How to Use Excel Solver: A Step-by-Step Guide for Optimization Tasks

how to use excel solver

Excel Solver is a powerful tool that helps you find the best solution to a problem by changing various variables. Whether you’re optimizing profits, minimizing costs, or solving other complex issues, Solver can do the heavy lifting. Here’s a quick and easy way to use Excel Solver: define your objective, set your constraints, and let Solver do the work.

Step-by-Step Tutorial on How to Use Excel Solver

Ready to get hands-on with Excel Solver? Here’s how you can use it step-by-step:

Step 1: Open Excel and Load Solver

First things first, you need to have Solver installed. Go to the "Data" tab and click "Solver" under the "Analysis" group.

If you don’t see Solver, you’ll need to load it. Click "File," then "Options," followed by "Add-Ins." At the bottom of the window, choose "Excel Add-ins" and click "Go." Check the box for Solver Add-in and click "OK."

Step 2: Set Up Your Data

Input the data you need to solve in your Excel spreadsheet. This includes your target cell, variables, and constraints.

For example, if you’re trying to maximize profit, your target cell would contain the formula for profit. Ensure your variables (like units sold) and constraints (like budget limits) are clearly defined in separate cells.

Step 3: Open Solver Parameters

Click "Solver" from the "Data" tab to open the Solver Parameters window.

Here, you’ll set up your solving parameters. This box is where you’ll tell Solver what your objective is, what cells to change, and what constraints to follow.

Step 4: Define Your Objective

In the Solver Parameters window, set your objective by selecting the cell you want to optimize.

You’ll see options to "Maximize," "Minimize," or set a cell value. Choose the one that fits your scenario. For example, if you’re maximizing profit, select "Max."

Step 5: Set Your Variables

Click the "By Changing Variable Cells" box and choose the cells that Solver will adjust to optimize your objective.

These are the cells that Solver can change to find the best solution. Usually, these are cells that contain quantities you can adjust, like units sold or hours worked.

Step 6: Add Constraints

Click "Add" to input constraints for Solver to consider while finding the solution.

Constraints are limits you set, like budget caps or resource limits. For instance, you might set a constraint that the total cost should not exceed a certain amount.

Step 7: Solve the Problem

Hit "Solve" to let Solver find the best solution based on your inputs.

Solver will work its magic to find the optimal solution. Once it’s done, a window will pop up showing you the results.

Once you complete these steps, Solver will provide a solution that best meets your objective while respecting your constraints.

Tips for Using Excel Solver

  • Always double-check your formulas and constraints before running Solver.
  • Start with a simple model to understand how Solver works before dealing with complex scenarios.
  • Use the "Reset All" button in Solver to clear previous settings if you want to start fresh.
  • Save your work before running Solver in case you need to go back to the original data.
  • Make use of Solver’s "Reports" feature. It provides detailed insights into how the solution was reached.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if Solver isn’t finding a solution?

Sometimes Solver can’t find a solution because the constraints are too tight or the problem is too complex. Try relaxing some constraints or simplifying your model.

Can Solver handle non-linear problems?

Yes, Solver can handle non-linear problems, but it might take longer to find a solution. Be patient and ensure your model is as accurate as possible.

How do I know if the solution found by Solver is the best one?

Solver provides the best solution based on the model and constraints you’ve set. However, always review the results to ensure they make sense in your specific context.

Can I use Solver in Excel for Mac?

Yes, Solver is available for Excel on Mac. The process is almost identical to that on Windows, so you can follow the same steps.

Is it possible to automate Solver with a macro?

Absolutely! You can use VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) to automate Solver. This is useful for repetitive tasks or complex models.


  1. Load Solver.
  2. Set up your data.
  3. Open Solver Parameters.
  4. Define your objective.
  5. Set your variables.
  6. Add constraints.
  7. Solve.


And there you have it—the ins and outs of using Excel Solver! This powerful tool can tackle a wide range of problems, from maximizing profits to minimizing costs. Just remember to define your objective, set your constraints, and let Solver do the heavy lifting.

The beauty of Excel Solver is in its ability to make complex calculations simple. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to solve almost any problem you throw at it. If you’re new to Excel Solver, start with simpler problems to get the hang of it. Once you’re comfortable, you can tackle more complex issues with confidence.

If you found this guide useful, why not explore other Excel features that can aid in data analysis and decision-making? The more tools you have in your toolkit, the more efficient and effective you’ll be.

Happy solving!

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