Too Many Rows or Columns in a PivotTable

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 16, 2014)

When attempting to refresh a PivotTable, Robin receives this error: 'Excel cannot make this change because there are too many row or column items.' The message tells her to drag at least one row or column field off the PivotTable and to try again. Problem is, Robin has done many refreshes on her PivotTable in the workbook without any problem over the six months before the error started showing up, and she hasn't changed the size of the PivotTable. This error just started showing up with no apparent cause.

Appearances can be deceiving, especially in a case like this. What you are seeing is a generic error message that basically means "the source data is more than can be handled in a PivotTable." It probably just started showing up because some internal limit within Excel was reached. For instance, your source data may include more and more column fields each week than the week before. If the number of such fields exceeds what Excel can handle—because you've added more data—then you get just such a message.

Excel is also limited by the amount of memory available in your system. You may want to check how much memory you have available and add more memory, if necessary.

The limits of what Excel can stuff into a PivotTable depend on the version of Excel you are using. The limits are discussed in various Knowledge Base articles. Here is the one for Excel 2000:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/211517

These are the limits for Excel 2002 and Excel 2003:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/820742

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7513) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Controlling the Italic Text Attribute

If you are formatting your document by using a macro, you may need to make some of your text italics. You do that by changing ...

Discover More

Inserting a Special Symbol

The vast majority of what you enter into a document can be accomplished through the use of the regular keyboard. However, ...

Discover More

Examining Tracked Changes in a Macro

The Track Changes feature in Word is very handy when you need to see what edits are made to a document. Using a macro you can ...

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Counting with PivotTables

One of the ways you can use PivotTables is to generate counts of various items in a data table. This is a great technique if ...

Discover More

Maintaining Formatting when Refreshing PivotTables

When you refresh the data in a PivotTable, Excel can play havoc with whatever formatting you applied. Here's how to protect ...

Discover More

Setting Stable Column Widths in a PivotTable

When you update a PivotTable, Excel can take liberties with any formatting you previously applied to the PivotTable. Here's ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

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.

Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
Share