You may receive "Unreadable Content" when opening files from within Excel 2007, if you have a shellstreams.dll file

You may receive "Unreadable Content" when opening files from within Excel 2007, if you have a shellstreams.dll file

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by Andrei Dikai

During November 2012, it has come to our attention that an increasing amount of customers have problems with unexplainable "Unreadable Content" error messages when opening files from within Excel 2007:
"Excel found unreadable content in <filename.xslx>. Do you want to recover the contents of this workbook? If you trust the source of this workbook, click Yes."

If you think you are affected by the problem mentioned above, you can test searching your computer for the following .DLL:
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Internet Services\ShellStreams.dll
C:\Program Files(x86)\Common Files\Apple\Internet Services\ShellStreams.dll
For our most affected customers, renaming this particular .dll file, or uninstalling the application that put it there, has been a workaround to this problem. (If you find a ShellStreams64.dll instead, most likely it will not help renaming it and you need to check the other folder instead.)

If you do not have this ShellStreams.dll, and if all the below facts don't apply, the problem that you have encountered is not the same as the one described in this blog post, and most likely has another cause.

Here are the facts we have gathered about this particular problem:
1. The files showing the problem can normally be opened on colleagues' machines, suggesting that the files are not actually damaged.
2. It seems that these problems usually do not occur when attempting to double-click files from inside Windows Explorer. The scenario that we have encountered was when attempting to open files from within the Excel application, using File - Open.
3. It seems that the files with the problem are usually in .XLSX formats. If you save as .XLS instead, you will not have the problem.
4. Repairing Windows or Excel, or starting Windows or Excel in Safe Mode, does not prevent the issue
5. This has been seen regardless of where the files have been stored, e.g. local drive or network location. But it seems to happen mostly with older files, and not newly created ones.
6. It seems that this only happens with Excel 2007. Excel 2010 or Excel 2013 don't have this problem.

As mentioned above, if you do not have this shellstreams.DLL on your computer, and if all the above facts don't apply, the problem has another cause.

  • The issue has been briefly explained in french on my blog here. : . Thank you Microsoft ;-)

  • Renaming the ShellStreams has solved this and similar problems perfectly in all users affected. Great solution!!!

  • i dont have sheelstreams.dll, what could be another cause?

  • I have a similar problem, but it isn't caused by the shellstreams.dll cause I can't find that file.

    The problem occurs when I try to open a file that contains a pivot table with a data connection after I had already used a data connection in an other file.

    Exemple: I open a new file, I use a data connection to an SSAS-cube. Afterwards, When I try to open an existing file that also has a dataconnection, it can't be openend and I recieve the error message 'found unreadable content...'. If I try to recover the file, all pivottables are displayed as plain text.

    When I try to open exact the same file after restarting excel, the file opens without any problems.

    Any idea how to solve this problem?


  • Maarten: I remember investigating a similar issue a long time ago. We ended up running the files in separate Excel.exe instances to get around it. You may want to ensure that the quite similar issue does not apply as well.

    Nanditha: There are very many reasons why files can become corrupted, many of them unknown, and there is not a single cause or a single solution for this. It depends on what actions you perform that lead up to the corrupt file state.

    You can always open a case with Microsoft Support:

    However, please note that data cannot always be rescued from corrupt files, and that it will be much harder to investigate unless you know the steps for creating such problem files.

  • Thanks Erik!

    I'll pass the information to our IT-departement in the hope that they can fix the problem.

  • The DLL files are only on your machine if you have installed Icloud. If you haven't and you have the same error, the problem lays elsewhere.

  • Rename to what?

    How shall we name the ShellStreams.dll file?

  • thanks for your question. per my tests, renaming it into any other name will prevent it from loading into Excel 2007.

  • GREAT!!! Problem solved... Thanks!!!

  • Hi heidi please let me know how did you resolve the issue. I can't find shellsheet.dll file in my system.

  • Please refer to the beginning of the post for the known location and exact file name. If all conditions listed in the post above don't apply, the problem likely has another cause.

  • Hi Andrei Dikai,

    I have saved existing .xlsx file as .xls & it has resolved the problem.. Thanks a ton mate :)

  • @heidi: Save existing .xlsx file as .xls and it will resolve your problem..

  • Thanks a lot. Solved the problem. There were several files named ShellStreamsXXX.dll, but only one ShellStreams.dll. I have to search the entire computer, but as soon as I renamed, the problem was gone.

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