I am trying to figure out why a simple .XLS EXCEL workbook is taking, randomly, 30 seconds to open.

Before answering:

Please, bear mind the following:

Main symptoms

Using Windows Explorer, here is a more accurate sequence:

  1. I double-click on an EmptyWorkbook.xls;
  2. Nothing seems to happen;
  3. Navigation on folder becames imediately unresponsive after the double-click;
  4. After a delay between 30 seconds and 1 minute, window becames responsive and it starts a regular document loading, which after 1 second, present EXCEL splash screen e so on.
  5. If, during hang, I stop printer spooler service, document is loaded immediately.

Other symptoms

  • The problem consistently does not occur whenever Printer Spooler is stopped.
  • Disabling network cable ceases problem;
  • During hanging here is no cpu or disk activity;
  • It only happens during document load. Every runs smooth after that;
  • Windows Explorer.exe hangs on folder, but all other folders, system and applications are still responsive;
  • There are no consecutive hangings. I have to wait for while to reproduce this behaviour;
  • All samples documents are located on a local drive (C:\BPI);
  • The document has has macros and have any addins usage;
  • The problem does not occur on others files extensions like .PDF, for example;
  • Office 2003 is being used for several years;
  • The computer is running Windows XP;
  • Computer has several network mapped drives, all addressed to main file server;
  • Recently, main fileserver was replaced by Windows 2011 SBS Standard Edition

What I have done so far

  • I have traced machine Explorer.exe, using Process Monitor, added Duration column, and filtered by Duration > 1. For further information, please refer to Oliver Salzburg tutorial.
  • Using Process Monitor, I have also figured out than five operations were taking most of sample collecting duration. Looking at sample image below, column Operation below you will notice that one single operation was taking 29 seconds;
  • I have tried different documents (.xls and .doc), all of them smaller than 30 KB;
  • I have, temporarily, removed all shortcuts on User Document's folder that were pointing to network drives or shares;
  • I have runned CCleaner to fix registry issues;
  • I made sure that there were no external links on tested workbook or word documents;
  • I have checked if %PATH% was referencing any mapped network driver;
  • I have reproduced this behaviour for hours;
  • I have extensivelly researched for hours on the web;
  • 1
    Offhand it sounds like it's trying to access a Domain Controller to do a security lookup. – RBarryYoung Oct 9 '12 at 22:50
  • 2
    Does the sheet contain any external links – Pynner Oct 10 '12 at 0:07
  • Pynner, I indeed have checked for external links. None of the workboos had them. I have just updated my question to reflect that. Thanks for you reply. – Julio Nobre Oct 10 '12 at 9:15
  • RBarryYoung, your tip is in fact related to intermitent behaviour. In fact, 30 seconds pauses are usually timeout-related pauses. I will check it. Thanks for point it out. – Julio Nobre Oct 10 '12 at 9:21
  • It really seems a network-related issue. I have reach this conclusion after repeatedly witnessing that the freezing disapeared right after network cable was disconnected and freezing behaviour was back a few seconds after network cable reconnection. – Julio Nobre Oct 11 '12 at 16:17

Like Pynner suggested, I bet it has something to do with the time-out to access network-shared folders, which are for some reasons unavailable.

Try to disable all network interfaces and then try to reproduce the problem again. If I am right, there will be no delay this time, as all network related operations will fail immediately.

  • I agree this seems a network-related issue. Your suggestion on disabling all network interfaces may lead me to issue source. Thanks for pointint out. I gave you a plus for your suggestion. – Julio Nobre Oct 10 '12 at 9:27

Don't forget a shared Printer can easily cause the exact same issue. Happened to me on my MS Word 2003 whenever that shared network printer was turned off.

  • Yes, some annoying delays may be caused by a turned off shared printer. My client uses several shared printers and I have noticed that one of these days, the opening delay, which is intermittent, sundenttly disapperared. This observation happened from 6 PM on and it did not happen at all untill observations were ended, at about 8 PM. I also know that in my client office, most of the employes leave the build right after 6 PM. I will recheck them. Thanks for you comment. – Julio Nobre Oct 11 '12 at 9:54
  • 1
    Hi Syclone0044! Just would like to let you know that I have reason's to believe that this was due a temporary Windows default printer's (shared printer) busy state. Changing it to XPS Printer, for example, would solve the issue. For further details, refer to my last comment below. Again, thanks for help! – Julio Nobre Mar 19 '16 at 0:26
  • You're most welcome @JulioNobre! Thanks so much for following up and sharing the answer with everyone, too. – Syclone0044 Mar 22 '16 at 14:08

This sounds very much like it is scanning for a missing network resource, such as an intermittent Network Share that happens to be in the search path, or a security access authorization lookup, etc. (there are many possibilities).

Here is a blog article by the creator of both Process Explorer and Process Monitor (Mark Russinovich) explaining how he diagnosed a very similar problem: http://blogs.technet.com/b/markrussinovich/archive/2005/08/28/the-case-of-the-intermittent-and-annoying-explorer-hangs.aspx.

I have to point out that I have been afflicted with the notorious "30-second Explorer Hang" more than once, and almost every single time it turned out to be some obscure UNC reference to a sever that either no longer existed or that was not accessible at that time. I'd suggest that you try search your registry for "\" and make sure that all of the occurrences you find are to servers that actually exist.

  • I have checked that %PATH% environment variable was not referencing any mapped drive. I have added this check to my question. Thanks for pointing that. – Julio Nobre Oct 11 '12 at 0:32

YES!!! Finnaly, after almost a week of really painfull research, I have found the culprit: a local installed network printer driver.

Today, I have found a consistent way reproducing the problem. After noticing that it ceased whenever I stopped Printer Spooler service. After some trial and error, a thought came to my mind:

"What if the problem only arises when someone else create a printer job?"

"May be sending a printer test page and, imediately, double-clicking my EmptySample.xls may cause the hanging behaviour?"

Lucky (?) me, on first attempt, Windows Explorer imediatly froze! Full of joy, I have replicated the experience a couple more times and Yes!. Almost one week later, I was able to consistently reproduce the freezing/hanging/lack of responsivenesss or what we may call it!

I have also noted that some installed printers were using a direct port and some where server shared printers. Reproducing the experience on server shared printers was okay. So, as far as I know, this issue only afects local installed network printer drivers.

That explains why:

  • It was intermittent. Because it only happened whenever someonelse sender a document to printer;
  • It only happended during regular work hours. After 6 p.m. almost everybody has leaved the building. So, there no one to triger print jobs;
  • It dit not occurs whenever network cable was disconnected;
  • Windows Explorer resumed regular document load imediately whenever I stopped Printer Spooler Service.

Even though, from now on, I will consider this a closed case, I will update this answer whenever there are new findings, specially, present you guys some Process Monitor's collected data that, in the paste few days, where pointing to Printer Spooler Services - I just was not prepared to understand the provided clues. I will work on that.

For whom whoever followed comments or revisions to this question, please, forgive me for doing so many updates, but I really think that keeping you updated was important.

Thanks a lot to everyone!!!

  • 1
    According to Clement Nedelcus's post at cnedelcu.blogspot.pt/2013/09/…, changing default printer to an available printer might solve this issue. As he refers, when you open an Office document, such as an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document, the application attempts to communicate with the printer to figure out the margins supported by the default printer. So, if that printer is busy or unavailable, temporary hangs (or crashes) might occur. – Julio Nobre Mar 19 '16 at 0:22

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