How to Fix Excel Copy and Paste Not Working (Effective and Simple Way)

November 9, 2023 1.4K views

Copy and paste is a fundamental Excel skill that everyone needs to know. But what happens when copy and paste stops working? This can be a frustrating problem, but it's usually easy to fix.In this article, we'll explore the most common reasons why copy and paste might not be working in Excel. We'll also show you how to fix each problem so you can get back to working with your data.

Part 1. Why Copy and Paste Doesn't Work in Excel

Copying and pasting in Excel is essential, but it comes with potential problems:

  • Copying Formulas: When attempting to copy cells with formulas, Excel often pastes only the calculated values instead of the actual formulas. This behavior is designed to prevent accidental overwriting of valuable formulae.

  • Row and Column Discrepancies: Copying different numbers of rows and columns between source and destination areas can trigger errors. Excel expects a matching number of rows and columns for seamless copy and paste operations.

  • Mismatched Area Sizes: Excel requires the size of the copy area to match the size of the paste area. If they don't align, Excel will display an error message, as copying more data than the target area can hold can lead to unintended consequences.

  • Conditional Formatting Impact: Excel's conditional formatting feature, while powerful, can complicate copy and paste actions. Sometimes, copying cells with complex conditional formatting rules may result in unexpected outcomes or hinder the paste operation altogether.

  • Excel DDE Troubles: The Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) option in Excel can introduce complications during copy and paste procedures. This can be especially problematic when transferring data between different applications or versions of Excel due to compatibility issues and potential data corruption.

Part 2. How to Fix Excel Copy and Paste Not Working?

If you're facing Excel copy and paste problems, consider the following steps for a solution:

1. Check for Merged Cells:

Ensure you're not copying from merged cells into a regular Excel sheet. Copying data from merged cells might lead to unexpected outcomes. To do this, select the cells that you want to copy and see if they are merged. If they are, unmerge them before trying to copy and paste.

This is a common mistake that people make. If you are trying to copy data from a merged cell, Excel will not be able to paste it.

2. Restart Excel:

Fully close Excel and then reopen it. Often, this simple step can address temporary glitches causing the copy-paste problem. To do this, click on the File tab and then click on Close.

This is a simple but often effective way to fix problems with Excel.

3. Restart Your Computer:

If Excel restart doesn't work, try rebooting your computer. This can refresh system processes and potentially resolve underlying issues. To do this, click on the Start button and then click on Restart.

This is a more drastic step, but it can sometimes be necessary to fix more serious problems.

4. Verify Updates:

Confirm you're using the most recent Excel version. Outdated software can sometimes result in compatibility conflicts. To check for updates, click on the File tab and then click on Account. In the Account Information section, click on the Office Update button.

It is always a good idea to keep your software up to date, as updates often include bug fixes and security patches.

5. Disable "Macro Express" Application:

In some cases, the "Macro Express" application can cause copy-paste errors. This Windows-based app enables macro recording and might contribute to the issue.To disable it, go to Control Panel > Programs and Features and then find the Macro Express application. Right-click on it and select Uninstall.

This is a less common cause of the problem, but it is worth checking if you have the Macro Express app installed.

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1. How to keep formula and formatting when copying and pasting in Excel?

To copy and paste data with formulas and number formatting in Excel, start by selecting the cells with the desired data. On the "Home" tab, click "Copy," then click the first cell in the destination area. Under the "Paste" dropdown menu, select "Paste Special," and in the dialog box, check the boxes for both "Formulas" and "Number Formats" options.

2. How do you paste and update formulas in Excel?

To paste and update formulas in Excel, first copy the formula using the "Copy" button in the Clipboard group on the Home tab. Then, paste the formula and its formatting by clicking "Paste" or paste the formula alone by selecting "Paste Special" and choosing "Formulas." For just the formula results, pick "Values" in "Paste Special." To adjust cell references in the formula, select the cell, use the formula bar to modify references, and press F4 to cycle through combinations for accurate results.

3. How do I copy and paste an Excel spreadsheet with the same formatting?

To copy an Excel spreadsheet with consistent formatting, select the desired data, copy it (Ctrl + C), and then paste it into other Office programs like PowerPoint, Word, or Outlook.


In this comprehensive guide, we've tackled the common issue of Excel's copy and paste not working and provided solutions for each problem. From formula discrepancies to mismatched area sizes, we've addressed these frustrating roadblocks and demonstrated how to overcome them step by step.

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15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.