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 Toolbar Buttons with VBA

Toolbar buttons can have a different appearance depending on their state—whether they have been clicked or not. This ...

Discover More

Adding an Optional Break

The no-width optional break is primarily used for Asian languages in Word. It can have value for English-speakers, as ...

Discover More

Jumping to a Specific Page

Want to jump to a particular page in your document? Word makes it easy; just pull up the Go To tab of the Find and Replace ...

Discover More

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!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Refreshing PivotTable Data

If you modify the data on which a PivotTable is based, you'll need to refresh the table so it reflects the modified data. ...

Discover More

Error in Linked PivotTable Value

Excel allows you to link to values in other workbooks, even if those values are in PivotTables. However, Excel may display an ...

Discover More

Default Formatting for PivotTables

Wish there was a way to define how you want PivotTables formatted before you actually create the PivotTable? You may be out ...

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:

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 7 + 8?

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.

Links and Sharing