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: Increasing Undo Levels.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 7, 2016)
As you are working with a worksheet, Excel allows you to "undo" previous actions and return your worksheet to the condition before that action was taken. Normally you use Ctrl+Z to undo an action or you can use the Undo tool on the toolbar.
By default, Excel maintains your last 16 actions, but this number of undo levels can be misleading. There are some actions that can clear out the undo stack, making it impossible to undo any previous actions. For instance, running some macro commands can cause the stack to be cleared, and saving the workbook clears the undo stack. In addition, some actions cannot be undone (they don't get placed on the stack), but the list of such actions can vary based on the version of Excel you are using.
If you find that the Undo command is simply of no use to you, there are a number of possible reasons. One common reason is that you have AutoSave set up with a very short interval. Every time you save a workbook—whether explicitly or with AutoSave—the undo stack is cleared and you cannot undo anything that happened before the save.
Another possible reason is that the number of undo levels in your installation of Excel has been changed. This cannot be done within Excel itself, but can be done in the Windows Registry. If the Registry value was changed to some very low value, then the undo tool loses meaning. The following Knowledge Base article explains how you can make changes to the proper Registry setting in Excel 2000, 2002, and 2003:
If you are using Excel 97, you can make the change following the information in this article:
While you can use these techniques to increase the number of undo levels as high as you want, Microsoft suggests you don't increase the undo levels above 100, as there may be a serious hit on the performance of Excel.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3145) 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: Increasing Undo Levels.
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!
If you hide the first rows of a worksheet, you may have a hard time getting those rows visible again. Here's a simple way to ...Discover More
Select a range of cells, and one of those cells will always be the starting point for the range. This tip explains how to ...Discover More
Insert a symbol into a cell, and it should stay there, right? What if the symbol changes to another character, such as a ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.