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. ...

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