How to Fix a Filter Not Working in Excel

November 6, 2023 1.3K views

In the realm of Excel, dealing with filter errors can be perplexing. The frustration of malfunctioning filters often leaves users at a loss. How can one effectively tackle this issue? The answer lies ahead: a comprehensive article outlining methods to conquer Excel filter glitches. Say goodbye to obstacles and regain full command over your data manipulation.

Why Is Your Excel Filter Not Working

If your Excel filter isn't working, here are common ways to check why:

Step 1: Ensure you've selected the entire data range before applying the filter. Select area before turning on Filter, or Excel might exclude data past empty rows/columns. Manually selecting ensures all data is included. To remove blank rows, turn on the filter, uncheck "Select All," pick "Blanks," and click OK.

Step 2: Incorrect Column Headings:

Make sure your column headings are correctly labeled; filters depend on accurate headings. For multi-line headings: Type first line, press Alt + Enter for new line in cell. Use Wrap Text formatting for the same effect.

Step 3: Merged Cells:

Filters don't work well with merged cells; unmerge any merged cells in the data range. For effective filtering: Unmerge cells for individual content in rows and columns. Merged column headings can hinder item selection. Then merged rows won't be fully captured by filtering.

Step 4: Data Errors:

Ensure effective Excel filtering by avoiding merged cells for separate content in rows and columns. Check for data errors, as they can hinder filters like 'Top 10' or 'Above Average'. Locate errors by scrolling to the filter's bottom, unchecking "Select All," selecting the error, and fixing it before clearing the filter. Once error-free, apply desired filters for accurate results.

Step 5: Hidden Rows:

Hidden rows can't be accessed through the filter list. To unhide rows, select the hidden data's surrounding area, right-click on the row header, and choose "Unhide," or go to the Home tab, select "Format," then "Hide & Unhide," and choose "Unhide Rows."

How to Fix Excel Filter Not Working

Got a finicky Excel filter? No worries! Here's a rapid guide to set it right:

Step 1: Confirm Data Range

  • Open your Excel sheet.

  • Ensure your data range, including headers, is selected.

Step 2: Enable Filters

  • Click a cell within your data.

  • Go to "Data" > "Filter" in the ribbon.

Step 3: Unmerge Cells

  • Check for merged cells.

  • Unmerge via "Home" > "Merge & Center."

Step 4: Delete Blank Rows

  • Scan for blank rows.

  • Right-click row numbers > "Delete."

Step 5: Clean Text/Numbers

  • Remove extra spaces, characters, or formatting.

  • Use functions like TRIM, CLEAN.

Step 6: Refresh Filter

  • Click within filtered range.

  • Press "Ctrl + Alt + L" or "Data" > "Reapply."

Step 7: Unhide Hidden Rows

  • Ensure no filters on hidden rows.

  • Unhide via right-click > "Unhide."

Step 8: Update Excel Format

  • Save in the latest Excel format.

  • "File" > "Save As."

Step 9: Update Excel

  • Keep Excel updated.

  • "File" > "Account" > "Update Options."

Step 10: Safe Mode Test

  • Test in Safe Mode (hold "Ctrl" while opening).

  • Identify add-in issues.

Follow these steps to swiftly conquer Excel filter issues. Data control, restored!

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1. How to apply multiple filtering criteria by combining AND and OR operations with the FILTER() function in Excel?

To apply multiple filtering criteria by combining AND and OR operations with the FILTER() function in Excel, you can use logical operators and arrays. Here's how you can do it step by step:

  1. Setup: Assume data is in columns A to D.

  2. Create Criteria: In column E, use a formula like =((B2="A" OR B2="B") AND C2>100) and copy down.

  3. Apply FILTER(): In a new location, use =FILTER(A2:D100, E2:E100) to extract filtered rows based on criteria in column E.

This approach combines logical operators (AND, OR) and the FILTER() function to achieve complex filtering using multiple conditions.

2.  Can I filter data based on multiple criteria?

Yes, Excel enables filtering data using multiple criteria. The "AutoFilter" feature permits column-based filtering with both AND and OR conditions. For more advanced scenarios, the "Advanced Filter" option provides greater flexibility.

3. How do I filter data from an external database?

To filter data from an external database:

  1. Connect: Establish a connection to the external database.

  2. Retrieve Data: Use SQL queries or tools to fetch the required data.

  3. Apply Filters: Apply filters using WHERE clauses in SQL or similar tools.


Master Excel's data manipulation with our guide to resolving filter issues, ensuring seamless organization and analysis. Troubleshoot by confirming data ranges, managing merged cells, refining formatting, and more. Explore WPS Office, a sleek alternative, for enhanced productivity.

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