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How to find and locate circular reference in Excel quickly?

When you apply a formula in a cell, says Cell C1, and the formula refers back to its own cell directly or indirectly, says =Sum (A1:C1), circular reference happens.

When you reopen this workbook with circular reference again, it pops up a circular reference error message, which warns formulas contains a circular reference and may not calculate correctly. See the following screenshot:


It tells what is the problem, however, it does not say where the error stays in. If you click the OK button, the warning error message will be closed, but it will pop up next time when you reopen the workbook; if you click the Help button, it will bring you to the Help document.

Find out and locate the cell in Status bar

Find out and locate the cell in Circular Reference

Find out and locate the cell in Status bar

You can find the circular reference in the Status bar.
doc find circular reference3

Find out and locate the cell in Circular Reference

Actually, you can find out and locate the cell with circular reference in Excel with following steps:

Step 1: Go to the Formula Auditing group under the Formula tab.

Step 2: Click the Arrow button besides the Error Checking button.

Step 3: Move mouse over the Circular References item in the drop down list, and it shows the cells with circular references. See the following screenshot:


Step 4: Click the cell address listed besides the Circular References, it selects the cell with circular reference at once.

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  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Mantas · 2 months ago
    Thank you! Simple and short explanation, without writing a ton of paragraphs of why finding circular references is important :)
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Tony · 3 months ago
    thank you, I thought it would be even simpler by just clicking on the statement in the status bar. your explanation was spot on.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Linda · 3 months ago
    Thank you. I have been looking for the error for two hours and found it in 10 minutes with your help!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Hafiz Ghulam Yaseen · 7 months ago
    Thanks for help. This is an increase in my knowledge.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    John · 8 months ago
    Hi, thanks for the instructions - but the lower entry (Circular references) of the error checking list is grayed out. No luck in making it selectable - ever.

    Error checking is not a properly working feature of Excel generally. Had to switch off four of the selections under options, formular, error checking - otherwise these keept demanding changes to cells/formulars, which were fully correct.

    A calculate command now takes 5 minutes - then the invisible checking for circular references begins - and takes another 2-3 minutes. Then you get one circular reference listed in the status line. Having studied that formular and tracked it, Excel says that the offset formular is a circular reference - but a direct reference to the resulting address is OK!

    Have now spent a weeks time on trying to hunt down these spooks of circular references, which overload my PC entirely (20 minutes to do a save as command).

    Trying to get help from Microsoft, I really like these helping words from Microsoft Support:

    [i]While you're looking, check for indirect references. They happen when you put a formula in cell A1, and it uses another formula in B1 that in turn refers back to cell A1. [u]If this confuses you, imagine what it does to Excel.[/u][/i]

    Poor Excel, bad user(s) ...

    If it is only me being unsuccesfull in solving the circular references problems - then I'm happy for all of you ... Otherwise, a little bit of confort to you, keep fighting - there must be a way to manage this degrading of error management in Excel 2013. But using Microsoft Office has opened up another cost account for my job ...