Excel 2003 Crashes on Server 2003 – Office File Validation

We encountered an interesting little error the other day that I felt was worth writing up, even though it concerns software that is reaching End-of-Life.  On this customer’s terminal server they were experiencing Excel crashing every time it was opened, but only if it was opened to a workbook.  Opening Excel alone was OK, as it only loaded the default template, Book.xlt, but opening any file resulted in:


And then document recovery.  Users were able to work with the ‘recovered’ documents fine.


The first dialogue box (Excel has crashed…) indicates an application crash, or AppCrash, and while there’s precious little information in the pop-up, you should find a slightly more verbose entry in the Application Event Log.  And sure enough, lots of AppCrash events from MSOffice11:



Thus bringing us to the heart of the matter – our faulty module is gkexcel.dll, a library that is coincidentally associated with Microsoft Office File Validation – a security feature added following a few serious vulnerabilities in MS Office files.  A quick check of Appwiz.cpl highlighted a recent update that may be related:


So we double check the DLL to confirm that it’s the one listed in the update:



And then attempt to uninstall the update:


Which doesn’t work.  Back to the drawing board and a little light head scratching later we’re looking at this thrilling bedtime reading: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg985445%28office.12%29.aspx .  According to that publication, we can disable the file validation procedure on Excel workbooks, and hopefully avoid the crash.  So we added a little line in the login script that runs:

@echo off
echo Adding Excel registry Entries
REG ADD HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Excel\Security\FileValidation /v EnableOnLoad /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f

And pow!  No more Excel crashes.

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