# The Causes and Solutions of Circular Reference in Excel

Sometimes you may encounter a common issue known as a circular reference. This problem occurs when an Excel formula in a cell tries to include itself in the formula. This problem can slow down your productivity sometimes, especially when your dataset is large. In this article, I will explore what circular reference means in Excel, its causes, and how to identify and resolve it.

## What is a Circular Reference in Excel?

A circular reference occurs in Excel when a formula refers back to the cell it is supposed to calculate. In other words, a circular reference occurs when a formula refers to the same cell that contains the formula. This results in a feedback loop, where Excel tries to calculate the formula, but the formula depends on the result of the formula, creating a never-ending loop.

## An Example of a Circular Reference in Excel

Suppose I have a budget spreadsheet where I want to calculate the total amount of expenses based on the following expenses: When calculating the total expenses in cell B5, suppose I mistakenly added B5 to the formula. Now the value of cell B5 depends on its own value because the formula contains cell B5. It creates a never-ending loop in the cell. The circular reference creates a loop that Excel cannot break, resulting in an infinite calculation.

When this type of error occurs, a warning message will pop up on the screen instantly. ## What Causes Circular References in Excel?

Circular references can be caused by different factors. Some of the most common causes include:

• Accidentally entering a formula that refers to the cell it’s supposed to be calculating.
• Creating a circular reference intentionally to achieve a specific result.
• Using a formula that refers to a range of cells that includes the cell that contains the formula.
• Using iterative calculations in Excel. Iterative calculations are a feature that allows a formula to repeatedly calculate a cell until a specific condition is met.

## How to Identify Circular References in Excel?

### 1. Warning Message

Excel will detect circular references and display a warning message in the formula bar when a circular reference occurs. After seeing this warning message, recheck the formula input again to find the error.

### 2. Error Checking

Excel also has a built-in tool that can help identify circular references. To use this tool:

Step_1: Go to the Formulas tab in the ribbon. Step_2: Click on the Error Checking dropdown menu and take the cursor to Circular References. The submenu of Circular References will show the errors.

Step_3: Click on the cell from the Circular References submenu.

It will take you directly to the cell.

## How to Resolve Circular References in Excel?

Excel provides different ways to resolve circular references, depending on the situation. Some of the common methods include:

### Solution #1: Change the Formula to Resolve Circular References in Excel

The easiest way to resolve a circular reference error is to check and correct the formula that is causing the error. You can either modify the formula or delete it entirely.

### Solution #2: Use Iterative Calculations to Resolve Circular References in Excel

In some cases, iterative calculations can help resolve circular references. To do this:

Step_1: Go to the File menu.

Step_2: Select Options.

Step_3: Select the Formulas tab.

Step_4: Now check the Enable iterative calculations box. Step_5: Finally hit the OK button to apply the changes.

### Solution #3: Use a Macro to Resolve Circular References in Excel

If the circular reference is too complex, you can use a Macro to help resolve it.

Step_1: Press Alt + F11 to open the Visual Basic Editor.

Step_2: In the Project window, right-click the worksheet > Insert > Module. Step_3: In the new module, enter the following code:

``````Sub SolveCircularReference()

Application.Calculation = xlCalculationManual

Do

On Error Resume Next

Application.Calculate

Loop Until Err.Number = 0

Application.Calculation = xlCalculationAutomatic

End Sub`````` Step_4: Press F5 to run the macro.

Step_5: Now select the cell with the circular reference.

Step_6: Then go to the Developer tab.

Step_7: Click on the Macros icon.

The Macro dialog box will appear on the screen.

Step_8: Finally, hit the Run button from the Macro dialog box. ## Conclusion

Circular references are a common issue in Excel that can cause calculation errors and slow down performance. I hope this article helped you with the solutions to resolve all the problems with circular references. Thank you!

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