How to Fix Excel Formulas Not Working: A Step-by-Step Guide

November 7, 2023 1.3K views

Tackle Excel formula errors with ease through this article's concise solutions, enhancing your spreadsheet skills by effectively resolving issues where formulas aren't functioning as expected.

Why Aren't My Formulas Calculating?

There could be a few reasons why your Excel formulas aren't calculating:

1. Typos or Syntax Errors: Check your formulas for any typos or syntax errors. Make sure you're using the correct function names, operators, and cell references.

2. Cell Formatting: Ensure that the cells you're referencing in your formulas are formatted correctly. If they are formatted as text instead of numbers, Excel might not perform calculations correctly.

3. Calculation Settings: Check if automatic calculations are turned off in Excel. You can enable automatic calculations in the "Formulas" tab under "Calculation Options."

4. Circular References: Be cautious of circular references where a formula refers back to the cell it's in. These can prevent calculations from occurring.

5. Function Compatibility: If you're using specific functions, ensure they're compatible with the data you're working with.

6. Calculation Mode: Excel has different calculation modes. If you're using manual calculation mode, you'll need to manually trigger calculations.

7. Software Glitches: Sometimes, Excel might encounter glitches. Save your work, close Excel, and reopen it to see if that resolves the issue.

8. Memory Issues: Complex formulas or a large amount of data can sometimes cause memory-related calculation issues.

By addressing these possibilities, you'll likely find the source of the problem and get your Excel formulas to calculate correctly again.

How to Fix Excel Formulas Not Working

Having trouble with malfunctioning Excel formulas? Follow these steps to get them back on track:

Step 1: Identify Issue: Pinpoint which formulas are causing problems.

Step 2: Check Data: Ensure referenced cells have correct data and formatting.

Step 3: Validate Syntax: Double-check formula syntax for errors.

Step 4: Handle Errors: Address error values by adjusting formulas or data.

Step 5: Verify References: Review cell references for accuracy.

Step 6: Circular References: Resolve circular references if present.

Step 7: Review Functions: Confirm accurate inputs for functions.

Step 8: Use Auditing Tools: Trace cell relationships using auditing features.

Step 9: Refresh Data: Update external data sources.

Step 10: Recalculate: Manually recalculate using Shift+F9 or F9.

Step 11: Fresh Start: Consider recreating spreadsheets as a last resort.

Following these steps will help you troubleshoot and fix Excel formulas that aren't functioning correctly, enabling smoother spreadsheet operations.

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Algirdas Jasaitis


1. Why do formulas sometimes stop working?

Formulas in Excel can sometimes stop working due to various reasons, causing errors or unexpected results. Issues like incorrect cell references, syntax errors, data type mismatches, circular references, or problems with external data sources can all contribute to formula malfunction.

2. How do I handle compatibility issues when sharing workbooks with others?

Handling Compatibility Issues When Sharing Workbooks:

  1. Save in Compatible Formats: Save in older formats like ".xls" for wider compatibility.

  2. Avoid Complex Features: Stick to basic functions and avoid advanced features.

  3. Test Across Versions: Test on different Excel versions to catch formatting issues.

  4. Embed Fonts: Embed fonts to ensure consistent display on various systems.

  5. Check Formatting: Ensure formatting consistency, especially with conditional formatting.

  6. Review Add-ins: Ensure add-ins are compatible or remove unnecessary ones.

  7. Provide Instructions: Offer clear steps if specific settings are required.

  8. Consider PDFs: Share PDFs for universal formatting retention.

  9. Online Tools: Use online spreadsheet tools for enhanced cross-platform compatibility.

  10. Pre-communication: Alert recipients about Excel version used and potential issues.

3. What are the best practices for formula security in sensitive workbooks?

Best Practices for Formula Security in Sensitive Workbooks:

  1. Worksheet & Workbook Protection: Secure formulas by protecting sheets and workbooks with passwords.

  2. Cell Locking: Lock cells with sensitive formulas to prevent unauthorized changes.

  3. Hide Formulas: Conceal formula logic by hiding formulas in cells.

  4. Data Validation: Implement data validation rules to control input and protect formulas.

  5. Named Ranges: Use named ranges for formula references, enhancing readability and security.

  6. Regular Review: Regularly review formulas and back up sensitive workbooks.

  7. Limited Access: Restrict access to authorized individuals and track user activity.


This comprehensive article delves into vital aspects of Excel formulas, offering step-by-step guidance to troubleshoot non-functioning formulas, introducing the powerful WPS Office as an alternative to Microsoft Office, and addressing common queries like formula failures and workbook sharing compatibility. It also emphasizes best practices for securing sensitive workbook formulas, ensuring data integrity and efficient collaboration.

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