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Reducing File Sizes for Workbooks with PivotTables

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: Reducing File Sizes for Workbooks with PivotTables.

PivotTables are great for certain types of data analysis. Since PivotTables do quite a bit of number crunching, one of the techniques Excel uses to process them faster is to create an "intermediate dataset" to work with. This intermediate dataset, by default, is stored with the worksheet, so PivotTables can increase the size of your workbooks, sometimes dramatically.

If your workbook contains multiple PivotTables, all based on a single data source, Excel may create an intermediate dataset for each PivotTable, instead of using one intermediate dataset. This, of course, could increase the size of your workbook very rapidly.

You can control how Excel creates the intermediate dataset by modifying the options you choose in the PivotTable Wizard that puts your PivotTable together. If you have one PivotTable in your workbook, and when running the PivotTable Wizard a second time you specify the same data source that you used in the existing PivotTable, Excel informs you that "Your new report will use less memory if you base it on your existing report." If you click Yes, you will save memory because Excel will use the same intermediate data as it used for your other PivotTable.

You can also instruct Excel to not save your intermediate data tables in the same disk file with the workbook. This will make the size of your workbook file much, much smaller, but it will also require that PivotTables be refreshed every time you open your workbook. Follow these steps:

  1. Run the PivotTable Wizard to create your PivotTable as you normally would.
  2. When you get to the final screen of the PivotTable Wizard (the one with the checkered flag on it), click the Options button to display the PivotTable Options dialog box.
  3. Clear the Save Data with Table Layout check box.
  4. Choose the Refresh on Open check box.
  5. Click on OK to close the PivotTable Options dialog box.
  6. Finish the steps in the PivotTable Wizard.

You don't need to choose the Refresh on Open check box (step 4) if you don't want to, but if you don't, you will need to remember to manually refresh the PivotTable every time you open the workbook.

If you already have quite a few PivotTables in your workbook, and you don't want to go through the process of creating them again, you can use a macro to step through the PivotTables and modify the caching index and turn off the saving of the intermediate data to disk. The following macro will accomplish these tasks:

Sub PTReduceSize()
    Dim wks As Worksheet
    Dim PT As PivotTable

    For Each wks In ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets
        For Each PT In wks.PivotTables
            PT.CacheIndex = 1
            PT.SaveData = False
End Sub

Once the macro runs (it won't take long), you should save your workbook using the Save As option. This will write a new workbook file, and you will be able to compare how much this change reduced the size of your workbook. Remember, however, that with the intermediate data not being saved to disk, the refreshing of the PivotTables takes longer when you first open the workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2851) 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: Reducing File Sizes for Workbooks with PivotTables.

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Comments for this tip:

Sarunas    04 Oct 2016, 04:34
Please keep in mind that if you have any custom fields setup they will disappear even if you have one data source. This macro is useful only if you have designed pivot table with no custom calculable fields.
jonathan    31 Mar 2016, 09:58
another easy way to cut down on bloat from multiple pivots on the same source, is to create the first one and then actually copy the pivot onscreen, and past somewhere else .. then modify to what you want as your second pivot. I believe this dictates to Excel that the original data source be used. Another great trick is to build and refresh your pivot table, then delete the actual data that originally fed it. The pivot cache retains all of the data and you can send to your user who can pivot to their heart's content. If they want to see the raw data, they need only click on the grand total of the pivot and it will all be displayed on a new tab. This cuts WAY down on filesize since you are essentially getting rid of duplicate data, but it depends on your process and user expectations.
Coral    20 May 2015, 17:44
I have the same question as Joe!

Joe    06 Mar 2015, 17:16
This works really well for my workbook that points to one data set. However, I have another sheet that has two very large datasets, what manipulations should be made to the code to fix this? because it will attempt to overwrite all pivot tables with one of the two datasets.

Thanks for any additional support you can give.

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