How to Break Links in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide


If you're an Excel user, you know the frustration that can arise when your spreadsheet contains links to external sources. These links can cause errors, slow down your workbook's performance, and make it difficult to share or distribute. That's why knowing how to break links in Excel is an essential skill for any user. In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through the process of breaking links, ensuring that your spreadsheets are efficient, error-free, and easy to manage.

Key Takeaways

  • Breaking links in Excel is important to maintain efficiency, error-free spreadsheets, and ease of sharing or distribution.
  • Linked data in Excel refers to external sources that can cause errors and slow down workbook performance.
  • Identify links in your Excel worksheet using the 'Edit Links' feature.
  • Unlink external data sources by following step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting common issues.
  • Breaking links between worksheets within the same workbook can affect formulas and data.
  • Replace links with values to ensure data accuracy and stability.
  • Regularly check and break links in Excel for optimal performance.

Understanding Linked Data in Excel

In Excel, linked data refers to when a cell or range of cells in one worksheet or workbook is connected to another cell or range of cells in a different worksheet or workbook. These links allow users to reference and manipulate data across multiple locations, providing a convenient way to update information in various places simultaneously.

Definition of linked data in Excel

Linked data in Excel is a feature that enables users to establish connections between cells, ranges, or entire sheets across different workbooks or worksheets. These links can be established using formulas, such as the =SUM or =AVERAGE functions, or by directly referencing cell addresses.

Explanation of why broken links can be problematic

Broken links in Excel can cause a range of issues and can greatly affect the accuracy and integrity of your data. Here are a few reasons why broken links can be problematic:

  • Data inconsistency: When a link is broken, any data that was dependent on that link becomes outdated or incorrect. This can lead to inconsistencies in your calculations, reports, and analyses, making it difficult to trust the accuracy of your data.
  • Error propagation: Broken links can lead to a cascade effect, where errors or missing data in one cell or range of cells propagate to other linked cells or ranges. This can result in a domino effect of inaccuracies throughout your workbook, making it challenging to identify and correct the source of the problem.
  • Workflow disruption: If you rely on linked data for important tasks or processes, such as generating reports or conducting financial analyses, broken links can disrupt your workflow and hinder your ability to complete tasks efficiently. This can lead to wasted time and frustration.
  • Data loss: In some cases, broken links can result in the loss of data. If a link is broken and the data it referenced is deleted or no longer accessible, you may lose valuable information, which can be detrimental to your work.

Identifying Links in Your Excel Worksheet

Links in Excel are references to external files or worksheets that are connected to your current workbook. These links can be useful for pulling in data from other sources, but they can also cause issues if not managed properly. In this chapter, we will explore how to identify links in your Excel worksheet and use the 'Edit Links' feature to locate them.

Explanation of how to identify linked data in Excel

Before you can break links in Excel, it's essential to identify which cells or ranges are linked to external sources. Here's how you can do it:

  • Step 1: Open your Excel worksheet and navigate to the 'Data' tab in the ribbon.
  • Step 2: Look for the 'Connections' group and click on the 'Edit Links' button. This will open the 'Edit Links' dialog box.
  • Step 3: In the 'Edit Links' dialog box, you will see a list of all the external links in your workbook. Each link will be accompanied by information such as the source file name, the source sheet, and the cell or range it is linked to.
  • Step 4: Review the list and take note of the links that you want to break.

Guidance on using the 'Edit Links' feature to locate links

The 'Edit Links' feature in Excel allows you to manage and control the external links in your workbook. Here's how you can use this feature to locate links:

  • Step 1: Open your Excel worksheet and navigate to the 'Data' tab in the ribbon.
  • Step 2: Look for the 'Connections' group and click on the 'Edit Links' button. This will open the 'Edit Links' dialog box.
  • Step 3: In the 'Edit Links' dialog box, click on the link that you want to locate. This will select the link in the list.
  • Step 4: Once the link is selected, you can click on the 'Open Source' button to open the source file or click on the 'Break Link' button to break the link.
  • Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each link that you want to locate or break.

By following these steps, you can easily identify linked data in your Excel worksheet and use the 'Edit Links' feature to locate and manage these links effectively. Breaking unnecessary or outdated links can help improve the performance and accuracy of your Excel workbook.

Unlinking External Data Sources

In Excel, external data sources can be linked to your workbook to provide up-to-date information and maintain a dynamic connection. However, there may be instances when you want to break these links and remove the dependency on external data sources. This chapter will guide you through the process of unlinking external data sources in Excel.

Step-by-step instructions on how to unlink external data sources

Follow these simple steps to unlink external data sources in Excel:

  • Select the cell or range of cells that contain the external data you want to unlink.
  • Go to the Data tab in the Excel ribbon.
  • Click on the Edit Links button in the Connections group.
  • A dialog box titled "Edit Links" will appear, listing all the external data sources linked to your workbook.
  • Locate and select the specific data source you want to unlink.
  • Click on the Break Link button.
  • Confirm the action by clicking on the Yes button in the prompted dialog box.
  • Verify that the external data source is no longer linked to your workbook by checking if the link status has changed to "Not connected".
  • Click on the Close button to exit the Edit Links dialog box.

Tips for troubleshooting common issues during the unlinking process

While unlinking external data sources is a straightforward process, you may encounter certain issues along the way. Here are some tips to help you troubleshoot common problems:

  • Check if the data source file still exists in its original location. If the file has been moved or renamed, Excel may not be able to break the link. Make sure the file is accessible and adjust the link accordingly.
  • Ensure that the data source file is not open in another program or by another user. Excel cannot break the link if the file is being used by another application. Close the file and try again.
  • Consider using the "Find" feature in the Edit Links dialog box to locate specific data sources quickly. This can be particularly useful when you have numerous external links in your workbook.
  • Save a backup of your workbook before breaking any links. This precautionary step will help you restore the original data if needed.

By following these step-by-step instructions and keeping these troubleshooting tips in mind, you can effectively unlink external data sources in Excel and regain control over your workbook's data.

Breaking Links to Other Worksheets within the Same Workbook

Excel is a powerful tool that allows users to create complex workbooks with multiple worksheets. Often, these worksheets are interconnected with links that provide valuable references to data and formulas. However, there are situations where breaking these links becomes necessary, especially when reorganizing or cleaning up a workbook. In this chapter, we will explore how to break links to other worksheets within the same workbook.

Instructions on Breaking Links between Worksheets

Follow these step-by-step instructions to break links between worksheets:

  • Step 1: Open the Excel workbook containing the worksheets you want to break links for.
  • Step 2: Navigate to the worksheet that contains the link you wish to break.
  • Step 3: Select the cell or range of cells that contains the link you want to break.
  • Step 4: Right-click on the selected cell or range of cells.
  • Step 5: From the context menu that appears, click on the "Break Link" option.
  • Step 6: A confirmation message may appear, asking if you want to break the selected links. Click "Yes" to proceed.
  • Step 7: Repeat steps 3 to 6 for each additional link you wish to break in the worksheet.
  • Step 8: Once all desired links have been broken, save the workbook to preserve the changes.

Explanation of the Potential Impact on Formulas and Data

Breaking links between worksheets can have a significant impact on the formulas and data within your Excel workbook.

When you break a link to another worksheet, any formula that relied on the linked data will no longer update automatically. Instead, the formula will retain the value it had at the time the link was broken. This means that if the data in the linked cells changes in the future, the formula will not reflect those changes.

Furthermore, if the linked data is used in multiple formulas across different worksheets, breaking the link may cause those formulas to return incorrect results. It is crucial to carefully review and update all affected formulas after breaking links to ensure the integrity and accuracy of your data.

Additionally, breaking links may result in loss of data if the linked cells contain values or formatting that are no longer accessible after the link is broken. Verify the impact on your workbook's data and formatting before proceeding with breaking any links.

Replacing Links with Values

When working with linked data in Excel, you may encounter situations where it becomes necessary to convert those links into actual values. Whether it's to prevent data discrepancies or to simplify your spreadsheet, replacing links with values can be a useful technique. In this chapter, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to convert linked data to values, as well as discuss the advantages of doing so.

Step-by-step guide on converting linked data to values

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to break the links in your Excel spreadsheet and replace them with values, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the linked cells: Start by identifying the cells that contain the links you want to break. These cells will typically display the linked data with a different font color or underline.
  2. Select the linked cells: Once you've identified the cells, select them by clicking and dragging your mouse over the range. You can also use the Ctrl key to select multiple non-contiguous cells.
  3. Copy the selected cells: With the cells selected, right-click on any of the cells and choose "Copy" from the context menu. Alternatively, you can use the Ctrl+C keyboard shortcut.
  4. Paste as values: Now, right-click on the first cell where you want to replace the links with values and choose "Paste Special" from the context menu. In the Paste Special dialog box, select "Values" and click on the "OK" button. This action will paste the copied values into the designated cells, effectively replacing the links.
  5. Verify and remove the original links: After pasting the values, verify that the links have been successfully replaced by examining the cell contents. Once confirmed, you can remove the original links by right-clicking on any of the selected cells and selecting "Clear Contents" from the context menu.

Advantages of replacing links with values

There are several advantages to replacing links with values in Excel:

  • Data integrity: By converting linked data to values, you eliminate the risk of discrepancies caused by changes in the linked source. Once the links are broken, the values are fixed and unaffected by any modifications to the original data.
  • Improved performance: Linked data can slow down spreadsheet calculations and increase file size. By replacing links with values, you can improve the performance of your Excel workbook, especially when dealing with large datasets.
  • Greater flexibility: Values provide more flexibility when it comes to manipulating and analyzing data. With links, you are limited to the source data's structure and availability. However, values allow you to apply various Excel functions and operations without relying on external sources.
  • Enhanced data sharing: When you share your Excel file with others, broken links may cause errors or missing data if the linked source is not available. By converting links to values, you ensure that the data remains intact and consistent, irrespective of external dependencies.


In this guide, we have covered the step-by-step process of breaking links in Excel. By following these steps, you can ensure data accuracy and stability in your Excel workbooks. To recap, the steps involve identifying the links, updating the links if necessary, and breaking the links. It is important to regularly check and break links in Excel to avoid errors and discrepancies in your data. By doing so, you can maintain the integrity and reliability of your spreadsheets.

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