# Working with Circular references in Excel

## Introduction

If you've come to this page, chances are you've experienced the "Circular reference warning" popping up when you opened an Excel file or entered a formula. Excel detects a circular reference when a chain of calculations visits the same cell more than once. Many users get (very) confused by this message and have no idea what it is about. I'll try to demystify that message here!

You may also find an excerpt of parts of the article on the Microsoft Office blog

The next couple of pages discuss:

## Comments

All comments about this page:

Comment by: Lazyprioria (8/3/2012 12:25:17 AM)

Comment by: Lauri Anne (8/3/2012 3:48:58 AM)

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (8/7/2012 11:17:49 AM)

Comment by: Lauri Anne (8/7/2012 3:35:35 PM)

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (8/8/2012 1:08:58 PM)

OK, thanks for letting me know!

Comment by: Michael Man (10/16/2012 9:00:19 PM)

Thank you for your time.

Michael J Mann

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (10/17/2012 9:32:23 AM)

Is there a reason why you would not simply start the next week on row 3?

Comment by: Michael Mann (10/17/2012 2:54:54 PM)

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (10/17/2012 3:59:46 PM)

If you have many (basic) questions like these I advise you to register at www.eileenslounge.com. Many helpful people out there who can answer your questions.

Overhere it's just me :-)

Comment by: Gene (10/18/2013 11:50:36 PM)

I have $10.00 in C5. I use C6 to receive additional dollars. Today I received $1.25 and placed it into C6. I want that $1.25 to go into C5 making it $11.25. And I want C6 to continue to have $1.25 in it, until tomorrow or the next day. Sometime in the future I will place $.95 into C6, replacing the $1.25. I would like C5 to now contain $12.20, and C6 to contain $.95, until I update it at some future date.

Any help will really be appreciated.

Best regards,

Gene

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (10/19/2013 4:19:48 PM)

This can be done using a deliberate circular reference and iteration set to 1, but it will cause problems if you somehow cause an extra calculation of Excel.

I would advise to enter each transaction on a new row and have a simple sum function totalling them.

Comment by: Brian (12/4/2013 4:14:37 PM)

I am using circular references in an excel based stock trading platform. Generally they are set too lock in the last trade price from a stream when a buy or sell order is placed. I want to do some calculations in another cell using the locked in number from the circular reference. When I set the formulas the formula builder usually shows the correct result but the cell where the result goes displays 0 instead of the calculation result.

Any thoughts are appreciated.

Brian

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (12/4/2013 4:17:13 PM)

What happens if you hit F9, does it then update to the proper value?

Perhaps the number of iterations is incorrect?

Comment by: Brian (12/5/2013 2:28:05 AM)

Hitting the F9 key does not seem to have any affect. The iterations are set to 1 as it is a large spreadsheet and once a value is locked in it needs to stay until the next day. The circular references are the result of if/then formulas.

Thanks,

Brian

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (12/5/2013 7:49:10 AM)

OK. In that case I'm afraid I cannot really help without having your workbook.

Comment by: richie (1/21/2014 4:14:09 AM)

=VLOOKUP(B8,CHOOSE(VLOOKUP(A8,Sheet3!F2:G36,2,FALSE),Sheet3!B2:C4,Sheet3!B6:C8,Sheet3!B10:C12,Sheet3!B14:C16,Sheet3!B18:C20,Sheet3!B22:C24,Sheet3!B26:C28,Sheet3!B30:C32,Sheet3!B34:C36,Sheet3!B38:C40,Sheet3!B42:C44,Sheet3!B46:C48,Sheet3!B50:C52,Sheet3!B54:C56,Sheet3!B58:C60,Sheet3!B62:C64,Sheet3!B66:C68,Sheet3!B70:C72,Sheet3!B74:C76,Sheet3!B78:C80,Sheet3!B82:C84,Sheet3!B86:C88,Sheet3!B90:C92,Sheet3!B94:C96,Sheet3!B98:C100,Sheet3!B112:C114,Sheet3!B116:C118),2,FALSE)

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (1/21/2014 6:13:07 AM)

What is wrong with a simple:

=VLOOKUP(B8,Sheet3!B2:C118,2,FALSE)

I suspect the structure of your worksheet is making it hard to find what you need for your calculation...

Comment by: richie (2/8/2014 7:44:13 AM)

hope you don't mind, can you give me your email add!,then i'll send you my format...

=)

Comment by: Chris (4/16/2014 7:15:59 AM)

wish to input a value into a cell and multiply it by another cells value, but have the result show in the first cell.

b1 = a1*b1 . so that the formula is just =a1* the value that will be entered into bi at another time. i'd like not to have to enter the value in the formula bar but in the cell, if at all possible.

this is to create a daily calories calculator

regards chris

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (4/16/2014 12:09:57 PM)

Why not show the result in a different cell than the input cell? That is the better aproach because you'll be able to see both input value and result.

Comment by: Marnix (4/20/2014 10:52:52 AM)

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (4/28/2014 10:17:58 AM)

You can only do that if the value in the "watched" cell is changed from a fixed value (for instance empty) to something else:

=IF(A1="";Now();B1)

Comment by: Marnix (4/28/2014 9:45:55 PM)

Cell A1 now accumulates any update of cell B1 without calculating other cells.

Thanks again!

regards Marnix

Comment by: Luiz Carlos Guilarducci (7/10/2014 5:17:27 PM)

As my interest income are going to infinite, i use automatically a formula to chose 0 if interest income go to inifnite, otherwise 1. It is working well, but my boss doesnÂ´t like this solution because normally people use cells to choose the circular reference or not.

I wanna know, if really there is a problem with my solution. What do you think? Have you ever used this solution?

Regards Luiz !

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (7/11/2014 4:59:05 PM)

Your solution sounds perfectly feasible to me!

Comment by: Steve (4/14/2015 12:58:13 PM)

I have what I thought was a simple sum but is proving difficult to solve.

I want to create a running total on one row over only 2 columns.

Eg. Column a1 is a number I input on a daily basis. Column b1 will be the sum of a1:b1

So on day one b1 is blank and I enter 2 in a1. B1 then becomes 2.

The next day I change a1 to 3. I then want b1 to become 5

On the third day I change a1 to 5. B1 should then become 10 and so on for each day.

As a slight confusion I only want to do this for 7 days and then I want to delete all the data but keep the formulas and start again.

This is proving to be much harder than anticipated.

Any suggestions?

Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (4/15/2015 8:07:37 PM)

This should work:

In B1:

=IF(C1=7,0,IF(A1="",B1,B1+A1))

In C1:

=IF(C1=7,0,IF(A1="",C1,C1+1))

Turn on iteration and set max iterations to 1.

But it is risky, as if Excel triggers calculation from another cell, the total is updated by whatever is in cell A1. So I would suggest to simply have 7 cells which you enter the numbers into and have a SUM beneath it. WHen the 7th cell is filled, simply clear A1:A7.

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