How to Trace Errors in Formula Results in Excel

In this article, we will learn How to Trace Errors in Formula Results in Excel.


Whenever we work on some tool, It’s common to get errors while working with calculations. In Excel, it is the same but here it is more probable to find the source of error. You can easily fix an error if it depends on hardcoded values or 1 or two references but it gets really hard when the formula depends on an indirect series of references. It can be that the formula showing error does not contain error itself but the references it depends on does. It means, you can solve that error along with all the related errors.

To trace the errors, excel provides an error tracing tool. It is in the formula tab of ribbon, in the formula auditing group, under Error Checking. Let's learn how to look up trace error option 

Trace Error in Excel

To locate the Trace errors option in Excel, follow the steps.

Go to Formulas > Error Checking > Trace error.

This will show the reference structure on the sheet via coloured lines.

Example :

All of these might be confusing to understand. Let's understand how to use the function using an example. Here we need to Find the Source of error in the given formula. Just to show you how to use excel error tracing, I have prepared a simple example in excel. Here I have a series. In cell C2 we have a total of series.

In cell C8, I have an average of series. As we can see average cell is showing an #N/A error. You can do this manually here, but if this sheet was large enough that you can’t see all precedent cells at once, it could be a regrous task. With error tracing it is simple. Let’s see how it works

  • Select the error containing the cell that you want to trace. Here I select C8 total of series.
  • Now go to ? formula tab? Formula Auditing? Error checking drop down? Trace Errors.

These red lines show where the error is coming from. Here C8 is getting it’s error from C2 and C2 from B5. Hence if we solve the B5 error, we may get all other errors solved. If we write 0 in B5, then all errors will be gone. The red arrows will turn blue.

So this is how you use the error tracing. Now you might be wondering what will happen if the error is being caused by some cell in a different sheet. Let’s try it.

Here in cell B5 I have given the reference of cell A2 from sheet2 and it contains a #DIV/0 error. Now select average cell A2 and do the same error tracing.

In the above image, you can see division error coming from a sheet icon. If you double click on the end of this arrow a go to dialog box will open, with reference to an error causing cell. Click on that reference and hit ok. You’ll be directed to that error causing cell. Solve it and move to another.


Important: If error is being caused by some other workbook’s reference then error tracing of excel will not work. It works only for one workbook.

Remove Error Tracing Arrows

As you trace the error, error arrows will pop up. Now CTRL+Z will not make these arrows go, even if you have solved the error. To get rid of these arrows, click on the remove arrow in the formula auditing group. All errors will disappear immediately. 

Here are all the observational notes using the formula in Excel
Notes :

  1. Errors are a part of excel which helps in learning what not to do using excel.
  2. Different error type indicates different problems.

Hope this article about How to Trace Errors in Formula Results in Excel is explanatory. Find more articles on calculating values and related Excel formulas here. If you liked our blogs, share them with your friends on Facebook. And also you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We would love to hear from you, do let us know how we can improve, complement or innovate our work and make it better for you. Write to us at

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