What to do if Excel won’t save files on iMac

Microsoft Excel is excellent at creating spreadsheets for accounting and other research-based tasks. To help improve versatility, Microsoft has adapted its program to various other platforms, such as Mac OS. However, some users have encountered the issue of not being able to save files when using their iMac. In this blog, I will provide two methods to help you resolve the problem of not being able to save files on Mac OS devices.

  • The first solution is to clear the cell formatting. If you cannot save files on your Mac OS device, you can select all the cells, remove the formatting, and then try saving the file.  
  • The second solution is to delete a Microsoft preference file for Excel. Excel will store a p-list preference file within the Mac OS library for Excel. You must go into the Preferences section and locate the p-list file. You will need to delete this file, and then you can try and save your document.

I have tested each solution to ensure that it works and helps you to resolve the issue. I would suggest you go through both of the methods so you have a better understanding of how you can fix the issue.

How to clear cell formatting to fix the issue of not being able to save files on Mac OS

Formatting is a great way to add custom database connectivity to your Excel documents. Microsoft has allowed its users to connect third-party data sources into Excel, which helps to visualize the computer-based information into a spreadsheet. People also use third-party software to help improve their ability to make a spreadsheet effectively. 

However, the formatting can result in the program not functioning correctly. Certain lines of the script within Excel may not be able to run, and therefore the fill will not save. You must have all unnecessary formatting cleared before you try to keep a file in Excel.

  • Firstly, open your Excel document.  

The document I have opened here will not save when I try to keep the document. So what I am going to do is open this document and then, try to clear the formatting from it to resolve the issue and then try to save the document. 

  • Click on the option for “Home.”  

In the menu above the Excel UI, there will be a list of options available for you to edit the document and the workbook preferences. In this section, I will select the Home option.

  • Select the cells which include formatting.  

If you don’t need the cell formatting, select all the cells by clicking on the square at the top. The square is above the first row and on the left of the first column.

However, if your spreadsheet contains formats you need and don’t need, select one cell, then click on the Command key to select all the cells that include the unneeded formatting. 

  • Click on the “Clear” icon. 

The Clear icon will be towards the top right-hand side of the Home section. The icon will be displayed on the right side of the display, and you will need to click on it to proceed with the steps ahead. 

  • Click on “Clear Formats” to complete the process. 

Upon completion, you will have managed to clear the formatting of cells in Microsoft Excel. Sometimes formats can prevent a file from saving correctly. Therefore, removing those formats will ensure the file will save correctly.

As illustrated in the steps, you do not have to clear the formatting of all the cells; you can just use the selection tool to select one or two cells that include unnecessary formatting and then clear them. If you have an idea of the formatting in an Excel document, the process will be easier for you as you can remove the cells that include problematic formats.

What can you do to remove preference files in Excel to fix the issue of being unable to save files?

The next solution you can use to try and fix the issue of not being able to save a file is to remove the P list from the preference section. This file can often lead to the file not being able to link successfully with your hard disc, and therefore file does not save. Removing this file will automatically generate a new world upon trying to save a file.

  • Firstly, in the Finder section, click on “Go.” 
  • Click on the “Option” key to reveal the “Library” tab and then open the library. 
  • Open the “Preferences” folder. 
  • Look for the “com.microsoft.Excel.plist” file. 
  • Drag this file into the trash can. 
  • Open the trash can and then click on “Empty.” 
  • Click on “Empty bin” to complete the process. 

You will have managed to clear the p-list file, allowing you to save files in Microsoft Excel once the steps are complete. When you try to save a file in Microsoft Excel, it should save because the inconveniencing p-list file has been removed. A new p-list file will be created in this section when you have completed the process of saving your Excel document.


Thank you for reading our content on how you can resolve the issue of not being able to save a file in Microsoft Excel for Mac OS devices. I have provided a couple of solutions you can use to help fix the issue. One solution you can use to help fix the issue is to clear formatting, which could result in the file being unable to save correctly.

The other solution to help fix the issue is removing the old inconveniencing p-list file. If you encounter any issues when trying to complete the steps, drop a comment below, and we will address them. 

Saajid Gangat

Saajid Gangat has been a researcher and content writer at Business Tech Planet since 2021. Saajid is a tech-savvy writer with expertise in web and graphic design and has extensive knowledge of Microsoft 365, Adobe, Shopify, WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and more! You can connect with Saajid on Linkedin.

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