I got an issue from one of my users, where he would get the following message whenever he opened a particular excel file stored in a document library.

The workbook is currently open by 256 users. A maximum of 256 users can have a shared workbook open at the same time. The workbook will be opened read-only. You can try again when one or more users have closed the workbook.

I would receive the same error when opening the workbook myself. According to the user, this is a relatively obscure book that shouldn't be being used by that many people. The only interesting thing I noticed about the workbook is that it had over 370 versions associated with it.

Unfortunately, the user "resolved" the issue by deleting the workbook and adding it back again. However, if I could present a possible answer why this occurred, it would be appreciated.

Anyone have any thoughts? Or, if it's actually a 256 user limit, anyone know how I can figure out who currently has the workbook open?

  • Glitch in the matrix, connections not dropping properly.
    – Aboba
    Jun 26, 2014 at 21:24

3 Answers 3


Shared workbooks have been a source of trouble for years and should be avoided. Why do you use an Excel file if you have SharePoint? Instead of the file, create a SharePoint list and multiple users can simultaneously edit the list.

  • Although I agree with you Tevylyn, there may be other factors in play, that are unavailable through SharePoint Lists. There are many features baked into Excel, you can't use otherwise; Pivots, Complex Formulas, Charting, etc. Apr 11, 2015 at 1:24
  • @QuinnJohns, SharePoint can be used for data entry. Then create a data connection to the list in Excel and do reporting with Pivots, calculations, charts, etc.
    – teylyn
    Apr 11, 2015 at 21:43
  • I can agree with that, but just saying there is a degree of flexibility by doing shared workbooks. Team members may be using the same items, and having to do the added work to creating the data connections, is costly, for non-skilled users of SharePoint. At any rate, was just making commentary. I realized after the fact, how old this thread was. Thanks for responding. :) Apr 12, 2015 at 0:28
  • This does not attempt to answer the question.
    – user43832
    Jan 9, 2019 at 12:00
  • @Nullldata, if you look at the Q you can see "Anyone have any thoughts?" That's what my answer is about. I'm presenting an alternative approach that avoids the problem the user is having altogether. It does answer the question as posed at the time. Meanwhile, there are other options.
    – teylyn
    Jan 9, 2019 at 19:58

Another cause for this :

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is this:

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Unsharing the workbook fixed the issue for me.

  • I've tried to to do this solution myself but it's not unsharing the workbook. Do you know if there's a way to open the .xlsx file in an xml editor and then remove any sharing properties? I've also tried to download the file locally, but even locally it still gives me the error about 256 users. Oct 22, 2019 at 15:35

While I cannot explain why this issue occurs, however just like you - the fix for me was:

  1. Save the file to your desktop.
  2. Overwrite the affected file in SharePoint with the locally saved copy.

This made the issue disappear for me.

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