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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Understanding and Fixing Circular References in Excel


Excel is an effective tool for financial modeling, calculations, and data analysis. However, if your spreadsheets get more complicated, you could run into circular references, which can lead to calculations going wrong. Circular references will be defined, their detection in Excel, and the advantages of eliminating them for precise and effective data analysis will all be covered in this article. Let;s discuss about how to find circular reference in excel

Understanding Circular References

Circular references happen when a formula depends on another formula that ultimately refers back to the original cell or refers to its own cell. As a result, Excel’s calculation becomes stuck in a loop and produces inaccurate results.

Using Excel to Find Circular References

A built-in tool in Excel can be used to spot circular references. Here’s where to look for them:

  1. Launch Excel: Open the workbook you wish to investigate in Microsoft Excel.
  2. To enable iterative calculations, click the “File” tab, then pick “Options,” and finally click “Formulas.” Activate the checkbox next to “Enable iterative calculation.”
  3. View Circular References: Microsoft Excel will now show a warning that there are circular references present. To display the circular reference in the formula bar, click on the cell reference labeled “Circular References” in the error message.

How to Eliminate Circular References

You have a number of choices for resolving circular references:

  1. Modify Formulas: Check the formulas to make sure no loops are created. Remove any references that are repeated in the formulas.
  2. Make Use of Iterative Calculation: If iterative calculation is enabled, Excel will recalculate the formulas until a predetermined threshold is achieved, eliminating the circular reference.
  3. Break the circular link by locating the circular reference chain, then end the loop by altering a cell value or formula.

Advantages of Eliminating Circular References

  1. Reliable Results: By removing circular references from your calculations, you make sure that the conclusions drawn from them are true and accurate.
  2. Prevent Calculation Errors: Excel may freeze or crash if circular references are used. These calculation errors are avoided by solving them.
  3. Circular references should be eliminated in order to improve your spreadsheet’s performance and response time.
  4. Enhanced Data Analysis: For data analysis to produce greater insights and well-informed choices, accurate calculations are crucial.


Complex Excel spreadsheets frequently fall victim to circular references, but finding and fixing them is essential for precise data analysis and speedy calculations. Excel’s built-in tools can help you identify circular references, and you can fix formulas or disable loops by enabling iterative computation. 

Resolving circular references helps your overall data analysis process by ensuring accurate results, preventing calculation errors, and improving spreadsheet efficiency. You will be well-equipped to develop effective and error-free Excel workbooks for a variety of business and personal applications after you have mastered the discipline of spotting and eliminating circular references.

Frequently asked questions

How do I tell if a reference in my Excel sheet is circular?

When Excel meets a circular reference in a cell, it automatically recognizes it and shows a warning message. The circular reference is present, and the cell(s) implicated in the loop are both mentioned in the warning message.

Can I search across big Excel spreadsheets for circular references?

Yes, Excel’s built-in circular reference detection performs well even when a workbook is large and has many sheets and intricate calculations. Anywhere it encounters a loop, it will display the circular reference warning.

If Excel finds a circular reference, what should I do?

If Excel discovers a circular reference, analyze the formulas involved and make the necessary changes to close the loop. To fix the problem, you can alter the formulas, perform iterative calculations, or cut the circular loop.

How can I allow Excel to perform iterative calculations?

Excel users can activate iterative computation by clicking the “File” tab, selecting “Options,” and then selecting “Formulas.” To control the calculation procedure, choose the “Enable iterative calculation” checkbox and then specify the maximum iterations and change.

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