I have a MacBook Pro running on Mavericks with 8GB of RAM.

I am using a large Excel file with roughly 250k rows of data (170MB). I would like to delete several sheets in the file but every time I do, Excel freezes and I have to force the application to quit. I am extremely limited in what I can do with this file.

This is being a huge problem for me as this file contains data for my research. What would you advise me to do?

  • I would strongly recommend you never to store 170MB of data in one Excel sheet. Do you have this issue also on Windows? Or are you unable to test it?
    – Rob
    Mar 24, 2014 at 11:23
  • What does your activity monitor shows? CPU ? RAM ?
    – Ruskes
    Mar 24, 2014 at 11:44

5 Answers 5


According to this Excel Specifications, it is not the file size, and it is only limited by available memory.

I would suggest you run the Error check in Excel, to find out the errors in you spread sheet that might be causing the lock up.


I've actually had this problem using excel. In my case it was tons of calculations. So, many in fact, that the available memory on my iMac basically froze. What I ended up doing was to create 2 spreadsheets, one with all the data, and the other with all the data summarized.

A secondary solution, might be to quit all other apps, except excel. Allowing more memory to be available for the spreadsheet calculations.

In my case, I'm was using an older iMac, Late 2006. After I increased the memory, to the maximum, 3GB from 1GB, that seemed to provide so relief.

Best of luck.


The largest part of the size of a workbook lies in formatting, not data.

If you can, remove all formatting from all cells. Save, and check how big the file size is.

Now you can continue.


When you say Excel freezes is there a chance that it is just trying to do what you are asking but taking a really long time? Excel is quite bad about giving feedback; it can be working away furiously doing something but the UI just appears to have frozen. Check Activity Monitor, does Excel appear to be using a large amount of CPU? If you run something like sudo opensnoop | grep Excel in a Terminal window do you see it furiously writing to/reading from files?

Alternatively, I've had a lot of success using LibreOffice to work with files that Excel has trouble with. It typically takes longer to perform most operations, but can work with some files that Excel crashes on.

So my suggestions are (1) try again but leave it for a longer time before killing it and (2) try opening the spreadsheet in LibreOffice and deleting the tabs there instead.


Have you tried opening the file in Google Sheets? You can create a Google Chrome account, and open your workbook using Google Sheets which uses the cloud so your data should be visible and you can edit your sheet. When you're done you can then download your changes from Google sheets onto your desktop which will convert it to an Excel workbook again. See if that works.

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