How to Allow Circular Reference in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Allowing Circular References in Excel: A Quick Guide

Allowing circular references in Excel is simple. You enable this feature by tweaking a few settings in Excel’s options. Circular references are useful when you need a cell to rely on itself for calculations. This guide will walk you through the steps to enable circular references and provide some helpful tips on using them effectively.

How to Allow Circular References in Excel

By following these steps, you’ll learn how to allow circular references in Excel. This will give you more flexibility in your calculations and help you accomplish tasks that require a cell to refer back to itself.

Step 1: Open Excel Options

Go to the "File" tab and select "Options."

In the "File" tab, you’ll find a lot of settings for Excel, but don’t worry, you just need to find the "Options" button at the bottom. Click on it, and a new window will pop up with all sorts of settings you can tweak.

Step 2: Navigate to Formulas

In the Excel Options window, click on "Formulas."

Once you’re in the "Options" window, look for the "Formulas" tab on the left sidebar. Clicking on it will bring up settings specifically for how Excel handles formulas and calculations.

Step 3: Enable Iterative Calculation

Check the box labeled "Enable iterative calculation."

In the "Formulas" section, you’ll see an option that says "Enable iterative calculation." This is the magic switch that lets Excel handle circular references by repeating the calculation until it reaches a specific number of iterations or a particular change threshold.

Step 4: Adjust Maximum Iterations

Set the maximum iterations and maximum change values as needed.

When you enable iterative calculations, you’ll notice two boxes below it: "Maximum Iterations" and "Maximum Change." The first controls how many times Excel will recalculate, while the second determines how precise the final value should be. Adjust these settings based on your needs.

Step 5: Click OK

Click "OK" to save your changes and close the Excel Options window.

After you’ve set everything up, just click the "OK" button. This will save your changes and close the options window. Now you can use circular references in your workbook.

After completing these steps, Excel will allow circular references in your formulas. You can now create more dynamic calculations that rely on the results of earlier iterations.

Tips for Allowing Circular References in Excel

  • Understand the implications: Circular references can make your workbook more complex, so make sure you understand how they will impact your calculations.
  • Use sparingly: Avoid overusing circular references as they can slow down your workbook’s performance.
  • Check for errors: Always double-check your formulas to ensure they don’t create unintended loops.
  • Adjust settings as needed: Play around with the maximum iterations and maximum change settings to find what works best for your specific needs.
  • Document your work: Make notes in your workbook explaining why and where you’ve used circular references for future reference.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a circular reference in Excel?

A circular reference occurs when a formula directly or indirectly refers to its own cell, causing an endless loop.

Are circular references bad?

Not necessarily. They can be useful but should be used carefully to avoid performance issues and errors.

How do I know if I have a circular reference?

Excel will usually alert you with a warning message when it detects a circular reference in your formulas.

Can circular references slow down my workbook?

Yes, especially if your workbook has many complex formulas. Adjust the iteration settings to balance performance and accuracy.

What are iterative calculations?

Iterative calculations allow Excel to repeatedly recalculate formulas until a specific condition is met, enabling the use of circular references.


  1. Go to the "File" tab and select "Options."
  2. Click on "Formulas."
  3. Check "Enable iterative calculation."
  4. Adjust maximum iterations and change values.
  5. Click "OK."


Allowing circular references in Excel can be a game-changer for creating dynamic and complex calculations. By following the steps above, you can easily enable this feature and tailor it to your specific needs.

Circular references are like a double-edged sword; if used wisely, they can save you a lot of time and effort. However, they should be used with caution to avoid potential pitfalls like performance slowdowns or calculation errors.

If you find this guide helpful, consider exploring more advanced Excel features to take your skills to the next level. Happy calculating!

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