When your Microsoft Excel spreadsheet slows to a crawl, you can’t help but notice. It may take longer to open and save your files, longer for Excel to calculate your formulas, and longer for the screen to refresh after entering data, or sorting and formatting the cells. System memory is the other issue that relates to Excel’s slowness. 

Slow spreadsheets take longer to manage and, as always, time is money. We’ll show you how to tackle this problem. 

When Excel spreadsheets get too big

Excel is capable of creating a very big spreadsheet, but the bigger it gets, the more memory is needed to keep it open on your PC.

In the current version of Excel, each spreadsheet has 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns (A1 through XFD1048576). Each cell can hold a maximum of 32,767 characters. I would not advise pushing these limits. 

The number of records (rows), fields (columns), and formulas can slow down performance considerably. Every time you add new records, then press the Enter key—or use features such as Sort, Format cells, or Insert/Delete Columns or Rows—Excel recalculates all those formulas. This can cause a lag time of several seconds or more between each process. Using a lot of graphical elements can also hinder performance. 

One solution, and one that I highly recommend, is to keep your spreadsheets small and tight, with fewer fields and, if necessary, fewer records. You can accomplish this by creating multiple spreadsheets in a single workbook, with links or three-dimensional formulas. You could also create Relational Database spreadsheets that connect your tables with unique, key fields.

Turn on Manual Calculation and use F9

Another solution is to turn off the Automatic Workbook Calculation option, instead using the Function key F9. When Manual Calculation is selected in the Calculation Options, Excel withholds calculating your formulas until you press F9.

1. Select File > Options > Formulas.





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