How to Reduce a Large Excel File

Updated on January 4, 2017

Excel 2007 or 2010 is a great tool for data analysis but can grow in size quickly. Another problem is when you are connected to a database and you reduce the size of a query in the database view; the reduction in data is not reflected in Excel as the latter keeps an internal table of the data, especially when working with Pivot Tables that are linked to the database.

There are several techniques that you can use to reduce the size of an overbloated Excel file that I will review in this reference article.

Reducing Worksheets

Excel copies and stores data for each worksheet that is created in an Excel workbook. Even if you use external data from another spreadsheet or database, each sheet will have a copy of the data. You should review the different worksheets in a workbook to see if some can be deleted or combined to reduce space.

Eliminating excess worksheet, thus data bloat, will greatly reduce the size of your file and increase performance. Also be careful about links to other worksheets with a lot of formulas or to other worksheets in external workbooks. While this won't necessarily change the size of the workbook, it will impact performance which can be as problematic as bloated data.

Figure 1 : Perform a Save As
Figure 1 : Perform a Save As

Converting to Binary

Another technique that can substantially reduce the size can be used in conjunction the previous technique of consolidating and deleting old worksheets is to convert the Excel file to a binary format which is represented by the file extension xlsb. You won’t lose any functionality and you will actually gain some performance.

To convert a 2007, 2010 or greater Excel file to a binary format, follow these simple steps.

  • With the Excel file open
  • Click on the File tab (Fig 1)
  • Select “Save AS” from the Tab menu
  • In the Save As dialog select the “Save As Type” dropdown field and select the “Excel Binary Workbook (*.xlsb)” option from the list of values. See figure 2.
  • Click Save

You notice notice a huge size file savings and an increase in performance by using the binary format. However, the trade off you won’t have access to the XML files in the Xlsx archive. See Figure 3.

Figure 2 : Save As Excel Binary Format (*.xlsb)
Figure 2 : Save As Excel Binary Format (*.xlsb)
Figure 3 : Binary versus XML File Size Example
Figure 3 : Binary versus XML File Size Example

Compacting Excel File

While not directly related to Excel, Windows has a feature that will compact the size of a file, including Excel.

To compact your Excel file, locate the your file via Windows Explorer

  • Right click the file
  • Select Properties from the context menu
  • Next Select the Advanced button (see Figure 4 below)
  • Finally select “ compress contents to save disk space...”

Figure 4: Configuring File Compress in Windows
Figure 4: Configuring File Compress in Windows

In Summary

These techniques can be used separately or together to help you reduce the file size of your Excel files.


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      Tuhin 6 months ago

      I have 150 mb size excel file. After converting xlsb the file size converted in 95 mb. I want to more reduce the size of the file. Is that possible?

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      ALI HAIDER 9 months ago

      Gr8 !!I have 29 MB of file size(XLSB) how to compress into 6MB of file.its a amazing experience.Thanks..

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      tyatith 2 years ago

      i have try but still bloating file not reduce, but i notice if i use the file more often the size of file bigger and can't reduce, not like Access file which have option to compact size when close, so the file not so much increase.

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      excel file 2 years ago

      I have 13 mb of file size(XLSB) how to compress into 4mb of file

    • klanguedoc profile image

      Kevin Languedoc 4 years ago from Canada

      You should be able to do that my converting your file to a binary format (xlsb). Because the standard xlsx is simply an archive of XML documents. Also you need to keep in mid that Excel makes a copy of you data in each sheet that you create. You could also try creating the pivot table in the same sheet (if possible) or create a new workbook and use your original workbook as a data source.

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      cat 4 years ago

      My excel file is 207mb i would like to copy out my database to a new sheet to do pivot table but it keep prompting me the message;

      Excel cannot complete this task with the available resources. Choose less data or close other applications.

      The problem is i have close all other applications it still can't

    • klanguedoc profile image

      Kevin Languedoc 5 years ago from Canada

      Thanks. I am working on new Excel topics. Anything you would like to read in particular?

    • smga22 profile image

      smga22 5 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      Excellent Hub. Looking forward to get more from you.