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:

OFV_error01

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

OFV_error02

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:

OFV_error03

OFV_error04

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:

OFV_error05

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

OFV_error06

OFV_error07

And then attempt to uninstall the update:

OFV_error08

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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