How to Easily Install/Uninstall Excel VBA Add-in Files

By Chris Newman •  Updated: 04/30/15 •  6 min read
How To Setup and Install an Add-in File for Excel

Installing Your Excel Add-in

So you just downloaded or purchased a shiny, new add-in program to take your Office capabilities to the next level. The only problem is that there isn't an installer program to get it running on your computer! Let's walk through the steps to get your add-in file up and running in no time.

Simply clicking on your add-in file will only open it in the Office Program for a single-use. You want that add-in file to open automatically every time you start up the Office application. For this to occur, you need to properly install the add-in.

This article will show you the 3 steps to take to ensure your add-in file gets properly installed.

Note: I will be using Microsoft Excel for this demonstration, but PowerPoint add-ins will have the EXACT SAME process.

1. Ensure Your Excel Add-in File Is Unblocked

Microsoft Files with malicious VBA code are rampant throughout the internet. Many hackers will embed malicious VBA code into Office files and get unsuspecting victims to run the code and cause all sorts of havoc.

For this reason, Microsoft has been beefing up the way they handle Office files that are downloaded from the internet. One thing they have implemented recently is blocking the code from running by default.

This serves as an annoyance for white-hat developers like me as it adds extra steps (and confusion) for my customers to get the add-in installed. But it’s ultimately Microsoft’s program, so we have to play by Microsoft’s rules!

How To Unblock Excel Add-in File

The first thing you will want to do after you download or receive your add-in file ensures it has not been set to a “Blocked” state.

  1. Right-click on the add-in file while it is closed (not running in Excel)
  2. Click the Properties menu item
  3. In the General tab, look to see if there is a Security section at the very bottom
  4. If visible, check the Unblock checkbox
  5. Click the Apply button

If done properly, the Security section within the General tab should disappear.

2. Save Your Excel Add-in File To Your Computer

You can save your add-in file anywhere you wish, but I recommend you save it in the default add-in folder for Office. This folder location varies based on which operating system you are using.

Windows XP 

C:\Documents and Settings\[insert your username]\Application Data\Microsoft\AddIns

Windows Vista / Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 10

C:\Users\[insert your username]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\AddIns

3. Enable Your Add-in File In Excel

The Quick Way (Office 2010+)

  1. Go to the Developer tab
  2. Click the Add-ins Button
  3. Inside the Add-ins Dialog Box, click the Browse… button
  4. The Explorer Window should default to the Microsoft add-in folder location
  5. Navigate and select your add-in file, then click OK
  6. Ensure the newly added add-in name is checked in the dialog's listbox & click OK
  7. Your add-in is now installed!
Installing a Microsoft Excel add-in file

The Slightly Longer Way (Office 2007+)

  1. Go to File inside your Excel Program
  2. Select Excel Options
  3. Select Add-ins from the left-hand pane
  4. Make sure Excel Add-ins is chosen in the Manage drop-down menu and click Go…
  5. Inside the Add-ins Dialog Box, click the Browse… button
  6. The Explorer Window should default to the Microsoft add-in folder location
  7. Navigate and select your add-in file, then click OK
  8. Ensure the newly added add-in name is checked in the dialog's listbox & click OK
  9. Your add-in is now installed!
Installing an Microsoft Excel add-in file

Temporarily Disable An Excel Add-in

If you want to stop using a particular add-in for a temporary period of time, you can navigate back to the Add-ins dialog box and simply uncheck the add-in's name, then click OK. The add-in will disappear from your current session and also will no longer auto-load when you start up your application.

Disable Excel Add-in

Add-in Disappearing When Restarting Excel?

In July 2016, Microsoft decided to heighten its security features and block files that are downloaded from the internet or another computer by default. With regular files like a .xlsx or .pptx there is a prompt that notifies you the file is currently being blocked. Unfortunately, Microsoft was not kind enough to do the same thing with add-in files (.xlam or .ppam). Hence, leaving a TON of users scratching their heads as to why add-ins keep disappearing from their ribbon. 

If you would like details on how to “Trust” your add-in file, check out this post:

ARTICLE: Prevent Microsoft Office Add-ins From Disappearing From The Ribbon Interface

Uninstalling An Excel Add-in

If you want to get rid of your add-in permanently, you can use the following steps:

  1. Close out of your application (ie Excel)
  2. Delete your add-in file* or move it to a new file path location
  3. Re-open your application (ie Excel)
  4. Navigate to the Add-ins dialog box (see Section A above)
  5. Try to check or uncheck the add-in name and you should get a message box stating that the add-in could not be found and asking if you would like to remove it from the add-in list
  6. Confirm the removal

*Bonus Tip: If you do not know where you saved your add-in, you can carry out the following steps to find the file location on your computer:

  1. Use the shortcut Alt + F11 to open up the Visual Basic Editor
  2. In the Visual Basic Editor window, use the shortcut ctrl + g to open up the Immediate Window
  3. In the Project Pane, highlight the name of your add-in
  4. In the Immediate Window, paste in the following line of code and hit the Enter key

After executing the above line of code in the Immediate Window, your add-in's file path should be displayed! Here's a visual for you in case those steps were a little confusing.

How to find a forgotten file path of an Excel add-in

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Chris Newman

Chris Newman

Chris is a finance professional and Excel MVP recognized by Microsoft since 2016. With his expertise, he founded TheSpreadsheetGuru blog to help fellow Excel users, where he shares his vast creative solutions & expertise. In addition, he has developed over 7 widely-used Excel Add-ins that have been embraced by individuals and companies worldwide.