In Excel 2007, I am getting an annoying pop-up/alert box whenever I drag a cell to a new location.

Here is the alert box:

Cannot Empty the Clipboard

Steps to reproduce:

  • open a new excel sheet
  • copy/paste information from an HTML table (web page) as plain text
  • click and drag a cell to a new, empty location
  • viola

I am using Excel 2007 on Windows 7 x64.

Are you running Skype? This has been the best solution I have found to get rid of the "cannot empty the clipboard error" in Excel 2007 & 2010. Delete the Skype add-on in IE and/or Firefox and good-bye annoying error!

In reply to rjacobs7 post on February 28, 2011

Cannot clear clipboard error - Windows 7, Excel 2010 - This error occurs nearly every time a drag and drop of cell contents is attempted. I've had this same error over the past 10 years on older computers and older versions of Windows and Office. It has now reoccurred with a new laptop running Windows 7 64 bit and Office 2010. The issue can be replicated only if a browser - IE or Firefox - is open at the same time that Excel is open. Having Word and/or Outlook open at the same time will not cause the problem to occur unless a browser is also open. This error is extremely irritating and no solutions from Microsoft or other posts on this issue resolve it.

I have a solution - at least for me! Delete the Skype add-in in IE and Firefox and the "cannot clear clipboard" error after a drag and drop goes away when IE and/or Firefox are running. Apparently some sort of memory-management issue with Skype, Office and the browsers.

The following articles contain several possible fixes for the problem (too many to list here) :

Fix for Cannont Empty the Clipboard in Office
Excel 2007 'Cannot empty the Clipboard'

  • Thanks for your response. I found your first link prior to posting and neither of his admittedly temporary work-arounds did the trick for me. The second link has additional work-arounds that I will try, but I'd like a real solution rather than a "leave this app open while you work in this other app" type of deals. – Rob Allen Mar 23 '11 at 18:12
  • I am afraid that probably this is a bug in Excel, so the real solution will only come as a future fix from Microsoft. Until then, only workarounds are available. You might try raising the question in the Microsoft TechNet Forums, in the hope that some Microsoftie will answer. Otherwise, if you have any support plan for Excel, use it. – harrymc Mar 23 '11 at 18:32

Some other app is likely monitoring the clipboard (such as my own ClipMate) for updates. Since the clipboard is a shared resource, any app that touches the clipboard needs to be careful about expecting it to be available, immediately after updating it. For example, if an app modifies the clipboard, and then tries to open it again right away, it should be prepared to deal with the scenario where other apps have opened it for inspection/pasting.

Excel has historically been bad about that. 15 years ago, the error would have said "out of memory", but it's really the same thing. The programmers did not anticipate that anything would go wrong, so they throw up a generic error and quit, rather than devise a defensive catch-and-retry strategy. Oh well.

Anyway, my advice for the end-user is to press ESCape to un-highlight any cell after copying. That will relive Excel of its obsession of clearing the clipboard, so it shouldn't even try to clear the clipboard when you drag it around.

I have been having the exact same problem with Excel2003 since recently upgrading my PC and OS to Windows 7 64-bit.

But today, while working in excel (with the annoying error message every time I moved a cell) I closed Outlook which was running on my PC at the time. I then closed and restarted excel and strangely enough I could then moves cells without the error message appearing. (for now anyway)

I've been experiencing the same for a while. One by one I closed all other programs that I had open one at a time. When I closed Notepad++ (which I almost always have open), it went away. I opened Notepad++ again, got the problem. I did it a few more times and every time my Notepad++ was open I got the message in Excel. When it was closed, no problem. Hope this helps some, anyway.

P.S. I could be one of my Notepad++ plugins. I did not try to chase that rabbit, for now.

I've posted an answer on another question that may resolve this issue. One reading the commments here and elsewhere it seems that the issue may be related to running a 64-bit version of Windows.

Excel 2013: "We couldn't free up space on the clipboard. Another program might be using it right now"

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