Error Generated when Trying to Copy a Worksheet

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 8, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


When Edward right-clicks on the intersection point between the row headers and the column headers, Excel selects the entirety of all the columns and rows and displays a Context menu. If he chooses Copy from the Context menu, Edward gets an error message that "Excel cannot complete this task with available resources. Choose less data or close other applications." This problem comes up even if he tries this on a blank worksheet. Edward can copy individual columns or rows, but not the entirety of them. He wonders what is causing this problem, even on blank worksheets.

The cause of the problem is that Excel, when copying cells, needs to store information about those cells to the Clipboard. This occurs even in the case of cells that are blank. When you select all the cells in workbook and then choose to copy them, you are copying information on over 17 billion cells to the Clipboard—16,384 columns multiplied by 1,948,576 rows. That's a lot of data, even for blank cells! Unless your system has lots and lots of memory available, this method of copying just won't work.

If your objective is to copy an entire worksheet, there is a much simpler way to do it. Just right-click on the worksheet's tab and choose Move or Copy. Excel displays a dialog box that allows you to specify how you want to make the copy, including the ability to copy the worksheet to a new workbook. The benefit to this approach is that Excel treats the worksheet as a whole, single unit rather than dealing with over 17 billion individual units (cells). It also does the copy without utilizing the Clipboard, which means it is less reliant on memory available in your system.

If you do want to copy cells, then the best way to that is to select cell A1 and then press Shift+Ctrl+End. This selects all the cells currently being used in the workbook. Provided you have enough memory in your system, you should be able to copy those (Ctrl+C) and paste them where you would like.

Finally, there is one other consideration to keep in mind—there are limits to what you can do with the memory in your system. Even if your system has a boatload of memory, what you are able to do in Excel will depend on the demands placed on that memory by other programs you may have running on the system. In other words, if you have a lot of programs running on your system, it will limit your ability to perform memory-intensive tasks within Excel.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13856) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.

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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What is 9 - 3?

2021-05-13 12:09:01

Mike Hodkinson

Just to say - 16,384 columns multiplied by 1,948,576 rows

Nope only 1,048,576 rows in a sheet NOT 1,948,576 please correct typo

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