Excel.Tips.Net ExcelTips (Menu Interface)

Stopping a Formula from Updating References

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: Stopping a Formula from Updating References.

David wonders if there is a way he can make a formula not automatically update when he inserts a column that would otherwise affect the formula. For instance, if he has the formula =SUM(B:B) and then he inserts a column to the left of column B, the formula is automatically updated by Excel to =SUM(C:C). He doesn't want the formula to update; he still wants it to refer to column B after he inserts the new column.

One way to get the result you want is to use the OFFSET function to refer to column B. For instance, consider the following formula:


If this formula is in a cell, and you insert a column before column B, then the formula doesn't update; it still refers to column B. Why? Because the formula refers to column A and you didn't do anything to move column A. If you did insert a column before column A, then the formula would update to reference column B.

This means that the best way to handle the formula is to use the INDIRECT function, in this manner:


The INDIRECT function uses text for a parameter, and since it is text it is not considered a reference to be updated by Excel. Regardless of inserting or deleting columns, the formula will always refer to column B.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3392) 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: Stopping a Formula from Updating References.

Related Tips:

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!


Leave your own comment:

  Notify me about new comments ONLY FOR THIS TIP
Notify me about new comments ANYWHERE ON THIS SITE
Hide my email address
*What is 5+3 (To prevent automated submissions and spam.)
           Commenting Terms

Comments for this tip:

chris    18 Dec 2012, 12:17
I have a formula which I wan tto stop auto updating like above but cannot get the INDIRECT function to work. any advice please?

My formula is:
=IF('Count Sheets'!$B2>0,IF('Count Sheets'!$C2>'Count Sheets'!$D2,'Count Sheets'!$B2,""),"")

Our Company

Sharon Parq Associates, Inc.

About Tips.Net

Contact Us


Advertise with Us

Our Privacy Policy

Our Sites


Beauty and Style




DriveTips (Google Drive)

ExcelTips (Excel 97–2003)

ExcelTips (Excel 2007–2016)



Home Improvement

Money and Finances


Pests and Bugs

Pets and Animals

WindowsTips (Microsoft Windows)

WordTips (Word 97–2003)

WordTips (Word 2007–2016)

Our Products

Helpful E-books

Newsletter Archives


Excel Products

Word Products

Our Authors

Author Index

Write for Tips.Net

Copyright © 2016 Sharon Parq Associates, Inc.