Excel is a powerful and versatile tool that allows you to perform various calculations, analyze data, and create charts and graphs. However, sometimes you may encounter problems with Excel formulas, such as not working, not updating, or not calculating correctly. This can be frustrating and time-consuming, especially if you rely on Excel for your work or studies. In this blog post, we will explain some of the common reasons why Excel formulas may not work as expected, and how to fix them.
Why Excel formulas may not work
There are several possible causes for Excel formulas not working properly. Some of the most common ones are:
- Formula errors: If your formula contains a typo, a wrong reference, a missing argument, or an invalid syntax, Excel will display an error message or a value that does not make sense. For example, if you type
=SUM(A1:A10), Excel will show
#NAME?error because the formula is missing a closing parenthesis.
- Circular references: A circular reference occurs when a formula refers to itself or to another cell that depends on the formula. This creates an endless loop that prevents Excel from calculating the result. For example, if you type
=A1+1in cell A1, Excel will show
0because it cannot resolve the circular reference.
- Incorrect formatting: If your formula returns a value that is formatted differently than the expected result, Excel may not display it correctly. For example, if you type
=TODAY()in a cell formatted as text, Excel will show
44197instead of the current date because it converts the date value to a serial number.
- Calculation mode: Excel has three calculation modes: automatic, manual, and automatic except for data tables. If you set the calculation mode to manual or automatic except for data tables, Excel will not update the formulas automatically when you change the input values or add new data. You will need to press F9 or click Calculate Now to recalculate the formulas manually.
- Formula options: Excel has some options that affect how formulas are calculated and displayed. For example, you can choose to show or hide formulas in cells, enable or disable iterative calculation, set the precision level for calculations, and control how dates and times are interpreted. If you change these options, you may get different results from your formulas.
How to fix Excel formulas not working
Depending on the cause of the problem, there are different ways to fix Excel formulas not working. Here are some general tips that may help you:
- Check for formula errors: If your formula shows an error message or a value that does not make sense, you can use the Formula Auditing tools in Excel to find and correct the error. You can also use the Error Checking feature to identify and fix common errors in your worksheet.
- Remove circular references: If your formula contains a circular reference, you can use the Circular Reference indicator in the status bar to locate and remove it. You can also use the Trace Precedents and Trace Dependents tools to see which cells are involved in the circular reference.
- Apply correct formatting: If your formula returns a value that is formatted differently than the expected result, you can change the formatting of the cell or the formula to match. You can also use the Format Painter tool to copy the formatting from another cell that has the correct format.
- Change calculation mode: If your formula does not update automatically when you change the input values or add new data, you can check and change the calculation mode in Excel. You can do this by clicking on File > Options > Formulas > Calculation options. You can also use keyboard shortcuts to switch between calculation modes: Ctrl+Alt+F9 for manual mode, F9 for automatic mode, and Shift+F9 for automatic except for data tables mode.
- Adjust formula options: If your formula gives different results than expected due to some options that affect how formulas are calculated and displayed, you can change these options in Excel. You can do this by clicking on File > Options > Formulas > Working with formulas. You can also use keyboard shortcuts to toggle some of these options: Ctrl+` (grave accent) to show or hide formulas in cells, Alt+M+X to enable or disable iterative calculation, Alt+M+P to set the precision level for calculations, and Alt+M+D to control how dates and times are interpreted.
What to do if Excel function is not working?
If your formula uses a built-in function that is not working properly, there are some possible reasons and solutions:
- The function is not available in your version of Excel: Some functions are only available in certain versions of Excel or require specific add-ins or tools. For example, the XLOOKUP function is only available in Excel 365 and later versions, and the Analysis ToolPak add-in is required for some statistical functions. You can check the availability and requirements of a function by looking it up in the Excel Help or on the Microsoft website.
- The function has a different name or syntax in your language: If you are using a non-English version of Excel, some functions may have different names or syntaxes in your language. For example, the SUM function is called SOMME in French and SUMME in German. You can find the equivalent name and syntax of a function in your language by using the Formula Translator tool or by changing the language settings in Excel.
- The function has an incorrect or incompatible argument: If your function has an argument that is missing, misspelled, out of range, or of the wrong type, Excel will display an error message or a value that does not make sense. For example, if you type
=VLOOKUP(A1,B1:C10,2,FALSE), Excel will show
#REF!error because the third argument (3) is larger than the number of columns in the table array (B1:C10). You can check and correct the arguments of a function by using the Insert Function dialog box or the Formula Builder pane in Excel.
- The function has a volatile behavior: Some functions are volatile, which means they recalculate every time there is a change in the worksheet, regardless of whether they depend on the changed cells or not. For example, the NOW function is volatile and returns the current date and time every time you recalculate the worksheet. This may cause unexpected results or performance issues if you use volatile functions excessively or in large worksheets. You can avoid using volatile functions if possible, or limit their use to specific cells or scenarios.
Why my formula is not working in Excel and showing as text?
If your formula is not working in Excel and showing as text instead of a value, there are some possible reasons and solutions:
- The cell is formatted as text: If you format a cell as text before entering a formula, Excel will treat the formula as text and display it as it is, without calculating it. You can fix this by changing the formatting of the cell to General or another appropriate format, and then pressing F2 and Enter to recalculate the formula.
- The formula starts with an apostrophe (
'): If you start a formula with an apostrophe (
'), Excel will ignore the formula and display it as text. This is useful if you want to show a formula as an example or for documentation purposes, but not if you want to calculate it. You can fix this by removing the apostrophe (
') from the beginning of the formula, and then pressing F2 and Enter to recalculate it.
- The formula contains a space before the equal sign (
=): If you type a space before the equal sign (
=) in a formula, Excel will not recognize it as a formula and display it as text. This may happen if you accidentally press the spacebar before typing the equal sign (
=) or if you copy and paste a formula from another source that has a space before the equal sign (
=). You can fix this by removing the space before the equal sign (
=) in the formula, and then pressing F2 and Enter to recalculate it.
Excel formulas are essential for performing various calculations, analyzing data, and creating charts and graphs. However, sometimes they may not work as expected due to various reasons, such as errors, circular references, incorrect formatting, calculation mode, or formula options. In this blog post, we have explained some of the common causes and solutions for Excel formulas not working properly. We hope this helps you troubleshoot and fix any problems with your Excel formulas.