Prevent Duplicate Entries in a Range with Excel Data Validation

In this article, we will learn how to prevent duplicate entries in a range with Data Validation.

We will learn how helpful and useful this feature is and its uses to avoid any typing errors or mistakes. It not only prevent users from entering incorrect data in the list but also saves a lot of time. 

Let’s take an example that how we can prevent the user from entering duplicate values in the range:-

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As we can see in above image, we have a column C, where we have few products and we’ll enter more Products in that range. We want Excel to prompt us with a message, like “Duplicate Product”, the moment we enter any duplicate entry in the range or “This product has already been added to the list”. So, kindly enter another product, or in other words, we just want the cell to be restricted to have only the unique entries in the range.

And, to prevent duplicate entries in the range, we will simply follow 3 easy steps.

  • First, we will select the entire column C
  • Go to Data Validation or press “ALT + D + L” to have the data validation dialog box

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  • Select “Custom” from allow category as we are going to have a function in “formula bar” to prevent users from entering duplicate entries
  • Enter the COUNTIF function :- =COUNTIF(C:C,C1)=1

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  • So, we skip input message and directly jump on “Error Alert” tab
  • We will let “STOP” be the error style, and then in the title, we’ll write “Duplicate / Invalid Entry!”
  • Then, in the error message box, we type “You have entered a product that already exists in this column. So, please enter some other product that is unique.”

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  • Click on Ok


Now, we can see there are already five products in the range. So, we enter “Product 06” in cell A14 and the cell accepts the new product without any error because “Product 05” did not exist anywhere in the range.

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And now, we try to enter “Product 04” in cell A145 and hit enter. Here, we get an error message which we set for duplicate entries. That’s because, if you look at the range, “Product 04” already exists in the cell A12.

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This validation criterion applies to the entire range. So, even if we go and enter any duplicate value in the cell C1, it will not accept and display the same customize error message which we have set.

So, it simply means if a user will attempt to enter duplicate value anywhere in the range, it will be rejected and an error message dialog box will pop up. You can click on “Retry” or “Cancel” to clear the error message and enter the unique product code to the list.

This is how you can prevent users from entering duplicate entries in the range, using Data validation in Excel.


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Video: Prevent Duplicate Entries in a Range with Excel Data Validation


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  1. This method is useful only when user enter the data manually. But, when user try to do something like cut, copy paste there is a duplicate record. So, How to prevent duplicate entries by cut copy paste

    • Hi Mohammad,

      With Data Validation, You can not prevent copy and pasting or dragging option. In order to do that, We might have to protect the sheet / book.

      Team Excel Forum

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