How to Match Data in Excel: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Matching data in Excel can be super helpful, whether you’re trying to combine information from different sources or just making sure your data lines up correctly. Basically, you’ll use functions like VLOOKUP or MATCH to get the job done. After this, you’ll be able to pull info from one table and match it with another quickly.

How to Match Data in Excel

Alright, let’s dive into matching data in Excel. This guide will walk you through using the VLOOKUP function, one of the easiest ways to match data. By the end, you’ll know how to take data from one table and find corresponding data in another, making your life a whole lot easier!

Step 1: Open Excel and Your Data Files

First, open Excel and load up the spreadsheets you want to match data in.

Make sure both sheets are open and visible so you can easily switch between them. If your data is in a single file but on different sheets, that’s fine too.

Step 2: Identify the Common Column

Find the column that both tables have in common. This is usually a unique identifier like an ID number.

This common column will be the one you use for matching the data. It’s super important that this column has no duplicates!

Step 3: Write the VLOOKUP Formula

Select the cell where you want the matched data to appear, and type =VLOOKUP(.

The VLOOKUP function stands for "Vertical Lookup," and it’s perfect for finding a match in a column. Here’s where the magic begins.

Step 4: Enter the Lookup Value

Next, input the value you want to search for in the other table. This could be a cell reference like A2.

This lookup value is what VLOOKUP will use to find a match in the other table. Make sure it’s the same kind of data (like text or numbers) as what’s in the common column.

Step 5: Specify the Table Array

Now, highlight the range in the other table that includes the common column and the data you want to retrieve. Enter this range in your formula.

For example, if your data is in columns A to D on Sheet2, you might input Sheet2!A:D.

Step 6: Set the Column Index Number

Determine which column number in your table array has the data you want to pull back into your main table. Enter this number in your formula.

If the data you want is in the third column of your highlighted range, you would enter 3.

Step 7: Choose an Exact or Approximate Match

Lastly, type FALSE for an exact match or TRUE for an approximate match and close the parenthesis.

Using FALSE ensures that VLOOKUP finds an exact match, which is usually what you’ll want when matching data.

Step 8: Press Enter

Hit Enter to complete the formula and see your matched data.

If everything’s set up right, the cell will now show the data from the other table that matches your lookup value. Congrats!

After completing these steps, your data will appear in the cell where you entered the VLOOKUP formula. You’ll be able to see the corresponding data from the other table, which helps in combining or comparing information more efficiently.

Tips for Matching Data in Excel

  • Always double-check your common columns for duplicates or typos.
  • Use absolute cell references with $ to keep your ranges fixed when copying formulas.
  • Try the MATCH function for more complex lookup scenarios.
  • Use conditional formatting to highlight matched or unmatched data.
  • Test your formula with a few sample values to make sure it works as expected.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if VLOOKUP can’t find a match?

If VLOOKUP can’t find a match, it will return an #N/A error. Double-check that your lookup value and the data in the common column are formatted the same way.

Can I use VLOOKUP for text values?

Yes, VLOOKUP works with both text and numeric values. Just make sure the format is consistent in both tables.

How do I update my formula if my data changes?

If your data range changes, you’ll need to update the table array in your VLOOKUP formula. Using named ranges can make this easier.

What’s the difference between VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP?

VLOOKUP searches for data vertically in columns, while HLOOKUP searches horizontally in rows. Choose based on how your data is structured.

How do I handle case sensitivity in VLOOKUP?

VLOOKUP is not case-sensitive. If you need case-sensitive matching, consider using a combination of INDEX and MATCH functions.


  1. Open Excel and your data files.
  2. Identify the common column.
  3. Write the VLOOKUP formula.
  4. Enter the lookup value.
  5. Specify the table array.
  6. Set the column index number.
  7. Choose an exact or approximate match.
  8. Press Enter.


Matching data in Excel using VLOOKUP is like finding the missing pieces of a puzzle. With a bit of practice, it becomes second nature. This guide has walked you through the essential steps, making the process straightforward and manageable.

But don’t just stop here! Excel is brimming with possibilities, and mastering VLOOKUP is just the beginning. Dive deeper and explore other functions like INDEX and MATCH for even more control over your data. Matching data efficiently can save you a ton of time and make your spreadsheets much more powerful. So go ahead, put what you’ve learned into action and make your data work for you!

Get Our Free Newsletter

How-to guides and tech deals

You may opt out at any time.
Read our Privacy Policy