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Frequent Visitor

failed to open excel document (active workbook retrieval error)



A flow I've had running fine for months suddenly returns an error when trying to open an Excel file.

The file is in a synchronized sharepoint folder, that the flow tries to access through its path in the explorer.

On attempting to run the Launch Excel step, it returns an error "Failed to open excel document" (active workbook retrieval error).

I already put a Terminate Process (EXCEL) before the Launch Excel step, but this doesn't helpt.


Accepted Solutions
Super User
Super User

try to repair your Office installation.

View solution in original post

Super User
Super User

try to repair your Office installation.

Frequent Visitor

Thank you for the fast reply. This solved the problem. The problem occurred again soon after, but restarting the laptop solved it again.

Resolver I
Resolver I

Since I had the same issue (after months without any issues), and repair and reinstall Office and PAD did not work, I fix it by doing the following: I added the "Launch Excel"-step into another PAD flow, and used the "Run desktop flow" to run the newly created PAD-flow, which worked. I'm just gonna leave it as is, since it's working now.

New Member

Hi All.

Today (Monday) I also got this error on a flow that worked perfectly on Friday.

I tried repairing the office installation, uninstalled and reinstalled power automate desktop, switched off the computer, killed processes in windows's task manager. I cleared the power automate cache, created copies of my documents on my desktop (since they were originally on my one drive).


So far no chance.

I also have no idea how to find out what might cause the issue.

I am on Power Automate


Thanks for the help.

Resolver I
Resolver I

Hi @freeeeea,


Did you try my solution? It's easy to set up, and it works for me (see screenshot below). 

Unfortunately, I highly doubt it's something Microsoft will fix, as they're really good at purchasing existing software, and uses little effort to fix existing bugs, and just leaves them as is, so we have to find our own workarounds....




Thanks AlexTheKidd for the reply.


I did not try your suggestion. I did not completely understand how to set it up and how this could resolve the issue.

In my flow I open two different existing excels as read only to read values, populate a list and then close them.

These values are stored to perform validation and confirm that all instances of a variable contain valid entries.

So I need to be able to pass variables from a flow to another.

Then I open a second excel where I write down all the values of around 30 attributes that I gathered from looking at files and validating their filenames and file paths.


The process should work for a big amount of files.


Today the process stopped at opening the excels but I don't think that, if it is a bug, it is impacting only excels.

I have other flows where reading files from a folder and writing to a text file seem impacted.

As most of my flows work on one drive maybe it is a cloud issue or internet speed.


Really strange.


Resolver I
Resolver I

Hi @freeeeea ,


Why it stopped working? No idea. I had the same issue.


How I solved the issue:

Created a new flow, and only have 1 actionin the flow, which is "Run Desktop Flow", which again directs to run the actual flow. Here is are screenshots of my flows, and how it works:


The one called HANDTOOLS - v1 is the one containing all my flows, but it fails when running directly, so I created the temp flow - screenshot of the entire flow in the temp flow, which only has 1 action:


Why this works, I have no idea, but if it works, don't touch it 🙂

Hi again @freeeeea,

I just stumbled across this post:

where they state the issue is that the Excel process is terminated.

Maybe that could be your issue? I'm currently looking into if it fixes it on my end, but I'll have to wait until tomorrow to test it...

Thanks Alex.


Fortunately I am not killing the excel instances and then try to use the contents of the "excel object".

In the mean time, It looks like one of the following actions actually did the trick.


1 - Repair Office

2 - Uninstall / Reinstall Power Automate Desktop

3 - Clear the Power Automate Desktop Cache

4 - Clear all Credentials stored in Windows Credentials

5 - Restart the computer


I was able to use the same flows from a different machine, so it seemed to me that a mismatch with the credentials of Power Automate, OneDrive is the probable culprit.


Still, quite unhappy about the amount of digging needed in order to try to find out.

Hi @freeeeea,


Interesting - PAD cache? Had no idea that even existed! It's great to hear that it's working for you.

I just removed the "terminate Excel" I had in the flow, and it now works for me! 

Totally agree on the amount of times I've tried to fix this issue, especially when it started randomly. 

I'll make sure to test your links if I ever experience it again!


But now that we're both back to figuring out other issues/workarounds, I wish you great travels in your continuous journey ahead - until next time 🙂

New Member



I know that I am late to the party, however what fixed it for me was making the instance visible when launching Excel.

Not applicable

Hi All,

This is caused by OneDrive still accessing the Excel file, which then deems the file to be 'open'.


This causes the error 'Active workbook retrieval error'.



- Terminate OneDrive

- Launch OneDrive

- Launch Excel


This may look something like this 


1 - Terminate Process 'OneDrive'

2 - Run Application - C:\Program Files\Microsoft OneDrive\OneDrive.exe

   - This may not be your OneDrive location

3 - Launch Excel

Frequent Visitor

I had the same issue and solved it firstly by opening the Excel file, which was greyed out. Then, under the 'View' tab in Excel, I have unhidden the file (I don't know why this file was hidden??) and saved the file afterwards.


Then, just have run the flow and it worked as expected.

New Member

If you're using the terminate excel action before the launch excel then it will fail sometimes, To fix this enable the Nest under the new excel process while configuring the launch excel option and also enable the macros and add-ions if required.

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