Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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 June 8, 2018)

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, 2013, and 2016. 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

Protecting an Entire Workbook

Want to stop other people from making unauthorized changes to your workbook? Excel provides a way that you can protect ...

Discover More

Printing Summary Information

Word automatically maintains a number of properties for each document you create. As part of those properties you can ...

Discover More

Applying the All Caps Format

Want your text to always appear in uppercase, regardless of how you type it? Word allows you to add formatting to your ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Referencing the Last Six Items in a Formula

If you have a list of data in a column, you may want to determine an average of whatever the last few items are in the ...

Discover More

Using Named Formulas Across Workbooks

You can use the naming capabilities of Excel to name both ranges and formulas. Accessing that named information in a ...

Discover More

Listing Combinations

You can easily use the COMBIN worksheet function to determine the number of combinations that can be made from a given ...

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 3 - 3?

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.