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

how to use solver in excel

Using Solver in Excel helps you find the best way to achieve a goal by changing different variables. You can use it to solve equations, optimize budgets, or even find the best schedule. Here’s how you can do it: input your data, set your objective, choose the variables to change, and define constraints. Then, run Solver and let it do the math.

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

Using Solver in Excel can make tasks like budgeting or scheduling a breeze. Here, we’ll break it down into simple steps.

Step 1: Enable the Solver Add-In

Go to ‘File’ > ‘Options’ > ‘Add-ins,’ and select ‘Solver Add-In’ from the list. Click ‘Go,’ then check ‘Solver Add-In,’ and hit ‘OK.’

This step is crucial because Solver isn’t enabled by default. Think of it as unlocking a hidden tool in your toolbox.

Step 2: Input Your Data

Enter your data into the spreadsheet, placing variables in separate cells.

Before Solver can solve your problem, it needs something to work with. This is where you input all the numbers and variables you’ll be manipulating.

Step 3: Set Your Objective

Click ‘Data’ > ‘Solver.’ In the ‘Set Objective’ field, input the cell that contains the formula you want to optimize.

The objective cell is the target you’re aiming for. This could be a maximum profit, a minimum expense, or any other goal you have in mind.

Step 4: Choose the Variables to Change

In the ‘By Changing Variable Cells’ field, enter the cell range containing the variables that Solver can change.

These are the cells Solver will tweak to find the best solution. For example, if you’re trying to maximize profit, these could be units sold or prices.

Step 5: Add Constraints

Click ‘Add’ under the ‘Subject to the Constraints’ box, and define any constraints (like budget limits or time restrictions).

Constraints are your boundaries. They keep Solver from going wild and coming up with impractical solutions.

Step 6: Solve the Problem

Click ‘Solve’ and wait for Solver to find a solution. Review the results and click ‘OK’ to keep the solution.

Solver will crunch the numbers and suggest the best solution based on your input, objectives, and constraints.

After completing these steps, Solver will show the best combination of variables to achieve your objective within the set constraints. You can then analyze the results and make informed decisions.

Tips for Using Solver in Excel

  • Start Simple: Begin with a basic problem to get a feel for how Solver works before tackling more complex issues.
  • Check Constraints: Double-check your constraints to make sure they accurately reflect your problem.
  • Use Sensible Limits: Setting realistic upper and lower limits for variables will give you more meaningful results.
  • Test Different Objectives: Don’t be afraid to run Solver multiple times with different objectives to compare outcomes.
  • Save Your Work: Keep a copy of your original data before running Solver, so you can easily revert back if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if Solver can’t find a solution?

Solver might not find a solution if your constraints are too strict or conflicting. Relaxing some constraints could help.

Can Solver handle multiple objectives?

No, Solver is designed to optimize a single objective at a time. You can run it multiple times with different objectives.

Is Solver available in all versions of Excel?

Solver is available in most versions of Excel but may require enabling via the Add-Ins menu.

Can Solver handle non-linear problems?

Yes, Solver can handle both linear and non-linear problems. Just ensure you’re selecting the appropriate solving method.

How accurate is Solver?

Solver is quite accurate but remember it depends on the quality and accuracy of the data and constraints you provide.


  1. Enable the Solver Add-In.
  2. Input Your Data.
  3. Set Your Objective.
  4. Choose the Variables to Change.
  5. Add Constraints.
  6. Solve the Problem.


Using Solver in Excel can be a game-changer, whether you’re a student, businessperson, or just someone looking to optimize everyday tasks. By following these straightforward steps, you’ll unlock the potential to tackle complex problems efficiently. Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different objectives and constraints to hone your skills. Solver is a powerful tool, but it’s up to you to use it wisely. For further reading, consider looking into advanced Solver techniques or combining Solver with other Excel functions for even more robust solutions. Happy Solving!

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