How to Fix “Microsoft Excel Reference Isn’t Valid” Error?

It is quite common to encounter different errors and issues while working on your Excel workbook. One such annoying error is “Microsoft Excel Reference isn’t valid“. (Here is the real interface of this error).

Microsoft Excel Reference Isn't Valid

When this error message occurs, it simply means that the cell reference or range you are using in a formula is invalid or incorrect. However, it is difficult to fix it, if you don’t have an accurate solution.

Though, in this comprehensive guide, I will discuss all the possible ways to fix the Microsoft Excel says reference isn’t valid error along with the major factors.

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Quick Fixes:

Why Does Microsoft Excel Say Reference Isn’t Valid?

There are multiple reasons behind triggering this error message. But here I have shortlisted the major factors. So, let’s have a look:

  1. When Excel File is not on your Local Drive
  2. If the file name contains square brackets like “[‘or’]” then also you can receive a reference isn’t valid error.
  3. When data reference has been renamed, moved, or deleted.
  4. Due to incorrect cell references
  5. The pivot table is in non-existent range.

Methods To Fix Microsoft Excel Reference Isn’t Valid Error

Let’s follow the below troubleshooting methods to fix this error.

Fix 1- Restart Excel

It might be possible that there may be a temporary bug in the Excel triggering this error. You can fix it by opening the Excel again.

Restarting Excel can often clear the temporary glitches & resolve minor errors. Nevertheless, if the reference is not valid error persists after restarting the Excel, then you can explore other troubleshooting methods mentioned below.

Fix 2- Check if Excel File is Saved in the Local Storage

Microsoft Excel Reference Isn't Valid

If you want to make changes to your Excel sheet, then you need full access. However, if you can’t modify worksheet data or use any tools on your sheet, it might be possible that the Excel file isn’t locally saved on your PC.

Therefore, ensure to save your XLSX/XLS file on a local storage so that you can easily access or edit your sheet.

Also Read:  Excel Pivot Table Data Source Reference Is Not Valid Error

Fix 3- Check if the File Name Contains Special Characters or Square Brackets

Many users have reported in the forums & community websites that they received Microsoft Excel reference isn’t valid when their file name contains special characters. Even though they said that they fixed this problem by removing the special characters from the file name.

Sometimes, this error also causes if the file name is enclosed in the square brackets. Since you are getting this error so, it is recommended to rename your Excel file.

Here’s how you can do so:

Step 1- Firstly, open the File Explorer in order to locate the document.

Step 2- Find & double-click on the Excel file that is showing the reference isn’t valid.

Step 3- Edit the file name means simply erase the special characters & squared brackets from a file name >> hit Enter.

Fix 4- Exit Design Mode to Fix Microsoft Excel Reference Isn’t Valid

Most of the time, Microsoft Excel says reference isn’t valid error while creating the text box from a Developer tab. When this error occurs, all the ribbon stuff gets greyed out and you can’t open a File tab.

In such a situation, you must exit from the Design mode so that you can enter data into the box.

To exit Design Mode, follow these steps:

  • Open the Excel workbook.
  • Click on the “Developer” tab in the Excel ribbon & select “Customize the Ribbon.” Instead, you can right-click on the Excel ribbon to see the Customize the Ribbon option)

Customize the Ribbon

  • Under the “Customize the Ribbon” window, check the box next to “Developer” in the right-hand column & click “OK.”

Fix Microsoft Excel Reference Isn't Valid

  • Once the Developer tab is visible, click on it.
  • In the Controls group, you’ll find a button called “Design Mode.” Click on it to exit design mode.
  • The design mode will be deactivated, and you can now relate to your Excel workbook as usual.

Note– The Developer tab isn’t enabled by default in MS Excel. You need to activate it manually.

Fix 5- Remove Hyperlinks

Well, you can even encounter the reference isn’t valid error due to broken hyperlinks in the Excel file. You can troubleshoot this problem by eliminating the problematic links from your Excel worksheet.

In case, if you don’t know which link is triggering this error, then you should remove all the existing hyperlinks.

Follow the below steps to do so:

Step 1- Open your Excel Worksheet.

Step 2- Locate the hyperlink there, and then right-tap on it.

Step 3- Select the Remove hyperlink.

Remove Hyperlinks

Also Read: Fix VLookup Invalid Cell Reference Error In Excel?

Fix 6- Change the Pivot Table Named Range

When generating a Pivot Table, you will need to enter a cell or named range which exists in a grid. But in the meanwhile, if you enter an invalid named range then you can meet this error message.

So, it is important to check your named range before you generate a Pivot Table.

Now, let’s follow the below instructions carefully to change the pivot table named range:

Step 1- Open your Excel worksheet.

Step 2- Then, go to the Insert tab and click on PivotTable.

Step 3- After this, enter the valid named range in the section of Table/Range.

Microsoft Excel Reference Isn't Valid

That’s it…

Fix 7- Recommended: Use Excel Repair & Recovery Tool

If none of the above DIY fixes solve the error, you can simply rely on innovative Excel Repair Software. This utility is suggested by several IT administrators & MVPs for troubleshooting common Excel errors including reference is not valid Excel pivot table refresh.

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Related FAQs:

Why Does Excel Keep Say Data Source Reference Is Not Valid?

It might possible that your Excel file name contained square brackets or some invalid characters due to which the Excel keep say data source reference is not valid.

How Do I Fix Excel When It Says the Reference Isn't Valid?

You can fix Excel when it says the reference isn’t valid by renaming the file name or updating the cell references.

How Do I Fix a Circular Reference Error in Excel?

In order to fix a circular reference error in Excel, you can run error checking tool in the Excel ribbon, use status bar, or apply iterative calculation.

How to Remove Excel Found a Problem with One Or More Formula References in This Worksheet?

To remove Excel found a problem with one or more formula references in this worksheet, you have to:

  • Check Links
  • Review Charts
  • Check Individual Sheet
  • Check Formulas

To Sum Up

So, these are the most effective methods using which you can easily troubleshoot Microsoft Excel reference isn’t valid error.

In case, if the manual methods fail to work, then it is recommended to opt for Excel Repair Tool. This utility can repair XLS/XLSX files along with fixing other Excel issues in the most inclusive manner.

Furthermore, you can visit our Repair MS Excel social account on FacebookTwitter page.



Priyanka is a content marketing expert. She writes tech blogs and has expertise in MS Office, Excel, and other tech subjects. Her distinctive art of presenting tech information in the easy-to-understand language is very impressive. When not writing, she loves unplanned travels.