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: Pasting without Updating References.

Pasting without Updating References

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 2, 2016)

4

As you are working on a worksheet, copying and moving information from one place to another, you may wonder if there is a way to copy or move a selection without Excel changing all the references within the selection. The answer, of course, is that it depends. (Don't you just love that about Excel?) Let's take a look at how you can both copy and move selections in Excel.

If you are copying a selection, then Excel will update all relative references within the selection when you paste it. The solution is to make sure that all the references within the selection are absolute before doing the copy and paste. Making the changes to the formulas by hand is tedious. You can use the following macro to convert all the formulas in the selection to their absolute equivalent:

Sub ConvertToAbsolute()
    Dim c As Variant
    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    For Each c In Selection
        c.Value = Application.ConvertFormula(c.Formula, _
          xlA1, , xlAbsolute)
    Next c
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

Once this macro is run, you can copy and paste the selection without Excel doing any updating to references. Once the pasting is done, you can change the references in the selection (and in the original range, if it still exists) by selecting the range and applying this macro:

Sub ConvertToRelative()
    Dim c As Variant
    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    For Each c In Selection
        c.Value = Application.ConvertFormula(c.Formula, _
          xlA1, , xlRelative, c)
    Next c
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

This macro will change all formulas in the selected range to their relative equivalent. Remember that this will affect all formulas—which means that if the formulas in the range contained both relative and absolute references, then they will all be relative when this macro is done.

If you are moving a selection, then Excel does not update cell references in the move. You can move either by selecting the range and using the keyboard (pressing Ctrl+X to cut and then Ctrl+V to paste the selection) or the mouse (dragging the selection to a new location). In either case, Excel leaves the references in the selection exactly the same—relative or not—without updating.

So far I have discussed what Excel does with the references in the selection being copied or moved. What about references to the information in the selection? If you are copying, then Excel leaves references pointing to the original range. If you are moving a selection, then Excel updates references to that selection, regardless of whether they are relative or absolute. If you don't want the information updated during a move, then the solution is to make a copy of the range and then delete the original.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11804) 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: Pasting without Updating References.

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

Assigning a Macro to a Shortcut Key

Do you have a macro that you use frequently? Using the File menu to access the macro can be time consuming. This tip ...

Discover More

Exporting a Graphics Group

Need to export a graphics group from a chart so that you can use the group in a different program? It's not as easy as ...

Discover More

Pictures inside Shapes

Filling one of Excel's drawing shapes with a picture of your choosing is a neat trick. Here's how to do it.

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)

Defeating Date Parsing when Pasting Information

Paste information directly into a worksheet, and you may be surprised that Excel makes some of the data unusable. This ...

Discover More

Forcing Editing to Be Done in a Cell

Excel allows you to edit your cell contents in two places. What if you want to limit where editing occurs, so it can only ...

Discover More

Symbols Convert to Numbers in Excel

Insert a symbol into a cell, and it should stay there, right? What if the symbol changes to another character, such as a ...

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 eight more than 6?

2016-04-05 04:36:25

Gerhard

What about using ASAP Utilities? Works for me (here too)


2016-04-05 03:38:14

Henri

I often use "replace"(Ctrl-H) for this.

Just replace the "="-character in the formulas to be copied by an unused string (zzz or something). All formulas are converted into text.

Copy the text-formulas to the desired destination and replace the "zzz" by an "="


2016-04-02 12:50:01

Mike

If you copy the formula while in edit mode, press enter, then paste the results to the desired destination; it will be exactly like the original, including relative and absolute references.

Of course this only works for one cell at a time.


2016-04-02 10:39:49

Chris Finn

I had occasion to make several copies of a 9 x 9 cell block when devising a spread-sheet to do the 'drudge' bit of Sudoku. I needed the cell references to be unchanged in the copies, but other parts of the formulae were to be amended.

I found a simple way: I Copied the block around 20 columns across. (This of course amended the cell references, but see later). I then Moved the result down by a suitable number of rows. (Moving does not alter the cell references, as we know).

Finally I 'Copied back' the moved block of cells the same number of Columns as at first had been copied across, which restored the cell references to match the originals.

Obviously the rows and the columns in the above description can be interchanged.


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.