Excel Formula Errors – Understand and Debug Them
“Trial and Error” has to be the most effective ways to learn something new. Most of the stuff I learned in my life is through that. Be it insurance or excel or programming. My learning has always gone up when I make a mistake. I am sure most you agree with me…
#DIV/0! Formula Error
This is the easiest of all. When you divide something with 0, you see this error. For eg. a cell with the formula =23/0 would return in this error.
How to fix #DIV/0 error?
Simple, do not divide the value by Zero. You know the answer anyway.
#NAME? Formula Error
The most common reason why you see this error is because you misspelled a formula or named range. For eg. if you write =summa(a1:a10) in a cell, it would return #NAME? error. There are few other reasons why this can happen. If you forget to close a text in double quotes or omit the range operator :. All these examples should return #NAME? error. =sum(range1, UNDEFIED_RANGE_NAME), =sum(a1a10)
How to fix #NAME? Error?
- Make sure you have mentioned the correct formula name. If you are using excel 2007, when you are typing the formula excel shows all the matched formulas. In earlier versions of excel, if you use correct formulas, they will be automatically capitalized. For eg. if you type =sum(1,2,3) in a cell and press enter, it will be changed to =SUM(1,2,3). You can use this feedback to correct formulas.
- Make sure you have defined all the named ranges you are using in the formula.
- Make sure any user defined functions you are using are properly installed.
- Double check the ranges and string parameters in your formulas.
#N/A Formula Error
This is one of the frequent errors you see while using vlookup formula. The N/A error is shown when some data is missing, or inappropriate arguments are passed to the lookup functions (vlookup, hlookup etc.) of if the list is not sorted and you are trying to lookup using sort option. You can also generate a #N/A error by writing =NA() in a cell.
How to fix #N/A error?
Make sure you wrap the lookup functions with some error handling mechanism. For eg. if you are not sure the value you are looking is available, you can write something like =if(iserror(vlookup(…)),”not found”,vlookup(…)). This will print “not found” whenever the vlookup returns any error (including #N/A)
#NULL! Formula Error
This is rare error. When you use incorrect range operators often you get this error. For eg. the formula =SUM(D30:D32 C31:C33) returns a #NULL! error because there is no seperator between range 1 and range2.
How to fix the #NULL! error?
Make sure you have mentioned the ranges properly.
#NUM! Formula Error
This is number error that you see when your formula returns a value bigger than what excel can represent. You will also get this error if you are using iterative functions like IRR and the function cannot find any result. For eg. the formula =4389^7E+37 returns a #NUM! error.
How to fix #NUM! error?
Simple, make your numbers smaller or provide right starting values to your iterative formulas.
#REF! Formula Error
This is one of the most common error messages you see when you fiddle with a worksheet full of formulas. You get #REF! error when one of the formula parameters is pointing to an invalid range. This can happen because you deleted the cells. For eg. try to write a sum forumla like =SUM(A1:A10, B1:B10, C1:C10) and then delete the column C. Immediately the sum formula returns #REF! error.
How to fix the #REF! error?
First press ctrl+Z and undo the actions you have performed. And then rethink if there is a better way to write the formula or perform the action (deleting cells).
#VALUE! Formula Error
Value error is shown when you use text parameters to a function that accepts numbers. For eg. the formula =SUM(“ab”,”cd”) returns #VALUE! error.
How to fix the #VALUE! error?
Make sure your formula parameters have correct data types. If you are using functions that work on numbers (like sum, sumproduct etc.) then the parameters should be numbers.
You see a cell full of # symbols when the contents cannot fit in the cell. For eg. a long number like 2339432094394 entered in a small cell will show ####s. Also, you see the ###### when you format negative numbers as dates.
How to fix the ###### error?
Simple, adjust the column width. And if the error is due to negative dates, make them positive.
Further Reading on Excel Formula Debugging
Learn to work with Circular References – Tutorial on Generating Timestamps
Tell me how you debug formulas? What is the most common error you get?
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