Can’t Empty the Clipboard

Jerry is trying to cut information from one cell and paste it into another cell. He can cut it just fine, but when he tries to paste it he gets an error message, “Cannot Empty the Clipboard.” Jerry wonders what causes this error.

This has been a problem in Excel for some time. (Actually, the problem seems to crop up in several different Office applications, not just Excel.) It seems to be more prevalent in versions of Excel earlier than Excel 2007, but it has been reported in the latest versions, as well.

The solutions for the problem depend upon what is causing the problem and which version of Excel you are using. As an example, here are two different articles at the Microsoft Knowledge Base that address the issue for older versions of the program:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/196620
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/899266

Note that the articles are focused on entirely different versions of Excel and entirely different causes. Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t seen fit to acknowledge that the problem exists in Excel 2007 or Excel 2010-at least not in the Knowledge Base-but there are reports of it happening in those versions. A quick Google search for the error message shows that it still routinely occurs in the latest versions of Excel.

Basically, the way you can fix this problem is to figure out what program (Windows add-on or third-party software) is interfering with how Excel wants to work with the Clipboard. You can do this by starting Windows with a “clean slate” (without any other programs running in the background). Add the programs back in, one at a time, until the problem crops up again. You can then determine whether you want to use the offending program or not.