How to Find Circular References in Microsoft Excel

Unearth circular references disrupting your Excel spreadsheets. Learn how to find and fix them manually or automatically!

This guide shows you how to Find Circular References in Microsoft Excel. To get correct calculations and stop infinite loops in Microsoft Excel, you need to find and fix circular references. A dependency loop is made when a formula links back to its own cell, either directly or indirectly. This is called a circular reference.

Finding these loops is important for keeping the structure of the spreadsheet. You can find Excel’s built-in tool for finding circle references on the “Formulas” tab, which is located under “Formula Auditing.” Users can quickly find these troublesome cells by choosing “Circular References” from the dropdown menu. Once they are found, fixing circular references means changing formulas, rearranging data, or adding repeated calculation settings to Excel’s options.

By fixing circular references, Excel users make sure that their spreadsheets are reliable and work properly, keeping data correct and avoiding math mistakes. A good way to handle spreadsheets and analyse data in Excel is to check for and fix circular references on a regular basis. For more information, please visit the official website.

How to Find Circular References in Microsoft Excel

  1. Our sheet has two examples that go in a circle. (A3) and one (D2, C5, and F4) that are not straight circular references.
  2. To change the error checking setting, click the down arrow next to it on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group.
  3. Click on References in a Circle. Excel writes down the address of one circle reference in a cell.
  4. You can check the progress bar too. It’s better this way.
  5. Get rid of this pointless remark.
  6. To change the error checking setting, click the down arrow next to it on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group.
  7. Click on References in a Circle. Excel shows the names of the cells that have an indirect circular reference.
  8. There is only one cell address shown in the progress bar.

Understanding Circular References

A circular reference in Excel occurs when a formula directly or indirectly references its own cell, creating an infinite loop. This can lead to several issues, including:

  • Incorrect calculations: The cell’s value keeps recalculating, never reaching a stable result.
  • Slow performance: Excel tries to resolve the loop, causing the spreadsheet to run sluggishly.
  • Error messages: You might encounter the error message “#REF!” or see unexpected results in the affected cell.
How to Find Circular References in Microsoft Excel

Here’s a breakdown of the types of circular references:

  1. Direct Circular Reference: This is the simplest type, where a formula directly refers to its own cell. For example, entering =A1+A1 in cell A1 creates a direct circular reference.
  2. Indirect Circular Reference: This occurs when a chain of formulas creates a loop. Imagine cell A1 references B1, B1 references C1, and C1 references back to A1. This forms an indirect loop.
  3. Hidden Circular References: These can be tricky to identify, as they involve hidden cell references or named ranges that create the loop indirectly.

Common Errors and Pitfalls to Avoid

Entering data and setting it up:

  • Putting text and numbers in the same column is not a good idea. This can make it hard to do maths and sort things correctly.
  • Inconsistent Formatting: To keep things clear and avoid confusion, organise similar data in the same way every time (for example, use dates and currencies).
  • Ignoring Headers: To make things easier to understand and keep track of, label your columns with clear, detailed headers.

Formulas and How They Work:

  • Incorrect Formulas: Make sure your formulas refer to the right cells and double-check them for typos and grammar mistakes.
  • Copying and Pasting Mistakes: When you copy formulas, make sure that the cell references match where they are now.
  • Ignoring Error Messages: You shouldn’t ignore error messages because they often mean that there are problems with your data or methods. Learn how to understand and talk to them.

Advanced Techniques for Resolving Circular References

Calculations Over and Over:

  • Turn on iterative calculation. This lets Excel do numbers over and over again until a certain convergence condition is met.
  • Set the following: Set the maximum steps (how many times Excel recalculates) and the maximum change (the smallest change in value that is considered important) to stop endless loops and make sure that calculations are correct.

Set goals:

  • Set a Goal Find the input number that will cause the output you want in a cell that has a circular reference.
  • This method works well when you know what you want to happen and need to change a specific math input to make it happen.

Add-in for Solver:

  • You can solve optimisation problems, even ones with circular references, with the Solver add-in.
  • Set the goal (the target cell and the result you want), the decision variables (the cells with the formulas that can be changed), and the conditions (the limits on the variables).


How do you find a circular reference in Excel that Cannot be listed?

Go to the Formulas tab. In the Formula Editing group, click on the drop-down icon that looks like a little arrow going down on the right. Then, move your mouse over the Circular References option. It will show you the worksheet box that has a reference that goes around twice.

How do I find my circular reference?

Click the button next to Error Checking on the Formulas tab and point to Circular References. That’s where the last circle reference that was entered is shown. If you click on the cell that says “Circular References,” Excel will take you right to that cell.

What is an example of a circular reference?

If you use a circular reference in your math and get the wrong result, Excel will show you an error message called “Circular Reference.” It’s an example of a circular reference if we write =B1*5 in cell B1. This is because we used the cell reference to B1 itself inside cell B1.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
The Bollyinside editorial staff is made up of tech experts with more than 10 years of experience Led by Sumit Chauhan. We started in 2014 and now Bollyinside is a leading tech resource, offering everything from product reviews and tech guides to marketing tips. Think of us as your go-to tech encyclopedia!


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