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Uncovering and Removing Links

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Uncovering and Removing Links.

It can be frustrating to open an Excel file and be continually asked if you want to update linked information, particularly if you are not sure what information is linked. If you want to get rid of links in a workbook, there are several things to try.

First, choose Links from the Edit menu, if the option is available. (It will only be available if Excel recognizes explicit links in the workbook.) From the resulting Links dialog box you cannot delete links, but you can change the links so that they point to the current workbook. When you later save and again open your workbook, Excel will recognize the self-referential links and delete them.

Another way you can find links is to search for either the left bracket ([) or right bracket (]) in your workbook. The brackets are used by Excel when putting together the links to other files. For instance, this is a link to an external file, as it would appear in a cell:


When you find links similar to the above, all you need to do is delete them. Make sure that you search each worksheet in your workbook.

Another place to look for links is in the defined range names maintained by Excel. This is a particularly common place for links if you are working with a workbook that contains worksheets that were copied or moved from other locations. The defined names, rather than pointing to a cell range in the current workbook, could be pointing to a range in a different workbook. Choose Insert | Name | Define to display the proper dialog box. Then step through each defined name, examining the address to which it refers. Delete or change any that refer to other workbooks.

Another place to check is your macros. It is possible to assign macros to toolbar buttons (older versions only) or to graphics in a worksheet. Click on any custom toolbar buttons or graphics and see if you get an error. If you do, this is a good indication that the button or graphic is linked to a macro contained in a different file. If you delete the button or graphic, or change the macro assignment, the link problem should go away.

Still another possible location for wayward links is in PivotTables. When you create a PivotTable, it can refer to data on a different worksheet in your workbook. If you later move that source worksheet to a different workbook, your PivotTable will be linked to the external data source. The only solution here is to delete the PivotTable, copy the source data back to the current workbook, or move the PivotTable to the external workbook.

Finally, you should check graphs and charts. If you recently moved worksheets out of your current workbook into another workbook, it is possible that charts and graphs remaining in your current workbook now refer to data on a worksheet you moved to another workbook. If this is the case, you will need to either remove the graph or chart, move it to the other workbook, or copy the source data back into the current workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1925) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Uncovering and Removing Links.

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Comments for this tip:

sachin dhavale    09 Nov 2016, 05:22
It was really useful.. the data validations were the culprit..

Many Thanks
Paul    09 Aug 2016, 05:21
The Link was hidden in the validation rules of a sheet I had copied into my workbook. Very hard to spot this! I selected the copied sheet, cleared all validation rules, saved and quit the workbook. When I re-opened it the link was (finally) gone!
Many thanks for the detailed article and comments!
Suryakant Randeri     24 Jul 2016, 06:03
  I have deleted one unwanted excel file that was previously down loaded. File Name" water97_V13.xla"
   Now every time when I open any excel file the pop up inform that file " water97_97v13.xla" not available if have deleted or changed the location ..... etc. etc.
  Its irritating to confirm Ok button every time you open any excel file in my compute.
  Please advise how to get rid off this irritating pop up message


Martin    22 Apr 2016, 02:28
Really useful site. Helped me solve a problem that was not in the Microsoft help. Thank you!
Ashish     01 Apr 2016, 23:44
Thanks for the help. Defined names were the culprit in my case.
Inesen    01 Feb 2016, 23:06
Managed to remove the links from Name Manager under Formulas tab. Thanks!
Heyromey    14 Jan 2016, 11:35
To manually break links in Microsoft Excel 2013:
1. Go to Data >> Connections: Edit Links.
2. Take a screenshot of the links you want to break. Close the Edit Links dialog box.
3. Save a copy of your Excel file and close all Excel windows.
4. Rename the extension to .zip ("Excel Workbook.xlsx" will become "Excel Workbook.zip").
5. Open the zip file to explore the contents.
6. Go to xl >> worksheets. You should see an xml file for each of the sheets in your workbook.
7. Copy all the worksheets to a temporary folder on your hard drive.
8. Open the folder with windows explorer.
9. Press Ctrl + E and search for the file name you took a screenshot of in the Edit Links dialog box. You could also just search for “.xlsx”
10. Open the files that the string is found in. I’m using Notepad ++.
11. Search for the string from within the file editor.
12. Modify the filepath by adding a random letter in the middle of it.
13. Save and close the .xml file.
14. Copy and replace the file into the .zip folder.
15. Close the .zip application you’re using to view the files.
16. Rename the “.zip” file to “.xlsx”.
17. Open the file.
18. Excel will tell you about a problem it found and ask you if you want to recover it. Click Yes.
19. Excel will tell you about the repairs it made. Click Close.
20. Check your Data >> Connections: Edit Links.
Cris Jumz    08 Jan 2016, 00:08
Break/Remove links in Conditional Formatting! Effective. Thanks for the idea..
User    05 Jan 2016, 09:22
" Mohamed Abdel-Aziz 05 Jul 2015, 09:11
Also there is another place, if you made a drop down list from "data validation" you must check the links."

^^This was my ultimate problem. Looked everywhere. Thanks so much!!
Martin    22 Sep 2015, 06:38
Brilliant - solved the problem.
I tried what Stein suggested first (the natural goto was just to delete the links) but it did not help in my case. Redirecting the links to the current workbook would not play so then I tackled the named ranges and cleared the problem. Thanks again Allen
Stein    06 Aug 2015, 14:42
The best solution is not given here, suprisingly. In Excel 2010, just go to File/Info and then Edit Links. You can delete all links in a single move, which converts cell contents from formulas to values.
Mohamed Abdel-Aziz    05 Jul 2015, 09:11
Also there is another place, if you made a drop down list from "data validation" you must check the links.
Jose Lourenco    13 Jun 2015, 03:06
Great tip! I was struggling where the link to external file was. Had tried everything, except the range name definitions...BINGO
Thanks! Great stuff!
Barry    01 May 2015, 05:31
Having tried to break a stubborn link (which turned out to be a Named range), in my research I also found that you can have links in Conditional Formatting.
Peter    01 May 2015, 01:28
How do you keep the data connected to that link in your current workbook?
Paul Mel    15 Mar 2015, 18:09
Appreciate this smart solution..
Dory Gordon    13 May 2014, 08:24
Clear, fast and easy (as usual) - thanks, Allen! This is my go-to site for all Excel questions.
Morten    18 Dec 2013, 04:21
Thanks, but what if the link is to itself (i.e. the current workbook)? How do I remove the warning?
Nuno Costa    07 Aug 2013, 06:05
Problem solved!
Help much apreciatted!
Thank you very much!

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