5 Proven Methods- How to Fix #REF In Excel Easily?

Excel users are no strangers to the formula errors in spreadsheets. One such error that users encounter is “#REF!”. It is a frustrating error that occurs when a formula referring to a specific cell is not valid. This moment can disrupt your entire workflow. Therefore, in this blog, I will explore what #ref error is, why it occurs, and most significantly how to fix #REF in Excel for a seamless spreadsheet experience.

Screenshot of the error:

how to fix #ref in Excel

So, let’s dig deep…

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Quick Fixes:

What Is REF Error in Excel?

In Excel, REF stands for reference. And #ref error appears when a formula refers to a cell that is invalid or no longer exists. It usually happens after deleting the cells that a formula is referring to.

When this error occurs, it simply means that you can’t even perform calculations or mathematical operations using formulas.

Let’s take an example to better understand. 

Suppose you want to calculate total sales completed in the last quarter and you calculate this in cell B5 by using the below formula:


But later you decide to shift it to cell E2 of your spreadsheet. In this instance, you will get a #REF error.

Can REF Errors Lead to Permanent Data Loss?

No, REF errors in Excel don’t directly lead to data loss. But if it is not fixed promptly then it can result in data inaccuracies and complications. But before addressing this formula error, it is important to identify the root causes for better resolution.

What Causes #REF Error In Excel?

Identifying the causes behind the occurrence of #REF errors in Excel worksheets can be challenging but not impossible. Here, I have shortlisted the major factors for this error, let’s take a look:

  1. Missing cells or rows
  2. Using incorrect cell references
  3. Invalid formula
  4. Renamed worksheet or workbook
  5. Deleted or moved external references

After extracting the common causes, it’s time to know how to find #ref in Excel or how to fix REF error in Excel using best workarounds.

How to Fix #REF in Excel Spreadsheet?

When it comes to fixing formula errors in Excel, patience & meticulousness are paramount. Therefore, have patience and apply the below methods carefully to diagnose and resolve Excel REF error when opening files effectively.

Method 1- Review Formulas in A Cell

The very crucial step that you need to take to get rid of this problem is checking the formula in a cell where the #REF error occurs. Make sure that all the cell references within a formula are accurate and valid. If everything is OK there but still getting the same error, try the next method.

Also Read: Strategies to Resolve #SPILL Error Excel Like a Pro!

Method 2- Undo the Changes

If you unintentionally or accidentally deleted a named range, then you can revert it by pressing an “Undo” button. You can find the Undo option on the “Quick Access Toolbar.” Alternatively, you can use the “CTRL+Z” keyboard shortcut to undo the changes.


Method 3- Use the Go to Special Option

Another effective trick that can be used is the “Go To Special” option. In Excel, this feature helps find & select the cells holding a specific category of data. So, here you have to use the same Go To Special feature to locate all the instances of #REF! error in a spreadsheet using these steps:

  • Ensure to open the Excel file that is showing the REF error.
  • Go to Home tab >> locate “Find & Select” option.
  • Expand the dropdown menu of that option >> Choose the Go To Special.

Go To Special

  • Under the opened Go To Special dialog, choose Formulas. Then, check the Errors checkbox.


  • The formulas with ref! errors will be selected.

Note: This method will only help you to find the ref errors in cells but it will not help to fix it.

Method 4- How to Fix #REF in Excel by Using the Find & Replace Feature?

The Find and Replace feature is the best trick to fix ref error in Excel worksheets. This feature helps to quickly replace the #REF errors with blanks and enhance your spreadsheet visuality.

Here’s how you can use it:

  • Go to Home tab >> locate “Find & Select” option.
  • Then, expand the dropdown menu of that option >> Choose the “Replace”. Alternatively, you can use CTRL + F keys together to open the Find and Replace dialog-box.

Find & Select

  • Under the Find and Replace box, type #REF in the Find what box and leave the Replace with box empty.
  • Now, click on Replace All button & hit Close >> OK.

How to Fix #REF in Excel

  • This will automatically replace the #ref data with empty spaces or will be ignored.

Method 5- Use Conditional Formatting to Highlight Errors

You can also use the conditional formatting in Microsoft Excel to monitor for REF! error. This will assist you in applying a selected cell format to any current & future #REF errors.

Follow the below steps to use this option:

  • Select all cells by pressing Ctrl + A keys within the worksheet.
  • Go to the Home tab then click on Conditional Formatting.
  • Next, choose Highlight Cell Rules option >> More Rules.

How to Fix #REF in Excel

  • Locate “Format only cells with” and click on the dropdown to choose Errors.
  • After this, click Format to create your wanted format >> hit OK.

Fix #REF In Excel

Now, #Ref formula error cells are formatted. Once you correct them, the selected formatting is removed.

Also Read: #VALUE! Error in Excel Demystified: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Fix #Ref Error in Google Sheets?

Troubleshooting steps for the REF error in Google Sheets is almost similar to an Excel spreadsheet. It means you can easily overcome this situation by implementing the resolutions mentioned in the above section.

However, the first thing you need to do in this situation is check the formula in a cell where the #REF error arises. Make sure that all the cell references within a formula are accurate and valid.

How to Copy and Paste Without Getting the #Ref in Excel?

You can copy and paste data without getting the #Ref error in Excel spreadsheet by following these steps:

  • Select the cell that contains the formula & press Ctrl + C keys together to copy it.
  • Next, select the destination cell & press CTL + V keys together to paste the formula exactly
  • This will not change the cell references, because the formula was copied as text.

FAQs- Get Your Queries Answered

How Do I Change a REF to A Value in Excel?

You can change a REF to a value in Excel worksheet by following the below steps:

  • Select the cell(s) with the formula.
  • Then, ensure the cells are highlighted & make a right-click.
  • After that, select the ‘Paste Special’ option from a clipboard menu.
  • Now, choose the ‘Values’ option in that tab. This will delete the formula & replace the content in the cell(s) with static values.

Are There Excel Add-Ins That Can Help Prevent #REF Errors?

Yes, some Excel add-ins offer features to prevent & identify formula errors, including ref errors.

How Do I Ignore #Ref Errors in Excel?

Using the Find and Replace feature, you can ignore #Ref errors in Excel. Press CTRL + F, then enter '#ref' in a find option & leave the replace option empty >> hit Replace. This will automatically replace the #ref data with empty spaces or will be ignored.

What to Do If This Error Occurs Due Excel File Corruption?

If Excel formula errors including REF error occur due to Excel file corruption, consider using Microsoft’s Open and Repair feature to solve the corruption in the file for free.

Is There a Quick Method For #Ref Errors, Or Does It Require In-Depth Troubleshooting?

No, there is no quick method for #ref errors, by trying the fixes specified in this blog, you can overcome this error easily.

How Do I Fix #REF Error In VLOOKUP?

You can fix REF error in Excel VLOOKUP by adjusting the reference range to be larger, or reducing the column lookup value to match the reference range.

Should I Seek Expert Help If I Can't Resolve this Error on My Own?

If the error continues even after applying the solutions discussed in this post, consider consulting with an Excel expert.

Also Read: Fix Excel Formula Errors

Time to Say Good Bye

Well, mastering the art of fixing the REF error in Excel is crucial for a continuous spreadsheet experience. Therefore, I have covered the causes and resolutions of #ref errors to navigate & overcome this annoying situation with less effort.

I hope you liked this post.

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.