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: Uncovering and Removing Links.

Uncovering and Removing Links

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 27, 2018)


It can be frustrating to open an Excel file and be continually asked if you want to update linked information, particularly if you are not sure what information is linked. If you want to get rid of links in a workbook, there are several things to try.

First, choose Edit Links on the Data tab of the ribbon, if the option is available. (It will only be available if Excel recognizes explicit links in the workbook.) From the resulting Links dialog box you cannot delete links, but you can change the links so that they point to the current workbook. When you later save and again open your workbook, Excel will recognize the self-referential links and delete them.

Another way you can find links is to search for either the left bracket ([) or right bracket (]) in your workbook. The brackets are used by Excel when putting together the links to other files. For instance, this is a link to an external file, as it would appear in a cell:


When you find links similar to the above, all you need to do is delete them. Make sure that you search each worksheet in your workbook.

Another place to look for links is in the defined range names maintained by Excel. This is a particularly common place for links if you are working with a workbook that contains worksheets copied or moved from other locations. The defined names, rather than pointing to a cell range in the current workbook, could be pointing to a range in a different workbook. Click the Name Manager tool on the Formulas tab of the ribbon, then step through each defined name, examining the address to which it refers. Delete or change any that refer to other workbooks.

Another place to check is your macros. It is possible to assign macros to graphics in a worksheet. Click on any graphics and see if you get an error. If you do, this is a good indication that the graphic is linked to a macro contained in a different file. If you delete the graphic, or change the macro assignment, the link problem should go away.

Still another possible location for wayward links is in PivotTables. When you create a PivotTable, it can refer to data on a different worksheet in your workbook. If you later move that source worksheet to a different workbook, your PivotTable will be linked to the external data source. The only solution here is to delete the PivotTable, copy the source data back to the current workbook, or move the PivotTable to the external workbook.

Finally, you should check graphs and charts. If you recently moved worksheets out of your current workbook into another workbook, it is possible that charts and graphs remaining in your current workbook now refer to data on a worksheet you moved to another workbook. If this is the case, you will need to either remove the graph or chart, move it to the other workbook, or copy the source data back into the current workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11890) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Uncovering and Removing Links.

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. ...


Understanding the If ... End If Structure

One of the most basic of programming structures is the conditional structure: If ... End If. This tip explains how this ...

Discover More

Copying the Results of Filtering

Filtering is a great asset when you need to get a handle on a subset of your data. Excel even makes it easy to copy the ...

Discover More

Moving Headings to the Next Page

Word provides a few ways you can adjust pagination to accommodate where you want your headings to appear. If you want ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

How Many Rows and Columns Have I Selected?

Want a quick way to tell how may rows and columns you've selected? Here's what I do when I need to know that information.

Discover More

Deleting Rows before a Cutoff Date

If you are using Excel to work with data that is date-centered, you may want to delete some of the data before a specific ...

Discover More

Selecting Noncontiguous Ranges with the Keyboard

It's easy to select non-contiguous ranges using the mouse, but may seem more daunting if you are simply using the ...

Discover More

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

View most recent newsletter.


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 five less than 8?

2018-02-27 10:58:12

Gary Lundblad

Like the Original Elmo, I have links listed in the Edit Links box, but when I click on them and select "Break Link," as I have done successfully in the past, nothing happens. I've searched my workbook for brackets, but unfortunately it is a large workbook and found over 3,000 brackets. This workbook has a lot of tables with formulas in them, and table references use brackets. I looked in my named ranges, and none of them are referencing another workbook. I've searched in data validation and conditional formatting, and nothing. Would there be a macro that might list all formulas, including their cell addresses, that might work?

Thank you!


2018-02-27 08:52:43


Useful tip. Now I know why I have not been able to resolve several links issues through the Data Links dialog.

2018-02-27 08:14:28


Links can annoyingly also be range names. If you move a sheet to a new book you bring the range names and excel won't process the step of breaking links if the names are there. The unfortunate part is that some names are visible through the menu (Formulas | Name Manger) and others are hidden unless listed by code. When hidden, the menu step of breaking links in formulas might not get processed--eg you can never get the Edit Links to grey out and there is no workbook listed.

2018-02-27 07:15:00


You can hit Cntrl ~ and the entire worksheet is converted to formulas. You can easily look for links if the worksheet is a reasonable size

2018-02-27 07:01:44


Not sure I understand the statement about not being able to break the links. I use that regularly and it ALWAYS solves the problem ... and once the link broken it won't re-appear in the links dialog ...

2016-01-26 14:00:19

The Original Elmo

The article states, "When you find links similar to the above, all you need to do is delete them." Well, when I'm in the "Edit Links" menu, there is no option to delete the link. And "breaking" the link doesn't appear to do anything. ??

2014-09-29 14:30:58


References to other spreadsheets can also occur in conditional formats and validations

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

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.