How to Point PivotTables to Different Data Sources in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide


If you've ever worked with data in Excel, you're probably familiar with PivotTables. These powerful data analysis tools allow you to summarize and analyze large amounts of information with ease. However, what if you need to use a different data source for your PivotTable? That's where the ability to point PivotTables to different data sources becomes invaluable.

A PivotTable is a feature in Excel that allows you to quickly summarize and analyze large amounts of data. It enables you to organize, analyze, and present your data in a meaningful way, making it easier to gain insights and make informed decisions. With just a few clicks, you can transform raw data into a concise and interactive report.

So why is it important to be able to point PivotTables to different data sources? Well, flexibility is key when it comes to working with data. Your data may change or be stored in different locations, and being able to easily switch between data sources allows you to adapt and analyze the most up-to-date information. It also saves you time and effort, as you don't have to recreate your PivotTable from scratch every time your data changes.

In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through the process of pointing PivotTables to different data sources in Excel. Whether you're working with data from multiple worksheets, different workbooks, or even external databases, you'll learn how to effortlessly update your PivotTable to reflect the changes in your data. So let's get started and unlock the full potential of your PivotTables!

Key Takeaways

  • PivotTables in Excel are powerful data analysis tools that allow you to summarize and analyze large amounts of information with ease.
  • Being able to point PivotTables to different data sources provides flexibility and allows you to adapt and analyze the most up-to-date information.
  • Properly structuring and organizing data before creating PivotTables is important for efficient analysis.
  • Creating a PivotTable involves selecting the appropriate data range and choosing the location for the PivotTable.
  • Changing data sources for PivotTables can be done by modifying the existing PivotTable or connecting it to an external data source.
  • Refreshing and updating PivotTables is crucial to reflect changes in the data source and incorporate new data.
  • Being able to point PivotTables to different data sources is essential for maximizing the potential of PivotTables and making informed decisions.
  • Practice and explore different data sources for PivotTables to enhance your data analysis skills.

Understanding PivotTables in Excel

In this chapter, we will delve into the concept of PivotTables in Excel and explore their purpose and benefits in data analysis.

A. Define what a PivotTable is and its purpose in Excel

A PivotTable is a powerful data visualization and analysis tool in Excel that allows users to summarize and manipulate large sets of data. It enables you to transform raw data into meaningful information by providing a dynamic way to organize, summarize, and analyze data from different perspectives.

With a PivotTable, you can quickly and easily create summaries, perform calculations, and generate reports without modifying the original data. It eliminates the need for complex formulas and manual data manipulation, enabling you to gain insights and make informed decisions more efficiently.

B. Explain the benefits of using PivotTables for data analysis

Using PivotTables for data analysis offers several notable benefits:

  • 1. Flexibility and Interactivity: PivotTables allow you to change the layout and structure of your data on the fly, enabling you to explore different perspectives and uncover valuable insights. You can easily rearrange and reorganize your data by dragging and dropping fields, columns, and rows, giving you the flexibility to analyze data in a way that best suits your needs.
  • 2. Summarization and Aggregation: PivotTables enable you to summarize large datasets by instantly calculating and displaying various summary statistics such as sums, counts, averages, and more. This provides a concise and consolidated view of your data, allowing you to identify trends, patterns, and outliers more effectively.
  • 3. Filtering and Sorting: PivotTables allow you to filter and sort data based on specific criteria, making it easier to focus on relevant information and analyze subsets of your data. You can apply multiple filters and customize sorting options to gain deeper insights into your data.
  • 4. Drill-Down Capability: PivotTables offer drill-down functionality, which enables you to examine detailed data behind summary values. By double-clicking on a cell or using the expand/collapse buttons, you can rapidly navigate from aggregated data to the underlying records, facilitating a granular analysis of your data.
  • 5. Dynamic Updates: PivotTables are dynamic in nature, meaning they update automatically when the source data is modified or refreshed. This saves time and effort, ensuring that your analysis remains up to date without the need for manual adjustments.
  • 6. Visualization and Reporting: PivotTables provide an intuitive and visually appealing way to present data. You can easily create charts, graphs, and pivot charts based on your PivotTable, allowing you to communicate your findings effectively and generate interactive reports.

In conclusion, PivotTables are a fundamental tool in Excel for data analysis, offering flexibility, interactivity, summarization capabilities, filtering and sorting options, drill-down functionality, dynamic updates, and enhanced visualization and reporting capabilities. Familiarizing yourself with PivotTables empowers you to uncover valuable insights and make data-driven decisions with ease.

Preparing Data Sources for PivotTables

When working with PivotTables in Excel, it is crucial to ensure that your data sources are properly structured. By organizing and cleaning your data before creating PivotTables, you can save time and improve the accuracy of your analysis. In this chapter, we will cover the key steps to prepare your data sources for PivotTables, including the importance of structuring data properly, organizing data in a tabular format, and cleaning and formatting data for optimal results.

A. Importance of Structuring Data Properly for PivotTables

Before you begin creating PivotTables, it is essential to understand the importance of structuring your data properly. A well-structured dataset allows for easier analysis and manipulation in PivotTables, resulting in more accurate and meaningful insights.

Properly structuring your data includes ensuring that:

  • Data is organized in a consistent and logical manner: Arrange your data so that each column represents a specific attribute or variable, and each row contains the corresponding values or observations. This logical structure enables PivotTables to efficiently summarize and analyze the data.
  • Data is free from duplicate or missing values: Eliminate any duplicate or missing values in your dataset to prevent inaccuracies in your PivotTable analysis. Duplicate values can lead to overcounting, while missing values can result in incomplete or misleading analysis.
  • Data is labeled correctly: Clearly label your data columns and rows with descriptive headers that accurately represent the information they contain. This labeling ensures that your PivotTables are easy to understand and interpret.
  • Data is consistent in terms of units and formatting: Ensure that all data within a column follows the same units of measurement and formatting conventions. Inconsistent units or formats can cause errors or inaccuracies in your PivotTable calculations.

B. Organizing Data in a Tabular Format

One of the most effective ways to structure your data for PivotTables is to organize it in a tabular format. Tabular data layout arranges information in a consistent manner, making it easy to analyze and summarize using PivotTables.

To organize your data in a tabular format:

  • Use a single row for column headers: Place the column headers in a single row at the top of your dataset. These headers should clearly and concisely describe the information in each column.
  • Place each observation or value in a separate row: Each row in your dataset should represent a unique observation or value. Avoid merging rows or including multiple observations in a single row, as this can complicate your PivotTable analysis.
  • Keep unrelated data separate: If your dataset contains unrelated information, such as additional notes or comments, store this data in a separate worksheet or column to avoid cluttering your PivotTable analysis.

C. Tips on Cleaning and Formatting Data before Creating PivotTables

Before you create PivotTables, it is essential to clean and format your data to ensure accurate and reliable analysis. Here are some tips to help you clean and format your data:

  • Remove any unnecessary spaces or special characters: Check for leading or trailing spaces, as well as any special characters that may interfere with your PivotTable analysis. Use Excel's built-in functions, such as TRIM and CLEAN, to remove these unwanted characters.
  • Convert text data to appropriate data types: If your data includes text that should be treated as numbers or dates, convert them to the appropriate data types using Excel's number and date formatting options. This conversion ensures accurate calculations and sorting in your PivotTable analysis.
  • Handle missing data appropriately: If your dataset has missing values, decide on the best approach to handle them. You can either remove rows with missing values or fill them in with appropriate placeholders. Be cautious when filling in missing values to avoid biasing your analysis.
  • Check for and eliminate duplicate values: Use Excel's built-in tools, such as Remove Duplicates, to identify and remove any duplicate values in your dataset. Duplicate values can distort your PivotTable analysis by artificially inflating the count or sum of specific categories.
  • Format data as Excel tables: Convert your dataset into an Excel table using the "Format as Table" option. This formatting option applies consistent formatting, autofilters, and automatically extends your table range as you add new rows or columns, making it easier to work with your data.

By following these tips and ensuring that your data sources are properly structured, organized, and cleaned, you will set a solid foundation for creating accurate and insightful PivotTables in Excel.

Creating a PivotTable in Excel

Excel's PivotTable feature is a powerful tool for analyzing and summarizing large amounts of data. With PivotTables, you can quickly organize and manipulate your data to gain valuable insights. In this chapter, we will guide you through the process of creating a PivotTable in Excel.

A. Outline the steps to create a PivotTable in Excel

Before diving into creating a PivotTable, it is essential to have the data you want to analyze already organized in an Excel spreadsheet. Follow these steps to create a PivotTable:

  1. Open your Excel workbook and navigate to the worksheet containing the data you want to analyze.
  2. Select any cell within your data range.
  3. Click on the "Insert" tab in the Excel ribbon.
  4. Click on the "PivotTable" button in the "Tables" group.
  5. The "Create PivotTable" dialog box will appear. Ensure that the correct range is selected in the "Select a table or range" field.
  6. Choose where you want to place the PivotTable. You have two options: "New Worksheet" or "Existing Worksheet."
  7. Click on the "OK" button.
  8. A blank PivotTable will be inserted into the selected location.

B. Explain how to select the appropriate data range for the PivotTable

When creating a PivotTable, it is crucial to select the correct data range to ensure accurate analysis. Here's how to select the appropriate data range for your PivotTable:

  • Review your data and identify the range that encompasses all the information you want to include in your PivotTable.
  • Select any cell within that range.
  • Ensure that the entire range is highlighted by dragging the selection box across the data.
  • If your data includes column headers, make sure to include them in the selected range.
  • When creating the PivotTable, use the selected range as the input for the "Select a table or range" field in the "Create PivotTable" dialog box.

C. Provide instructions on choosing the PivotTable location

Deciding where to place your PivotTable is an essential step in the creation process. The chosen location should be convenient for your analysis and presentation purposes. Follow these instructions to choose the PivotTable location:

  • In the "Create PivotTable" dialog box, select either "New Worksheet" or "Existing Worksheet" in the "Choose where you want the PivotTable report to be placed" section.
  • If you select "New Worksheet," Excel will create a new worksheet and place the PivotTable there.
  • If you choose "Existing Worksheet," you need to specify the cell where you want the PivotTable to start. Click on the cell in the existing worksheet, and Excel will insert the PivotTable starting from that cell.
  • Consider factors such as data accessibility, readability, and overall organization when making your choice.

By following these steps, you can easily create a PivotTable in Excel and leverage its capabilities to analyze your data effectively.

Pointing a PivotTable to Different Data Sources

When working with PivotTables in Excel, there may be situations where you need to change the data source. This could be due to updates in your data or the need to analyze different sets of data. In this guide, we will explain how to point a PivotTable to different data sources in a step-by-step manner.

A. The Need to Change Data Sources for PivotTables

Before we dive into the process of changing data sources for PivotTables, let's discuss why this may be necessary. There are several reasons why you might need to point a PivotTable to a different data source:

  • Updates in data: If the data you originally used to create a PivotTable has been updated or modified, you will need to change the data source to reflect these changes.
  • Analyzing different data: Sometimes, you may want to analyze a different set of data using the same PivotTable structure. In such cases, you will need to switch the data source to the new dataset.
  • Connecting to external data: Excel allows you to connect PivotTables to external data sources such as databases, SharePoint lists, or online data feeds. To utilize this feature, you will need to know how to connect a PivotTable to an external data source.

B. Changing the Data Source for an Existing PivotTable

If you have an existing PivotTable and need to change its data source, follow these steps:

  1. Select the PivotTable: Click on any cell within the PivotTable to activate it.
  2. Go to the PivotTable Tools: In the Excel ribbon, under the "PivotTable Tools" tab, click on "Analyze" or "Options," depending on your version of Excel.
  3. Change the data source: Look for the "Change Data Source" button within the "Data" group. Click on it to open the "Change PivotTable Data Source" dialog box.
  4. Specify the new data range: In the dialog box, enter the new data range that you want to use for the PivotTable. You can either manually enter the range or click on the "Select a table or range" button to choose a range on the worksheet.
  5. Click OK: Once you have specified the new data range, click the OK button to update the PivotTable with the new data source.

C. Connecting a PivotTable to an External Data Source

If you want to connect a PivotTable to an external data source, such as a database or an online data feed, follow these instructions:

  1. Select the PivotTable: Click on any cell within the PivotTable to activate it.
  2. Go to the PivotTable Tools: In the Excel ribbon, under the "PivotTable Tools" tab, click on "Analyze" or "Options," depending on your version of Excel.
  3. Click on "Change Data Source" or "Change Data Connection": Look for the button that allows you to change the data source or data connection. The name of the button may vary depending on your version of Excel.
  4. Select the type of external data source: Choose the type of external data source that you want to connect to from the available options, such as "From Microsoft Query," "From Analysis Services," or "From Data Connection Wizard."
  5. Follow the prompts: Depending on the type of external data source you selected, you will be guided through a series of prompts to establish the connection and configure the data source settings.
  6. Click OK: Once you have completed the necessary steps, click the OK button to connect the PivotTable to the external data source.

By following these instructions, you will be able to easily point your PivotTables to different data sources in Excel. Whether you need to update your data or connect to external sources, being able to change the data source for a PivotTable is a valuable skill that can enhance your data analysis capabilities.

Refreshing and Updating PivotTables

In Excel, PivotTables are a powerful tool for analyzing and summarizing large amounts of data. However, to ensure that your PivotTables accurately reflect the most up-to-date information, it is important to regularly refresh and update them. This chapter will guide you through the process of refreshing and updating PivotTables, ensuring that you always have the most current and accurate data at your disposal.

A. The Importance of Refreshing and Updating PivotTables

Before diving into the specifics of refreshing and updating PivotTables, it is crucial to understand why these steps are so important. When working with complex data sets, it is common for the underlying data to change frequently. This can be due to regular updates, new entries, or even corrections. Without refreshing and updating your PivotTables, you run the risk of making decisions or drawing conclusions based on outdated or incomplete information.

B. How to Refresh a PivotTable to Reflect Changes in the Data Source

Refreshing a PivotTable is a straightforward process that ensures your PivotTable reflects any changes made to the underlying data source. To refresh a PivotTable, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Select the PivotTable you want to refresh. This can be done by clicking anywhere within the PivotTable.
  • Step 2: Go to the "PivotTable Tools" tab in the Excel Ribbon.
  • Step 3: Click on the "Refresh" button in the "Data" group.
  • Step 4: Excel will update the PivotTable to reflect any changes in the data source.

By regularly refreshing your PivotTables, you can be confident that the data you are working with is always current and accurate.

C. Tips on Updating PivotTables with New Data

Updating PivotTables with new data is a slightly different process than refreshing them. When you add new data to your data source, you need to ensure that your PivotTable includes this new information. Here are some tips to help you update PivotTables with new data:

  • Tip 1: Make sure the new data is included in the range of cells used by the PivotTable. This can be done by adjusting the range in the PivotTable Field List.
  • Tip 2: Refresh the PivotTable after adding the new data. This will ensure that the PivotTable includes the new information.
  • Tip 3: Review the PivotTable layout and adjust it if necessary. Depending on the nature of the new data, you may need to modify the PivotTable layout to accommodate the changes.

By following these tips, you can easily update your PivotTables with new data and continue to analyze and summarize your information effectively.


In this blog post, we have explored the process of pointing PivotTables to different data sources in Excel. We discussed the steps involved in creating a PivotTable and demonstrated how to connect it to a new data source. By pointing PivotTables to different data sources, you can easily analyze and visualize data from various spreadsheets or databases, making Excel a powerful tool for data analysis.

Being able to point PivotTables to different data sources is crucial because it allows you to easily update and refresh your PivotTable whenever there are changes in the underlying data. This flexibility enables you to make informed decisions based on the most up-to-date information.

We encourage you to practice and explore different data sources for PivotTables. By experimenting with various data sets, you can gain a deeper understanding of how PivotTables work and uncover valuable insights that can drive your business forward.

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