Speed Up Excel: Top 11 Strategies to Improve Excel Performance with Large Files

In this era, Excel is used for managing crucial data and carrying out complex calculations and data analyses. After each time you use the files become more extensive, you may encounter slowdowns & performance issues that can hamper your workflow. Well, in this article, I will explore effective strategies to improve Excel performance with large files.

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Why Is Excel So Slow with Large Data?

Excel can become slow with large data due to the following reasons:

  1. Complex Formulas & Calculations- Especially complex formulas involving array formulas, or unpredictable functions that can significantly affect Excel’s performance.
  2. Large-Size Data Set- If you are handling large amounts of data, especially that contains thousands of rows & columns.
  3. External Links & References- If your workbook contains external links or other data sources, it can slow down Excel’s performance.
  4. Excessive Formatting- Applying wide-ranging formatting to rows, cells, or columns can contribute to slowness.
  5. Outdated Excel Software- Using an outdated Excel version might result in slower performance.

How to Improve Excel Performance With Large Files?

Let’s learn how to make Excel spreadsheets more efficient with these detailed tips.

1. Prevent Volatile Formulas

The class of formulas in Excel is called Volatile formulas. These formulas are recalculated whenever there is a change in the workbook. (For instance: NOW, TODAY, INDIRECT, RAND, OFFSET, INFO, etc.) So when the worksheet has a lot of volatile formulas, and any modification is done, the entire formulas are re-calculated. And this is the reason the worksheet becomes slow.

So to get rid of this issue it is recommended not to utilize the volatile formulas or it is better to use a table.

2. Utilize Helper Columns

Helper columns are the most underestimated design constructs in Excel. Generally, it is found that the user won’t make use of the helper columns.


Utilizing the ‘Helper Columns’ helps you avoid array formulas.

Well, this doesn’t mean won’t utilize array formulas. These are also very useful in some cases. However, when you attempt to do all with one long formula, this impacts the Excel file performance, some array formulas are worth it, but if it requires utilizing in many places then it is considered to make use of the helper columns to make Excel Spreadsheets work more efficiently.

Also Read: Unlocking the Secrets to Filter Out Excel Data to Save Time and Effort

3. Disable all Excel add-ins 

Generally, the add-ins are useful, but it is also found it slow down Excel and it starts crashing and freezing. So, it is good to disable the add-ins to optimize Excel File.

Here are the steps to do so:

  • First, go to File > Options > Add-Ins.

Excel options

  • Check the enabled add-ins by selecting Manage >> disable them like “Com Add-Ins”.
  • Next, click on “Go”.


  • Un-check all add-ins that are not unnecessary. If the add-ins are required you can enable them again

4. Employ Conditional Formatting with Caution

Well, the Excel Conditional Formatting is volatile. This might be not known by many users, and the users may not notice the difference with small data sets which can result in a slow Excel spreadsheet if used on large data sets or utilized multiple times. But apart from that, it is easy to even make the blended data look beautiful, I like this. Instead of doing the comparison yourself, you can simply look at a cell’s color or icon and easily notice how it compares with others.

It is also recommended to use it carefully to optimize Excel files.

5. Utilize Named Ranges and Excel Tables to Improve Excel Performance with Large Files

Named Ranges and Excel tables are the two most amazing features that hold data and make referencing simplified. This might take some time while using but as you start using, it becomes easy and fast.

While creating data-driven dashboards, it is a good idea to convert data into an Excel Table. This is also beneficial in making formulas more understandable, making the workbooks faster, and even optimizing Excel files.

6. Convert Unused Formulas to Static Values

It is said, “If you don’t need it, don’t keep it”. Plenty of formulas result in a slow Excel workbook. So if you have formulas that are not needed, it is better to convert them into a static value just by pasting them as values. This will ultimately help you to boost Excel performance.

Also Read: How to Convert Text to Number in Excel (6 Easy Ways)

7. Maintain Entire Referenced Data in One Sheet

Well, this is not possible always, but if you can do this, your Excel sheet becomes faster.

The logic behind this is simple; formulas in worksheets don’t require going far for the data when it is placed next in the same sheet.

8. Avoid Using the Entire Row/Column as Reference

This is mentioned in the list because it is seen that many users have the habit of using the entire row/column references in formulas. This is a bad habit and needs to be avoided.

We all think that a row/column just has a few cells with data but Excel doesn’t think like this. As we reference an entire row/column, Excel just as a good servant, checks it anyway and this takes more time to calculate and as a result, the spreadsheet becomes slow.

9. Use Manual Calculation Mode

This point is suggested in many forums and blogs and I have also mentioned it. The manual calculation provides the flexibility to let Excel know when to calculate, rather than Excel making its own decisions. This will not speed up Excel workbook, but if your spreadsheet is slow, this will save time by not making Excel recalculate again and again. To utilize manual calculation, follow the step

  • Go to Formula Tab > Calculation Options > Manual (press F9 key to recalculate)

10. Utilize Faster Formulas Techniques

Excel provides a lot of formulas and formula combos for doing the same thing. So it is best to recognize and utilize the faster ones.

For example:

  • Utilize IFERROR in place of IF and ISERROR combo (if you are using Excel 2003 or earlier, which does not have IFERROR).
  • Utilize — (double negatives) for converting TRUE’s and FALSE to 1’s and 0’s (in place of multiplying it by 1 or adding 0 to it). The speed improvement is noticed in large data sets.

11. Divide the Workbook Into Several Files

Separation of the workbook into several files is very effective but also complicated in some cases. For example: utilize one file for processing the raw input data, within the second file, all main calculations are done and the third file will display results. This seems quite complicated but fixes the issue of slow Excel spreadsheets.

Well, these are the best 11 tips that will improve Excel performance with large files and also save you time. I have also added some more Bonus Tips to speed up Excel files.

Also Read: 30 Tips & Tricks to Master Microsoft Excel

Bonus Tips to Speed Up Excel File

#1 Fix Excel Files Are Slow to Save/Open:

In some cases, Microsoft Excel file takes a long time to open. When Excel is launched this starts normally, but the issue arises when you try to open the file directly before running Excel and the file takes some time to start.

Sometimes, this issue is caused by an OS service known as “Superfetch” being disabled, this is dependable for caching data on the RAM so that, as the name specifies, it can be fetched super-fast when necessary.

To fix this issue try to change the Superfetch settings but if, it won’t help you to fix the problem then modify the registry for the Excel file.

#2 Try to Reduce Excel File Size:

It is found that a bigger Excel file or Excel file that has large data, consequently becomes slower, and also the file starts crashing. So, it is recommended to reduce the Excel file size to prevent the issue and optimize the Excel file.

To do so execute some instructions:

Check the file type, remove the unnecessary formatting, also try to clean up formulas by setting the Excel option in a manual calculation, prevent volatile formulas, and check the unused cells and delete them.

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User Questions & Answers:

What to Do If File Is Too Large for Excel?

Separation of the workbook into several workbooks is very effective if file is too large for Excel.

How Often Should I Update My Excel Software for Optimal Performance?

You should regularly update the Excel software to enjoy the latest improvements & bug fixes.

Are There Specific Formulas Known for Slowing Down Excel?

Absolutely, there some formulas, like volatile functions can impact the Excel performance.

How Many MB Is Too Big for Excel?

Up to 500 – 700 megabytes (MB) is too big for Microsoft Excel.

Can Using 64-Bit Excel Improve Performance on Any PC?

While 64-bit Excel can handle larger files more proficiently, it is vital to ensure your PC’s hardware supports it.

Pack Up

Enhancing Excel for large files necessitates a combination of smart strategies & applying the advanced features of built-in tools. By following the best practices and expert tips mentioned in this blog for how to make Excel run faster with lots of data, you can streamline your workflow.

Thanks for reading!

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.