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: Editing PivotTables without Underlying Data.

Editing PivotTables without Underlying Data

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 30, 2014)

Stephen works with workbooks that originate with other people in his company. These workbooks regularly have PivotTables in them. It seems that Stephen cannot edit some of the PivotTables, instead getting an error message that says the "underlying data was not included." This is a bit confusing, since Stephen received the entire workbook.

Normally this error occurs not when the underlying data is not present in the workbook, but when the underlying data cache is not saved with the PivotTable. This is usually done in an attempt to create a smaller file when the workbook is saved.

In order to edit the PivotTable, try simply refreshing the data (right-click the table and choose Refresh Data). If this doesn't work, or if you want to eliminate the message entirely, then you can follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the PivotTable. Excel displays a Context menu.
  2. Click PivotTable Options. Excel displays the PivotTable Options dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Data tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Data tab of the PivotTable Options dialog box.

  5. Make sure the Save Source Data with File option is selected.
  6. Click OK.

You should note that when this option is selected, the file size of your workbook can be significantly larger than if the option is not selected. This is a tradeoff, however, as the PivotTable should display quicker since it is working with the data in the cache.

If these techniques don't work, it could be because the underlying data for the PivotTable really isn't in the workbook. If you poke around in the workbook and cannot find the data, then it could be that the data was being pulled from an external source—outside of Excel. If this is the case (you will need to check with the PivotTable's author to verify this) and if the PivotTable options have been set to not save the cache, as previously described, then you won't be able to make edits.

If you determine that this is the case with your situation, then you'll need to have the original author again generate the PivotTable and make sure that the Save Source Data with File option is checked.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10089) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Editing PivotTables without Underlying Data.

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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