Excel formulas not working, not updating, not calculating: fixes & solutions

This tutorial explains the most common mistakes when making formulas in Excel, and how to fix a formula that is not calculating or not updating automatically.

Can someone imagine using Microsoft Excel without formulas? I believe no one can. And hardly anything could compare to the frustration caused by Excel formulas stop working all of a sudden. When this happens, a bunch of questions immediately flash across your mind. Why is my Excel formula not calculating? Why doesn't this formula update its value automatically? Is my Excel corrupt or is this due to some malicious virus? And how do I get my Excel to calculate and update formulas automatically again? Don't worry, most likely your Excel is all right, and you will get all the answers in a moment.

Excel formulas not working

Symptoms: Excel formula not working correctly, it returns an error or a wrong result.

This section provides a summary of the most common mistakes people make when creating formulas in Excel and solutions to fix them.

1. Match all opening and closing parentheses in a formula

As you know, the arguments of Excel functions are entered within the parentheses. In complex formulas, you may need to enter more than one set of parentheses, one within another, to indicate the order in which the calculations should take place. When creating such a formula, be sure to pair the parentheses properly so that you always have a right parenthesis for every left parenthesis in your formula.

Microsoft Excel displays the parentheses pairs in different colors as you enter them in a formula. If your formula is short of one or more parentheses, Excel displays an error message and suggests a correction to balance the pairs. Please see How to highlight and match parenthesis pairs for more information.

2. Enter all required arguments in an Excel function

All Excel functions have one or more required arguments. Some functions also have optional arguments, which are enclosed in [square brackets] in the formula's syntax.

A formula must contain all of the required arguments, otherwise Excel displays "You've entered too few arguments for this function" alert.

If you have entered more arguments than allowed by the formula's syntax, you will get "You've entered too many arguments for this function" error message.

3. Do not nest more than 64 functions in a formula

When nesting two or more Excel functions into each other, e.g. creating a nested IF formula, remember about the following limitations:

  • In Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010 and Excel 2007, you can use up to 64 nested functions.
  • In Excel 2003 and lower, only up to 7 nested functions can be used.

4. Don't enclose numbers in double quotes

In Excel formulas, any value enclosed in double quotes is interpreted as a text string.

What it means is that if you enter a formula like =IF(A1>0, "1"), Excel will treat number 1 as text, and therefore you won't be able to use the returned 1's in other calculations. To fix this, just remove the double quotes around "1": =IF(A1>0, 1).

So, whenever you are writing a formula for numerical values, follow this simple rule: don't enclose numbers in double quotes unless you want them to be treated as text.

5. Enter numbers without any formatting

When using a number in an Excel formula, don't add any decimal separator or currency sign like $ or €.

Remember that in Excel formulas, a comma is typically used to separate a function's arguments, and the dollar sign makes an absolute cell reference.

For instance, instead of entering $50,000 in your formula, input simply 50000, and use the Format Cells dialog (Ctrl + 1) to format the output to your liking.

6. Make sure numbers are not formatted as text values

Numbers formatted as text values are another common reason for Excel formulas not working. At first sight, they look like normal numbers, but Microsoft Excel perceives them as text strings and leaves out of calculations.

The visual indicators of text-numbers are as follows:

  • Numbers formatted as text are left-aligned by default, while normal numbers are right-aligned in cells.
  • The Number Format box on the Home tab in the Number group displays the Text format.
  • When several cells with text numbers are selected on the sheet, the Status Bar only shows Count, while usually it shows Average, Count and SUM for numbers.
  • There may be a leading apostrophe visible in the formula bar, or green triangles appear in the top-left corner of the cells.

The below screenshot shows that even a simple Excel SUM formula may not work because of numbers formatted as text:
Excel SUM formula not working because of numbers formatted as text values.

To fix this, select all problematic cells, click the warning sign, and then click Convert to Number:
Select cells with numbers formatted as text, click the warning sign, and then click Convert to Number.

In some cases, however, neither green triangles nor the warning sign appear in cells. For example, if you enclose numeric values in double quotes in your formulas, Excel assumes you want to output a text string rather than a number.

At first sight, the following formula appears to be working fine:
=IF(A1="Good", "1", "0")

But the problem is the returned 1's and 0's are text values, not numbers! And if you reference any cells with the above formula in other formulas, those cells won't be included in calculations. As soon as you remove "" surrounding 1 and 0 in the above formula, Excel will treat the outputs as numbers and they will be calculated correctly.

If the small green triangles do not appear in cells for some other reason, look at the Number Format box on the Home tab in the Number group. If it displays Text, try clearing all formatting for the problematic cells, and set the cells' format to Number or General. If that doesn't work, you might have to create a new column, manually input the data (e.g. copy your text-numbers to Notepad, and then back to a new column), and delete the broken column.

Another possible solution is to multiply the values in the problematic column by 1 using a simple formula like =A1*1. And then, copy the formula cells and paste them as values in the same or in any other column via Paste Special > Values.

7. Separate function arguments with a proper character

Most of us are used to separating function arguments with commas. However, this does not work for everyone's Excel. The character you use to separate arguments depends on the List Separator set in your Regional Settings.

Comma is the default list separator in North America and some other countries. In European countries, comma is used as the decimal symbol and the list separator is usually set to semicolon.

For example, in North America you would write =IF(A1>0, "OK", "Not OK"), while European users of Excel should put the same formula as =IF(A1>0; "OK"; "Not OK").

So, if your Excel formulas are not working because of "We found a problem with this formula..." error, go to your Regional Settings (Control Panel > Region and Language > Additional Settings) and check what character is set as List Separator there. And then, use exactly that character to separate arguments in your Excel formulas.

8. Enclose workbook and worksheet names in single quotes

When referring to other worksheets or workbooks that have spaces or non-alphabetical characters in their names, enclose the names in 'single quotation marks'. For example,

Reference to another sheet:
=SUM('Jan Sales'!B2:B10)

Reference to another workbook:
=SUM('[2015 Sales.xlsx]Jan sales'!B2:B10)

For more information, please see How to refer to another sheet or workbook in Excel.

9. Include the full path to a closed workbook

If you are writing a formula that references a closed Excel workbook, your external reference must include the workbook name and entire path to the workbook. For example:


For more information, please see Creating a reference to another workbook.

If the above tips do not help, try to evaluate and debug each part of your formula individually by using the F9 key and other debugging techniques explained in the following tutorial: How to evaluate and debug formulas in Excel.

Excel formulas not updating

Symptoms: The value returned by your Excel formula does not update automatically, i.e. the formula continues to show the old value even after you've changed the values of the dependent cells.

When Excel formulas are not updating automatically, most likely it's because the Calculation setting has been changed to Manual instead of Automatic. To fix this, just set the Calculation option to Automatic again.

On the Excel ribbon, go to the Formulas tab > Calculation group, click the Calculation Options button, and select Automatic:
For Excel formulas to update automatically, enable 'Automatic' under Calculation Options.

Alternatively, you can change this setting in Excel Options:

  • In Excel 2003, click Tools > Options > Calculation > Calculation > Automatic.
  • In Excel 2007, click Office button > Excel options > Formulas > Workbook Calculation > Automatic.
  • In Excel 2010, Excel 2013, and Excel 2016, go to File > Options > Formulas > Calculation options section, and select Automatic under Workbook Calculation.

Another way to turn on the Automatic Calculation setting.

How to force Excel formulas to recalculate

If for some reason, you need to have the Calculation option set to Manual, you can force the formulas to recalculate by clicking the Calculate button on the ribbon or by using one of the following shortcuts:

To recalculate the entire workbook:

  • Press F9, or
  • Click the Calculate Now button on the Formulas tab > Calculation group.

To recalculate an active sheet:

  • Press Shift + F9, or
  • Click Calculate Sheet on the Formulas tab > Calculation group.

Click the Calculate Sheet button to force the active sheet's formulas to recalculate.

To recalculate all sheets in all open workbooks, press Ctrl + Alt + F9.

If you need to recalculate only one formula on a sheet, select the formula cell, enter the editing mode either by pressing F2 or double clicking the cell, and then press the Enter key.

Excel formulas not calculating

Symptoms: A cell displays the formula, not the result.

If your Excel formula is not working because a cell displays the function instead of the calculated value, it's because one of the following reasons.

1. Show Formulas mode is turned on

The most common reason for an Excel formula not calculating is that you have inadvertently activated the Show Formulas mode in a worksheet.

To get the formula to display the calculated result, just turn off the Show Formulas mode by doing one of the following:

  • Pressing the Ctrl + ` shortcut, or
  • Clicking the Show Formulas button on the Formulas tab > Formula Auditing group.

To get Excel formulas to display the calculated results, turn off the Show Formulas mode.

2. A formula is entered as text

Another frequent reason for your Excel formula not calculating is that the formula has been formatted as text. To check this, select the formula cell, and look at the Number Format box in the Number group on the Home tab:
A formula formatted as text is not calculating.

If it is the case, change the cell format to General, and while in the cell press F2 and Enter for the formula to recalculate and display the calculated value.

3. A formula cell has a leading space or apostrophe before the equal sign

If you have inadvertently entered a space or apostrophe (') before the equal sign, Excel treats the cell contents as text, and consequently does not evaluate any formula within that cell (a leading space often appears when you copy a formula from the web). To fix this, just remove the leading space or single quote.
When a space or apostrophe precedes the equal sign, Excel treats the cell contents as text and does not evaluate the formula.

This is how you deal with formulas not working in Excel. If you know any other solutions to fix formulas not updating or not calculating, please do share in comments. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week.


  1. ablebits was the FIRST source to help me figure out why my formulas weren't calculating on an excel summary speadsheet. Microsoft, among others, assumes that every idiot is a genius even before he or she ventures into a new area of excel (or any other microsoft product, for that matter). In this case, I never before summed values from multiple worksheets. That may be hard to believe but it's true. How was I supposed to know that the "show formulas" option was "on" or even that it would prevent me from calculating formulas? If I were Bill Gates, I wouldn't be sitting here, right? Why do he and his fellow robots just ASSUME that we are all blinding beams of light like all Harvard and MIT students are? Thank you ablebits!!! I'm under quite a bit of pressure, and I will remember this--and you!

  2. thank you very much. this article help me.

  3. I just wanted to say thank you, this was very helpful. I contacted Microsoft and my company IT department for something that started after my system was updated from 2010 to 2016. After 4 phones call and 5 people that told me it was a compatibility issue and I had to recreate all my formulated spreadsheets, I almost lost my mind. I knew there had to be a solution to the issue I was having. After finding this page, 2 clicks later my problem was solved. This goes to show that just because someone works for a company doesn't always mean that they have the answers or even know what they are talking about. They almost had me unnecessarily recreating numerous spreadsheets because they could not be bothered to listen to the issue. I think the worst thing about customer service in 2020 is people would rather give you wrong/misinformation than to admit they don’t know how to do something.

  4. In my current position, I have to examine data in spreadsheets.
    One of the most current problems I have is WHEN I insert column to grab a DAY (for example), it comes back MM/DD/YYYY instead of DD. I have to format that column to GENERAL to just get DD

    • Unfortunately, Excel always copies the format to a new column or row from neighboring ones. This can only be changed using the VBA macro.

      Excel includes a feature that allows you to modify how you insert rows, columns, or cells in your worksheet. When you insert any of these, Excel displays a small, floating "button" right near the inserted row, column, or cell. The button, called "Insert Options," has a small paintbrush on it, similar to the Format Painter tool. Click the button, and Excel displays some options about how the inserted row, column, or cell should be formatted.

  5. The RIGHT() command is not responding inside IF()
    For example,

    In both conditions the results are fulse(second one).
    Please help me thanks ?

    • Hello!
      For your formula to work, numbers must be written in all the cells it uses. Give an example of the source data and the expected result.
      It’ll help me understand it better and find a solution for you. Thank you.

  6. Nice Article, it resolved my issues

  7. Hi,
    Can you please help.
    Here's my scenario.
    I have a value in cell C1 let's say 5 , this cell value is an output of this formula =TEXTJOIN("",TRUE,IFERROR(MID(A1,ROW(INDIRECT("1:30")),1)+0,"")) because I want to get the numeric value only from the other cell. And now in cell D1 I have a value let's say 3 this is an extracted value from previous result. So now in cell E1, I want to match cell C1 and cell D1 if they match or not, so I used this formula =IF(C1=D1,"Match","Not Match"). My problem was it did not get the correct evaluation, all results are "Not Match" even there are values that are Matched. I tried the remedies mentioned but still didn't worked. Thank you.

    • Hello!
      In your example, you compare 5 and 3. And they do not match. You did not specify real values. I can assume that you are comparing text and number. Perhaps there are extra spaces, non-printable characters in the text. I recommend checking for extra spaces and non-printing characters, as described in this article.

  8. Wowww....

  9. 1. Go to formulas tab, and uncheck the button "Show Formulas". It will show the result in cell instead of formulas. 2. Change the cell format into General -> double click on that cell and enter again (rewrite the formulas)

    • OMG! Just this trick would work. Thank you!

  10. When I calculate a formula say subtraction:
    E.g x-y, x has multiple values(x-> 1-n) but y is constant (y-> 1234) and has a blank column below it, after calculating the first one manually and then dragging it so as to get the same calculations done quickly it subtracts the blank boxes and i get the result as x only and not x-y.
    What to do?

  11. Corina,

    I've rechecked the problem you reported and entered =61.0385 * 1.95 * 8 in a random cell. The result I got was 952.2006

    Could you please describe the steps you take in more detail? Are your original numbers entered as values or as cell references? If 61.0385, 1.95 and 8 are located in separate cells and you're multiplying their cell references, please recheck the rounding set for these cells and let me know about the result. Thank you.

  12. This question will be simple but I do not know a lot about Excel
    61.0385 x 1.95 x 8 = 952.20 however in excel it totals the answer as 953.98
    What formula do I used to rectify this problem so that I get the correct answer

  13. thank you

  14. thank you.☺

  15. So Frustrated!
    Simple SUM formula - have tried to go at this multiple different ways still the same result.
    - SUM a column *click the top and drag to the bottom and click the SUM function - shows a zero balance of $-
    - type =SUM(H3:H203) Same issue it shows a zero balance of $-

    The sum should be close to $130,000.00 so why is this happening?? I have made sure there are no apostrophe or anything when typed. I could really use someones help as I am trying on another column as well and the same issue arises.

    • Hi Michelle,

      You can use the ISNUMBER function to check if your values are numbers. For example:

      If the above formula returns FALSE, that means a number is stored as text and you need to convert text to number.

  16. "Me too!" That "automatic" thing fixed my cells so they update, thanks for posting this.

  17. I don't know why it happened to one of my file suddenly but, big thanks! it very helpful!

  18. Thank you for the quick result and very helpful for us.

  19. I have a workbook with macros, etc., and all of a sudden, some of my data began to look suspicious. One column of simple formulas that uses an if statement, and then adds two cells together... stopped updating. Only that ONE column on ONE sheet of several different sheets. If I click inside a cell in that column then click out it, that cell would update. F9, calculate states, etc., and all other tips in this thread were investigated. The only one that worked, was opening a new workbook, copying the problem formula into the new workbook (copy the formula line, not the cell), then past the formula into the formula bar in the new workbook. enter enough variables in source cells, and make sure it works as expected. Then, do the reverse; copy the formula from the new workbook back into a cell in the original problem workbook. Drag/fill down the column and all good. I can't tell you if it will work next month when I run it, but at least I got somewhere. Over the years, I have found odd/similar unexplained anomalies that come and go without warning. I'm considering--for critical formula/data... to see if I should/can write some verification formulas; to flag cells that are not updating... and hardest part is to recreate ore preserve the error mode,--thus very difficult to get anyone in IT to investigate--I needed my data, so I didn't have time to wait for IT.

  20. Please fix my formula
    =COUNTIFS(DIS!B:B,{"Taimani","chaman","Khushalkhan"},DIS!E:E,{"Group Loan","GMRB"},DIS!F:F,{"Trade","Trade SS"})

  21. Thank you for your cooperation. This was very helpful for me.
    Have a nice day!

  22. I used this formula =HYPERLINK(INDIRECT(C3)) in cell d5 while c3 contain Sheet8! A4, but while i click on d5 it show error "cannot open the specified file" but while i click fx in formula bar it take to desired link place.

    Please help

  23. Query..
    I copied data from Power point
    Data pasted in excel sheet
    The data pasted in excel sheet in each cell after the value the one extra space is been showing,
    Because of this extra space the sum value cannot be calculated.

    For example.
    "30.5 "
    It should be only "30.5" no space required after the 5..

    How to solve this problem.????
    General done, number format done, trim formula used, find replace doesn't work..

  24. If your date is not possible, formulas won't work. For example, 11/31/2020 can be entered into a cell but it will result in a calculation error until updated to 11/30/2020. Only 30 days in November. Spent about a 20 minutes on that particular typo.

  25. Thank you!

  26. Thanks so much, very helpful!

  27. I have followed the instructions for a complex number format, e.g. COMPLEX(real part, imaginary part), in my Mac version 16.20, but Excel does not recognize that format. Any suggestions?

  28. Thanks a lot, quite useful! Specifically the point about formula "entered as text"

  29. Column A Column B
    Inv No. PC How Can I get the answer on column B by using
    Excel Formula
    18JH42A330EN00710076 A330
    18JH42A330EN00720077 A330
    18JH44A330RT00720086 A330
    18CH2S011S0047 S011
    18JK2T007G0111 T007
    18TN2O004G0280 O004
    18PM080154WB0648 PM08
    18P055N0365WB117 P055
    18A377C0531KA025 A377

  30. Thanks a lot

  31. Thank you for this! Very comprehensive list of things to check. My issue was that the formula was entered as text!

  32. I saved an excel file in dropbox so I cam access it at my home computer and as well as in the office. When I open the file in my home computer the formulas are all working perfectly but when I open it in the office and I change the value included in the data range, the formula then returns O. What should I do?

  33. I get this formula on the end all on "0".
    Being using it for months and then I saw it does not work.
    I also check all possibilities provided and tis buffels event expert in the field.
    What must I try next. I am stuck.

    mathem2 10 1.7 0-20% 0
    mhlongt6 11 1.8 20-40% 0
    rikhotn1 11 1.8 40-60% 0
    khumalz5 2 0.3 60-80% 0
    dladlabs 2 0.3 80-100% 0
    mtengws 8 1.3 >100% 0

  34. regret to inform you that i could not upload any workbook for reference. Pls help with the excel formula

    Salary Range
    Age 15-25 26-35 36-45
    18-25 1 2 4
    26-30 3 5 5
    31-35 4 81 1
    36-40 6 8 2

    Require excel formula when the age and salary is written the corresponding value with the range data of the table gets displayed in "Output"


    Age 29
    Sal 29

    Output 5

  35. Thanks helped

  36. when I do my spreadsheet, 25+22 = 47 but it shows ######

  37. That was very helpful. Thank you

  38. I use the SUP function in excel 2013 it was working well but at the end of the table is no longer give me the results, the cell still empty.

  39. Dear Sir, for 2 months i had small problem in Automatic sum Calculation, Today i rectified by your guiding,Thankyou

  40. Nope. All three of the above have been checked. Still doesn't calc. I have a formula in every cell in a column. I'ts a lookup. The key (cell keying the lookup) is formatted as number in both the source and target. No space exists before the formula. The formula is NUMBER. I updated the lookup array, and changed the lookup range for the top row - and the formula fails to execute FOR THAT ROW. If I copy the cell below to the cell that won't execute, it executes. If I then change the range of the lookup, it stops executing. If I change it back... it won't execute. I have copy/pasted values, re-formatted, entered a number in another sheet and copied formatting, etc. Same results: Formula won't calculate. And, if I copy paste from the cell immediately below at any time -it calculates. Change the range ($a$2:$a$6226 to $a$2:$a:6554) it doesn't calculate. If I manually change it BACK to 6226.... it STILL doesn't calculate.

    • I am having the same problem....

  41. My excel spreadsheet won't accept a formula with the "&" in it. For example =A1+A2&" OK" and if A1=1 and A2=2 then the result should be 3 OK.
    This same formula works in another spreadsheet but in the spreadsheet I am work on it gives the result VALUE.
    Why does it work in one spreadsheet but not another?

  42. When I enter the formula"IF(C7=0,(B7-C7)/1),((B7-C7)/C7)) . The field is formatted for %. I get the wrong result for certain situations - for instance, if the number in C7=0 and the number in B7 is 2, the result s/b -200%, but comes back as 100%. What am I missing?

  43. Thanks!!!! Its very helpful.

  44. Hi all, i'm using excel for mac. currently when i am trying to build a formula, pressing "=" then selecting a cell, the cell becomes highlighted in the formula bar, so when I enter "+", the cell is overwritten by the "+" sign.

  45. I seem to be doing everything right, but Excel has suddenly stopped correct logical answers. It was working OK before, but changed about a day ago. If E4 = 21 Jun 19 and T2 -30 Jun 19, the formula =IF($E4>T2,"1","0") should return a value of 0. However, it is returning a value of 1. The cell formatting is 'General'. If I copy each cell without a global reference (ie use =IF(E4>T2,"1","0"), then it returns the correct value. However, I cannot do this; first off because it would defeat the purpose of using a tool like Excel and secondly, I would have to do it for thousands (yes thousands) of cells.

  46. I am looking for some help. I am trying to create a formula that give me a total of a cell that has a subtotal calculated times an amount minus 2 other cells minus that amount. I keep getting an error. This is what I have currently: =(G45*0.065)-[(H32,H33)(*065)]. Any ideas?

  47. Here's a helpful hint for Not Calculating item #3: Check to see if there is an invisible character before the equal sign by using the delete and backspace keys a few times.

  48. i have a problem in the below formula. its working fine for 4th month, and for 5th month its not working at all even though there is a data for it.

    if('CFD Ads'!$C:$C=month(today()),countifs('CFD Ads'!$D:$D,A38,'CFD Ads'!$I:$I,"99 Acres"),"")

    The same formula was working fine till yesterday(i mean for april), and from today (may) its not working

  49. Thanku formula it's working

  50. I have created a formula that works well. However, I get my data from a downloaded excel file. When I paste it into my spreadsheet and run my formulas they give an incorrect result. But, when I double click into the cell and then click out of it, it updates correctly. When I look at the number formats for the cell before clicking into it, it shows the same value for every selection. How do I fix without having to click each cell independently?

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