How to Remove Circular Reference in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

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By Matthew Simpson

Circular references in Excel can be quite a headache, can’t they? They occur when a formula refers back to its own cell, either directly or indirectly, causing Excel to get stuck in an infinite loop. But fear not, with a few simple steps, you can remove that pesky circular reference and get back to smooth sailing with your spreadsheets.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Remove Circular Reference in Excel

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s understand what these steps will do. Following these instructions will help you locate and eliminate the circular reference, ensuring that your Excel formulas work correctly without any errors.

Step 1: Identify the Circular Reference

First things first, you need to find out where the circular reference is located in your spreadsheet.

When Excel detects a circular reference, it typically displays a warning message with the cell address. Take note of this address because that’s where you’ll need to start your fix.

Step 2: Remove or Edit the Circular Reference

Now that you know where the problem is, it’s time to get rid of it.

Go to the cell that was indicated in the warning message. Examine the formula in that cell and look for any instance where it might be referring to its own cell address. You can either remove this reference or change it to refer to a different cell.

Step 3: Confirm the Removal

Finally, let’s make sure that circular reference is gone for good.

After you’ve removed or edited the circular reference, check to see if the warning message disappears. If it does, congratulations! You’ve successfully removed the circular reference. If not, repeat the steps until all circular references are resolved.

Once you complete these actions, your Excel spreadsheet should be free of circular references. You’ll be able to use your formulas without any errors popping up, and your calculations should run smoothly.

Tips: Removing Circular Reference in Excel

  • Always double-check your formulas before pressing enter to avoid creating circular references in the first place.
  • If you have a large spreadsheet, use the "Error Checking" feature in Excel to quickly locate circular references.
  • Remember that circular references can be indirect, so the error might not be in an obvious place.
  • Be cautious when copying and pasting formulas, as this can sometimes create circular references.
  • If you’re struggling to find the circular reference, try breaking down complex formulas into smaller, simpler ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a circular reference in Excel?

A circular reference occurs when a formula refers back to its own cell, either directly or indirectly, causing Excel to get stuck in a loop.

Can a circular reference cause any damage to my data?

While a circular reference won’t corrupt your data, it will prevent Excel from performing calculations correctly, which can lead to inaccurate results.

How do I know if my spreadsheet has a circular reference?

Excel will typically display a warning message with the address of the cell that contains the circular reference.

Can I use circular references intentionally in Excel?

Yes, it’s possible to use circular references intentionally, but it requires careful planning and the enabling of iterative calculations in Excel settings.

Is there a way to prevent circular references in Excel?

Being meticulous with your formulas and double-checking them before execution can significantly reduce the likelihood of creating circular references.


  1. Identify the Circular Reference
  2. Remove or Edit the Circular Reference
  3. Confirm the Removal


There you have it! Removing circular references in Excel might seem daunting at first, but with a little patience and attention to detail, you can resolve them with ease. Remember to always double-check your work and use the tools at your disposal, like Excel’s "Error Checking" feature, to help you spot any problems early on. And don’t forget, while Excel is a powerful tool, it’s not infallible—mistakes happen, and that’s okay! The important thing is knowing how to fix them and learning from the process. Keep experimenting, keep learning, and soon enough, you’ll be navigating Excel like a pro. Happy spreadsheeting!