Excel cannot complete this task

This one is fantastic. Unfortunately, I have no clear idea what is happening. It also ended in an ugly manner.

I was editing an Excel file. I’ve been doing this for about 30 minutes. I pasted a lot of content and was going down row by row adding text values in a column. I tried to type something. I think it was the letter “e” and got this:

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

Continue without Undo?



  1. It is not clear what task Excel is trying to complete. Nor is it clear what resources are available. I do not even know what resources would mean in this context (maybe the resources of the computer: CPU, memory, and the like.
  2. I have not chosen any data – I typed the letter “e”. I cannot relate the recommendation to my actions.
  3. Closing other applications just does not make sense. My Task Manager shows that everything seems to be OK.
  4. I have to make a choice whether to continue without Undo. Maybe this is the real cause of the message. Maybe Excel is not able to add the operation to the undo sequence?!

I tried Cancel. This is the safest first choice. Well, the message reappeared. So I had to click OK. I got this one:

Not enough resources to display completely


Display what?!

I clicked OK. All four Excel files that I had open became unresponsive. So I tried to close one of them though the taskbar. The file closed but I got a fail fast exception:

A fail fast exception occurred. Exception handlers will not be invoked and the process will be terminated immediately.


This is still Excel talking. Unfortunately, I have no idea what it is telling me. I sense that I will lose my last 30 minutes of work.

I was right. I clicked OK and all Excels disappeared. Too bad! Even the document recovery function of Excel, which usually works, could not help me.


Quick and dirty: I don’t know

Design for humans: Sometimes things just crash. When it happens, it happens. It is obvious, though, that we can try to make the message texts more meaningful.

7 October 2015 | Excel


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