Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 5, 2016)

2

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, and 2013. 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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Hiding Grammar Errors

Are you bothered by the green underlines that Word uses to mark potential grammar errors in your document? You can hide those ...

Discover More

Friendly and Informative Error Handling

When creating macros, it is helpful to know what is going on within the macro itself in case an error crops up. Here's one ...

Discover More

Altering the Displayed Format of Numbers to the Nearest 100

Want information in a worksheet to be formatted and displayed as rounded to a power of ten? You may be out of luck, unless ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Retrieving the Last Value in a Column

Need to get at the last value in a column, regardless of how many cells are used within that column? You can apply the ...

Discover More

Identifying Values that Don't Follow a Specific Pattern

When you store textual information in a worksheet, it can be helpful to figure out if that information follows a pattern that ...

Discover More

Returning the Smallest Non-Zero Value

In a series of values you may need to know the smallest value that isn't a zero. There is no built-in function to do this, ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is two less than 2?

2017-01-18 19:10:18

James Smith

Hi,

Thanks for the tip, but is there some way to show the cells where an actual error occurs (say, actually divide something by 0 in that cell) as opposed to all cells that link indirectly to a cell with a real error.


2016-08-05 13:26:04

David A. Gray

I hoped this tip would discuss at some length the awkward, yet powerful, Trace Precedents and Trace Dependents tools, and that I might thereby learn something that would make them easier to use. I was pretty disappointed by what I found, although I absolutely recognize that the provided information is extremely useful if it is new to you.


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.