan Taylor says:

    Thank you so much!!!

    Especially for pointing out the space in between excel.exe /x

    I am incorporating into my vba for a long term fix, this is excellent information!!!

  2. KG says:

    Awesome! Solutions work! Separate MSExcel instances are especially important in my role as I have to work on client data (CID) in some spreadsheets yet must not share any of that data with staff outside Switzerland when presenting non-CID spreadsheets on calls. With only one instance this was not possible. Now with two+ instances, happiness reins. 🙂

  3. Scott says:

    With all the open windows it gets really difficult to tell which window is which instance. Change the caption of the new instance with the following or similar:

    application.Caption = “INSTANCE 2”

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