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External links may be calculated when you open a workbook that was last saved in an earlier version of Excel


When you open a workbook that contains external links or User Defined Functions in Microsoft Excel, you might experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • The links in the workbook are calculated against the external link table stored in the workbook and may be different than what was previously calculated.
  • Formulas that include or refer to external links to other workbooks that don't have values stored in the external link table may display one of the following errors:
    • #REF!

    • #VALUE!

  • Formulas that include User Defined Functions from Add-ins or other workbooks that are not available may display the following error:
    • #NAME?

Additionally, because the result is an error, other cells and functions that use this result might return other errors or unexpected results.


This scenario occurs if the workbook that you open was last saved in a version of Excel that's earlier than the version that you are currently using to open the workbook. This scenario occurs because Excel forces a complete recalculation of all open workbooks that were previously saved in an earlier version of Excel, regardless of the link update status. To fully recalculate a workbook, Excel gets the currently stored value of all external references from the workbooks external link table. This behavior occurs even if you decide not to update those links when you are prompted. Excel updates the workbook calculation chain to the current version of Excel. If the values of the external link sources are not available in the external link table in the workbook, Excel cannot calculate correctly. Therefore, Excel returns #REF! errors. This is also true of DDE links that are unavailable during the recalculation process. By default Excel saves a hidden table of the link values for calculation purposes. In some scenarios, the values for the external links may not be the same as what was last calculated in the formulas. It's also possible to turn off the feature to store the external link values on an individual workbook basis in Excel options.


To work around this problem, use one of the following methods.

If you have errors in external link formulas when you open the workbook, but you have not yet saved the workbook, follow these steps:

  1. Don't save the workbook. Instead, close the workbook without saving it. This will undo any changes that were made to the workbook.
  2. For each different external link source in the workbook that you want to open, confirm that the source file is available at the path that is specified in the link formula. If any link sources are no longer available, change the link formula to point to an alternative source. Alternatively, remove the link formula permanently to break the link. Follow the steps in the "Update or remove links" section to edit links or to remove links.
  3. After you confirm that all the link sources are available at their defined locations, open the linked workbook that experienced the problem in Excel. Let Excel update all external links within the workbook when you are prompted.
  4. When you open the linked workbook and confirm that all external links have updated successfully and that the workbook has been successfully recalculated in the current version of Excel, save the workbook. It should now open and update links as expected in the current version of Excel.

If you already saved the workbook that has errors in the external link formulas, if the link source file has moved, or if the link source files are no longer available, locate the original linked source. Alternatively, find an alternative source file. Then, modify the links to these sources. To examine the external link sources and to restore or remove any broken links, follow these steps:

  1. To temporarily prevent the recalculation of files that were last saved in an earlier version of Excel so that you can update or remove external links, set the calculation environment to manual. To temporarily set the calculation mode to manual, follow these steps:

    1. Close all workbooks.
    2. Create a new workbook.
    3. Select the Microsoft Office Button, and then select Excel Options.
    4. On the Formulas tab, select Manual under Calculation options, and then select OK.
    5. Open the saved workbook.
  2. On the Data tab, select Edit Links in the Connections group.

    Each link will list the file name of the source workbook to which this workbook is linked. If you select the link, the original file path location of the source workbook appears under the list in the Location label.

  3. Select Check Status to update the status for all the links in the list. Wait for the status of all links to be updated.

  4. Examine the status in the Status column, select the link, and then perform one of the following actions:

    • If the status is OK, no action is required. The link is working and is current.
    • If the status is Unknown, select Check Status to update the status for all links in the list.
    • If the status is Not applicable, the link uses OLE or Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE). Excel cannot check the status of these types of links.
    • If the status is Error: Source not found, select Change Source, and then select the appropriate workbook for the link.
    • If the status is Error: Worksheet not found, select Change Source, and then select the appropriate worksheet in the appropriate file. The source may have been moved or renamed.
    • If the status is Warning: Values not updated, select Update Values. The link was not updated when the workbook was opened.
    • If the status is Warning: Source not recalculated, select Open Source, and then press F9 to calculate the workbook. The workbook may be set to manual calculation in the source file. To set the workbook to automatic calculation, select the Microsoft Office Button, and then select Excel Options. On the Formulas tab, select Automatic under Calculation options.
    • If the status is Error: Undefined or non-rectangular name, some names cannot be resolved until you open the source workbook. Select Open Source, switch back to the destination workbook, and then select Check Status. If this does not resolve the issue, make sure that the name is not missing or misspelled. Switch to the source workbook, select the Formulas tab, select Define Name, and then look for the name.
    • If the status is Warning: Open source to update values, select Open Source. The link cannot be updated until you open the source.
    • If the status is Source is open, the source is open. No action is required unless you receive worksheet errors.
    • If the status is Values updated from file name, no action is required. The values have been updated.
    • If the status is Error: Status indeterminate, Excel cannot determine the status of the link. The source may contain no worksheets. Alternatively, the source may be saved in an unsupported file format. Select Update Values.
  5. After you resolve all link references, reset calculation to automatic so that Excel can fully recalculate the workbook in the new version of the workbook. To do this, follow these steps:

    1. Select the Microsoft Office Button, and then select Excel Options.

    2. On the Formulas tab, select Automatic under Calculation options, and then select OK.

      Excel should now calculate the workbook. If the calculation is successful, save the workbook. The workbook should now open and update links as expected in the current version of Excel.

For more information about how the calculation environment is determined, see Description of how Excel determines the current mode of calculation.

If you don't need the formulas that refer to external links, copy these formulas, and then paste the values only in the target cells.


When you replace a formula with its value, Excel permanently removes the formula.

To copy the formulas and paste the values, follow these steps:

  1. Open the workbook in the version of Excel in which the workbook was last saved. When you are prompted to update the links, select No. Because the file was last saved in this version of Excel, links are not forced to update. Calculation can occur with the last known value of the link.
  2. Right-click the cell or range of cells that contain the formula that refers to an external link, and then select Copy.
  3. Right-click the same cell or range of cells, and then select Paste Special.
  4. In the Paste Special dialog box, select Values under Paste, and then select OK.

After you remove all the unwanted links in this manner, save the workbook. You can then open the workbook in Excel without updating those links. This behavior occurs because the links no longer exist.