Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Tracing Errors.

Tracing Errors

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated August 22, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


Suppose you have a worksheet in which there is an error (such as #VALUE! or #DIV/0! or #NUM! or any number of other errors), but you are not quite sure what caused it. As you may know, this is not that odd of an occurrence. It is possible (and sometimes common) to have a single error propagated throughout an entire worksheet. If you don't know where the error is coming from, the easiest way to find out is to let Excel help you.

If a cell contains an error value, notice that the upper-left corner of the cell has a small green triangle in it. If you select the cell, an information tool tip appears near this green triangle. When you click on the tool tip you see a menu that includes several different helpful suggestions, including an option to Trace Error. If you choose this option, you get an arrow pointing from the cell that contains the original error.

You should note that you can use the Trace Error auditing tool only to track down the source of obvious error conditions, meaning those that display an error condition such as #NA or #NAME. Subtle errors, such as adding together the wrong values or using the wrong function, cannot be detected by Excel and must be tracked down manually.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8350) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Tracing Errors.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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