Excel Tutorial: How To Make Excel Calculate Faster


When working with large datasets in Excel, the speed at which calculations are performed can greatly impact productivity and efficiency. Excel calculation speed is crucial for professionals who rely on the program for complex analysis, reporting, and decision-making. In this tutorial, we will explore various techniques and tips to make Excel calculate faster, allowing you to work more efficiently and effectively.

Topics to be covered in the tutorial

  • Optimizing formulas and functions
  • Managing unnecessary data and formatting
  • Utilizing Excel's built-in features for performance improvement

Key Takeaways

  • Optimizing Excel calculation speed is crucial for professionals relying on the program for complex analysis, reporting, and decision-making.
  • Disabling automatic calculations, limiting open workbooks, and clearing unnecessary formatting can optimize Excel settings for faster performance.
  • Using efficient formulas, minimizing data ranges, and utilizing efficient data processing techniques can significantly improve Excel calculation speed.
  • Taking advantage of Excel's native calculation optimizations and utilizing multi-threading for parallel calculations can further enhance performance.
  • Faster calculations in Excel can greatly impact productivity and efficiency, and further exploration of advanced Excel optimization techniques is encouraged.

Optimize your Excel settings

Excel is a powerful tool, but if it's running slowly, it can be frustrating to work with. Fortunately, there are several settings you can adjust to make Excel calculate faster.

A. Disable automatic calculations

By default, Excel recalculates formulas and refreshes pivot tables every time you make a change. This can slow down performance, especially with large datasets. To improve speed, you can disable automatic calculations and manually recalculate when necessary.

B. Limit the number of open workbooks

Having multiple workbooks open at once can consume a lot of system resources and slow down Excel's performance. To speed things up, try to limit the number of open workbooks to only those that you're actively working on.

C. Clear unnecessary formatting and conditional formatting

Formatting, especially conditional formatting, can also contribute to slower calculations. By clearing unnecessary formatting and reducing the use of conditional formatting, you can help Excel run faster.

Use efficient formulas and functions

When working with large datasets or complex calculations, it's important to use efficient formulas and functions to make Excel calculate faster.

  • Replace volatile functions with non-volatile alternatives

    Volatile functions like INDIRECT and NOW recalculate every time a change is made in the worksheet, which can slow down Excel's performance. Replace these with non-volatile alternatives like INDEX and DATE to reduce recalculations and speed up processing.

  • Utilize array formulas for complex calculations

    Array formulas can perform multiple calculations at once, which can be more efficient than using multiple individual formulas. However, use them judiciously as they can also slow down Excel if overused.

  • Avoid using entire column references

    Referencing entire columns, such as A:A, in formulas can cause Excel to process unnecessary data, which can slow down calculations. Instead, specify the actual range of data to be used in the formula to improve performance.

Minimize data ranges and references

When working with large datasets, minimizing data ranges and references can significantly improve Excel's calculation speed. Here are a few tips to achieve that:

A. Use named ranges for frequently used data

  • By using named ranges, you can easily refer to specific data ranges in your formulas without having to constantly select and reselect the same range. This not only improves the clarity of your formulas but also reduces the computation time as Excel doesn't have to re-calculate the same range multiple times.

B. Limit the use of volatile functions

  • Volatile functions, such as NOW() and RAND(), are recalculated every time a change is made to the worksheet, even if the change has no direct impact on the function. Limiting the use of these functions can help reduce unnecessary recalculations and improve overall calculation speed.

C. Avoid excessive linked workbooks

  • Linking data between multiple workbooks can slow down Excel's calculation speed, especially when the linked workbooks are large or located on a network drive. Whenever possible, try to consolidate the data into a single workbook to minimize the use of external links.

Use efficient data processing techniques

When working with large datasets in Excel, it is essential to employ efficient data processing techniques to make Excel calculate faster. Here are some tips to optimize your data processing:

  • Sort data before applying calculations
  • Sorting data before performing calculations can significantly improve Excel's calculation speed. By arranging your data in a logical order, Excel can process calculations more efficiently.

  • Use Excel tables for data organization
  • Excel tables provide a structured way to organize and manage your data. They offer built-in features for sorting, filtering, and referencing data, which can help speed up calculations by allowing Excel to work more efficiently with the data.

  • Utilize pivot tables for summarizing and analyzing data
  • Pivot tables are powerful tools for summarizing and analyzing large datasets. By using pivot tables, you can quickly summarize and analyze data without having to manually perform complex calculations, which can significantly reduce the time it takes for Excel to process the data.

Utilize the power of Excel's calculation engine

Excel is a powerful tool for data analysis, but large datasets and complex formulas can slow down the calculation process. To make Excel calculate faster, it's important to leverage the capabilities of its calculation engine.

  • Use multi-threading for parallel calculations
  • One of the most effective ways to speed up calculations in Excel is to take advantage of multi-threading. By enabling multi-threading, Excel can perform calculations in parallel, significantly reducing the time it takes to process complex formulas and large datasets. This can be particularly beneficial for workbooks with multiple worksheets or complex interdependencies.

  • Take advantage of Excel's native calculation optimizations
  • Excel has built-in features and optimizations that can improve calculation performance. For example, enabling the "Automatic" calculation mode allows Excel to recalculate formulas only when necessary, instead of every time a change is made. Additionally, using the "Enable iterative calculation" option can help optimize the performance of iterative calculations.

  • Use efficient data structures for large datasets
  • Efficiently structuring your data can have a significant impact on calculation speed. For large datasets, consider using Excel tables or dynamic arrays, which can improve calculation performance and make it easier to manage and analyze your data. Additionally, using named ranges and structured references can help streamline formulas and reduce the computational load on Excel.


After learning key strategies for improving Excel calculation speed, such as using efficient formulas and minimizing data, it's clear that faster calculations can lead to increased productivity and efficiency in your work. By reducing the time spent waiting for Excel to process data, you can accomplish more in less time, giving you a competitive edge in your professional endeavors. I encourage you to explore further advanced Excel optimization techniques to continue improving your Excel skills and maximizing your performance.

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