Slow Excel Spreadsheet? Try this.

(2016 update – Lots of great recommendations in the comments.  Check them out!)

There are a number of things that can cause an Excel spreadsheet to slow down. Sometimes, the spreadsheet can become unusable, requiring up to a minute for saving or even the most basic of changes. Here’s a brief checklist of the most frequent causes of Excel slowdowns.

(Have a spreadsheet slow-down that I haven’t described below? Let me know in the comments! Thanks! 🙂 -Rich)

  • Network problems. If the spreadsheet is accessed over the network (local or remote), network issues can delay saving.
  • Macros/VBA code. If you are using macros (or Visual Basic for Applications), make sure you don’t have unnecessary macros running, or macros that perform unnecessary calculations.
  • Burdensome animation. Try disabling animation. 2003: Tools > Options > Edit > Turn off “Provide feedback with animation”. 2007: Excel Button > Excel Options > Advanced > General > Provide feedback with animation (uncheck)
  • Complicated calculations. If you’re doing lots of calculations, you can disable auto-updating of these calculations. When you do so, your spreadsheet will not update until you explicitly desire (e.g. when you hit the F9 key). To disable auto-updating in 2007, go to the Excel Button > Excel Options > Formulas > Workbook Calculation, and select “Manual”.
  • Duplicate Conditional Formatting Rules. Conditional formatting can be a processor-intensive task if your rules aren’t set up right. Manage your conditional formatting rules (2007) via the ribbon at Home > Conditional Formatting > Manage Rules… Try to consolidate similar rules into one rule (e.g. a rule for an entire column instead of a rule for each cell in the column)
  • Funky Formatting. Formatting can really slow down a spreadsheet, especially on slower machines. Try removing all formatting: Removing All Formatting.
  • Unnecessary junk. Sometimes, an Excel file can become backlogged with a bunch of unnecessary junk. Try saving as a CSV (comma-separated) file, which will strip out everything except for the data. (Make sure to not save over your original file in case this workaround does not, well, work! 🙂 )
  • Unknown, but it seems to help sometimes. Install the Lookup Wizard add-in.
  • Other issues. Do you know of another issue that causes Excel to slow down? Let me know in the comments!

Assorted helpful links:

56 thoughts on “Slow Excel Spreadsheet? Try this.”

  1. Huge worksheet was slow as molasses. No conditional formatting, tried everything else. Didn’t see any objects but just to make sure there were none i added one at the top, selected it and hit CTRL-A then delete. it took a few seconds, became unresponsive and now it works like a dream! Excel 2013- avoid like the plague

  2. I got a good one. Running dual monitors. Excel is very slow to type anything into a cell.. 5-10 seconds some times, even with a blank empty sheet.. Remove the video card, and run one monitor no problems at all super fast even with a large spreadsheet and lots of look ups… replaced card with brand new one. It has the same issue? I give up

  3. Not sure if this is covered above exactly, but I have two workbooks… a MIS and MIS+ that are not too large separately and linked together through 3D references.
    When open separately the sheets run fine, but when open together it can take 10 to 12 seconds to respond after entering data into a cell and pressing enter.
    I know it’s because the sheets are referencing each other and I’m trying to fix it as we speak, so if I do I’ll post the solution.
    Removing any formula or hard coding any of the data isn’t an option for me.

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