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

Changing Above-the-Line Fonts

Word maintains a list of the fonts most recently used in the program. You can't modify the list, but you can turn it on and ...

Discover More

Automatic Question Numbering

Want to use Word's numbering capabilities to help you number a series of questions? Here's how to accomplish the task as ...

Discover More

Locked File Puzzle

What would you do if every time you opened a workbook Excel told you it was locked? Here's how you can try to recover from ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Suppressing Zero Values in PivotTables

PivotTables are great for digesting and analyzing huge amounts of data. But what if you want part of that data excluded, such ...

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

Bogging Down with Calculated Items

Create a complex PivotTable and you may find that your system slows to a crawl. The reason for this may be due to the way in ...

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

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 1 + 3?

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.

Newest Tips
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.