How to find Errors in Excel

Updated on: March 21, 2023

Even though Excel can be an accurate software, errors can still occur, and these errors can have severe consequences. That is why finding and correcting them before screwing everything up along your worksheet is essential.

With the right tools and techniques, you can easily detect and fix everything to ensure accurate calculations in your spreadsheet. This article contains the top 5 ways you will learn about how to find errors in Microsoft Excel!

Keep reading so you can unlock the potential of your data by finding and fixing errors with these Excel tips and tricks!

Use the Formula Auditing Toolbar: 

“Formula Auditing Toolbar” is a group tool that provides several tools for reviewing formulas, including Trace Precedents, Trace Dependents, and Evaluate Formulas. These tools help you understand the relationship between cells and trace errors in your operations. You can access them by following these steps:

  • First, go to the "Formulas" tab in the ribbon at the top of the screen.
  • Click on the "Formula Auditing" button in the "Formula Auditing" group. This button looks like a small arrow pointing to the right with a star on it.
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And there you go! With the Formula Auditing Toolbar, you can trace the relationships between cells, step through calculating a formula, and identify potential errors.

Use the Error Checking Option: 

The Error Checking option can detect errors in your formulas and provide suggested corrections. 

Note: Usually, when there is an error along your spreadsheet, the cell will have a small triangle in the top left corner. So when you click on it, a warning icon will appear.

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This option is within the “Formula Auditing” group tools. So when you click on it, Excel will automatically go to the first error on your worksheet. Then it will show you a dialog box with the resume of what’s wrong with that cell.

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Afterward, you can review the error message and select one of the options to correct the error, such as "Help on this error" or "Ignore Error," among others. However, when you click on the “Resume” button, Excel will help you with an automated solution that may help you. If you agree with that, simply click on it.

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Notice that, If you choose "Help on this error," Excel will display a help topic that explains the error and offers suggestions for how to fix it.

Then, when the cell looks good, you must click "OK" to close the "Error Checking" dialog box. But be careful: If the error persists or you cannot correct it, you may need to review the formula or data in the cell more thoroughly.

Check Formula References: 

Usually, you can avoid errors using analogous methods, such as ensuring that the cell references in your formula are correct (including checking the sheet name). All of this is because an incorrect source can cause a #REF! Error in your formula, and maybe you have seen this at least one time in your life, but don’t worry, here's how to solve it:

  1. First, identify the cell or cells that are causing the #REF! Error.
  2. Look at the formula in those cells to determine which cell source is incorrect.
  3. Correct the reference by typing in the correct cell address or using the cell selector to select the right source of information.
  4. If the cell that caused the error has been deleted, you may need to restore it or update the formula to reference a different one.
  5. After making the necessary changes, press Enter to update the formula and remove the error message.
  6. Repeat these steps for any other cells that are showing the #REF! Error.

And just like that, you can quickly correct the #REF! Error in Excel and ensure the accuracy of your formulas and data.

Use the Watch Window: 

The Watch Window allows you to monitor specific cells and formulas in your worksheet. For example, you can use it to monitor the value of cells involved in a calculation and alter it. You can find this tool in the Formula Auditing toolbar at the right.

Once you click on it, Excel will display the cell's current value in the Watch Window. Also, Excel will display the error message in the Watch Window, so if the cell contains an error, you can update and watch what’s happening along your spreadsheet.


This method can be handy when your formulas intensively because you must go cell by cell to detect each cell's content. Still, it helps you understand what's causing the error and how to fix it. To debug, you must use the “Evaluate Formulas” tool located within the Formula Auditing group tools. After clicking on it, Excel will display the "Evaluate Formula" dialog box, which allows you to step through the formula one step at a time.

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Once there, Click the "Evaluate" button to evaluate the first part of the formula. If the evaluation returns a value, click "Evaluate" again to assess the next part of the formula. 

Notice then that if the evaluation returns an error, Excel will highlight the part of the formula that caused the error so you can review the highlighted portion and make any necessary corrections. To finish, you only need to select the "Close" button at the dialog box’s bottom-right corner. 

Ultimately, you can also ensure your formulas' data types are correct. For example, if a formula expects a number, but the cell contains text, this will cause an error. And you can use the Formula Auditing tools to review your that or create a checklist of common mistakes to watch for.

Do you want to know more?

If you want to know more about how you can find errors, you should know the IFERROR function! And if you're going to pass from beginner to pro, check out our Excel course here in Skillademia!

Lorena M. Rodas leverages her experience across film, writing, and production to make complex tech concepts accessible through storytelling. With a background spanning sci-fi, AI, and emerging tech, Lorena translates her depth of knowledge into engaging, educational content. She is an expert at decoding high-level topics to reach broad audiences.
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