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

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.

Comments (36)
  1. Hi Aasif,
    If you do not have this ShellStreams.dll, the problem that you have encountered is not the same as the one described in this blog post. I would suggest opening a support case for investigating it.

  2. 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…/929766 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:…/more

    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.

  3. Hi Eric,
    As mentioned, 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. I would recommend following this
    article or opening a support case to have it properly investigated.

  4. Hi Chris,
    Regardless if it is an Explorer or Excel crash, renaming this DLL will likely affect the application that installed it there.

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

  6. Vincent Lecomte says:

    The issue has been briefly explained in french on my blog here. :…/excel-2007-probleme-de-reparation.html . Thank you Microsoft 😉

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

  8. Nanditha says:

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

  9. maarten says:

    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?


  10. maarten says:

    Thanks Erik!

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

  11. Andre Boom says:

    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.

  12. viktor says:

    Rename to what?

    How shall we name the ShellStreams.dll file?

  13. Heidi says:

    GREAT!!! Problem solved… Thanks!!!

  14. @ heidi says:

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

  15. 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.

  16. Imran Hussain says:

    Hi Andrei Dikai,

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

  17. Imran Hussain says:

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

  18. Fernando Gonçalves says:

    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.

  19. Aliese says:

    Problem solved. Thank you!!!! Some of these fixes are super obscure!

  20. mtvedten says:

    Problem solved. Thanks alot!

  21. ralph says:

    Thank you so much!! Couldn’t find a fix anywhere else!

  22. Steven says:

    Wow what a great solution for a strange problem!
    I had the problem for all .xlsx files opened by Excel 2007 in Windows 8.1 (new pc).
    Renaming ShellStreams.dll into ShellStreams.old and restarting Excel helped – great!

  23. Erik Liljencrantz says:

    This fix (renaming the ShellStreams.dll from Apple!?!) also worked in Excel 2003. Thanks for solving a very worrying intermittent error opening an important .xlsx file every month! 🙂

  24. Chris Evans says:

    I had a user getting instant windows explorer crashes. Launch explorer and watch it crash. I enabled explorer.exe crash dumps and saw this. “STATUS_BREAKPOINT_80000003_ShellStreams.dll!DllCanUnloadNow” Renaming shellstreams.dll stopped the crashing…

    What does this break?

  25. Aasif says:

    I use a macro enabled Excel Template (.xlsm file) which is used by my customers. None of the machines have the dll that you have mentioned. While the template is opened, I get this error and when the user says yes, the data loads and the operations could be
    performed successfully. However, I would like this error to be removed. Please suggest a solution for this. We are currently using MS Excel 2007 only!

  26. Aasif says:

    Thanks Erik. Could you please provide me the link where I can open a support case?

  27. Rizvi says:

    my excel file cannot open i saw following massage.
    "excel found unreadable content in …….xlsx. do you want to recover the contents of this work book?if you trust the source of this workbook,click yes" so how can this open please help me?

  28. FREDY VILLALBA says:


    Si les sirve de algo ami me sucedio lo mismo pero identifique que sucedia cuando incluia en una formula (") al inicio
    el archivo me quedaba bien con la siguiente formula =M23&"*"&M25&"*"&M27&"*"&M29 pero cuando incluia al inicio "*" me genero error "*"&M23&"*"&M25&"*"&M27&"*"&M29 lo borre y quedo OK.

    espero les funcione

    me Email

  29. Geo says:

    Thanks ! it was the Apple dll problem for me !!!

  30. Eric Hackett says:

    I have a similar issue, but no shellstreams*.dll anywhere. I have narrowed it down to having renamed a Table (named range) from the default name Excel gave it to something more concise for using in formulas. Everything continues to work, until the file
    is closed and re-opened, At that point Excel bitches about unreadable content. If renaming breaks stuff, I wish they wouldn’t make it an option.

  31. J. Brown says:

    Found an easiest solution to resolve this error :

    Hope this will help to MS word users !

    J. Brown

  32. Raj says:

    my .xlsx and .jpg files are showing .xlsx.dmvltnm and .jpg.dmvltnm
    1. 34i2xko.JPG.dmvltnm
    2. Capsuling Sheet of 12.01.2015 P Music.XLSX.dmvltnm
    i removed .dmvltnm, but i unable read file in excel.
    Please any body can suggest me.

  33. alexsbutler says:

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  34. James Werner says:

    I was experiencing the similar issue in my MS Excel file and fixed with the help of this excel repair tool:

    It’s really great utility if you are unable to repair your damaged excel file through manual methods!

    – James

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