# Solving Excel Formula Doesn’t Update Unless You Hit Enter

Have you ever typed a **formula in Excel**, only to find that it doesn’t seem to work until you press the Enter key? You’re not alone – this is a common issue that many Excel users encounter. In this article, we’ll explain why this happens and show you how to fix it so your **Excel formulas** calculate automatically.

## Understanding Excel’s Calculation Settings

By default, Excel is set to calculate formulas manually. This means that when you enter a formula into a cell, Excel won’t actually calculate the result until you press Enter or click on another cell. This can be confusing if you’re expecting the formula to update automatically as you type.

The reason Excel does this is to improve performance, especially when working with large, complex spreadsheets containing many **formulas and calculations**. Calculating every formula automatically after each change could slow things down significantly.

However, in many cases, it’s more convenient and intuitive to have formulas calculate automatically. Fortunately, it’s easy to change this setting in Excel.

### Automatic vs. Manual Calculation

To understand the difference between automatic and manual calculation, let’s look at an example. Suppose you have a simple spreadsheet that calculates the total of two numbers:

A | B | C |
---|---|---|

1 | 2 | =A1+B1 |

If Excel is set to manual calculation, the formula in cell C1 won’t update until you press Enter or click on another cell. So if you change the value in A1 to 3, the formula will still show the old result of 1+2=3 until you manually recalculate.

On the other hand, if Excel is set to automatic calculation, the formula in C1 will update immediately whenever the values in A1 or B1 change. So if you change A1 to 3, C1 will instantly update to show 3+2=5.

In most cases, automatic calculation is more convenient, as it keeps your formulas up-to-date without any extra work on your part. However, there may be times when you want to use manual calculation for performance reasons, or to carefully control when formulas are recalculated.

## How to Enable Automatic Calculation in Excel

To make your formulas calculate automatically without having to press Enter, you need to change Excel’s calculation settings. Here’s how:

- Click the
**File**tab in the top-left corner of the Excel window - Click
**Options**at the bottom of the left sidebar - In the Excel Options window, select the
**Formulas**category - Under
**Calculation options**, select**Automatic** - Click
**OK**to close the Excel Options window

After changing this setting, your **Excel formulas** should start calculating automatically as you type, without needing to press Enter.

### Changing Calculation Settings with a Keyboard Shortcut

If you frequently switch between automatic and manual calculation modes, you may find it helpful to use a keyboard shortcut instead of going through the Excel Options menu every time.

To toggle between automatic and manual calculation with a keyboard shortcut:

- Press
**Alt+T+O**to open the Excel Options menu - Press
**Alt+M**to select the Formulas category - Press
**Alt+A**to select the Automatic option, or**Alt+M**to select the Manual option - Press
**Enter**to close the menu

Once you’ve set up the keyboard shortcut, you can simply press **Alt+T+O, Alt+A** to switch to automatic calculation, or **Alt+T+O, Alt+M** to switch to manual calculation at any time.

## Troubleshooting Formulas That Still Don’t Calculate Automatically

In some cases, even after enabling automatic calculation, you may find that certain formulas still don’t seem to be calculating on their own. There are a few potential reasons for this:

### Circular References

A circular reference occurs when a formula refers to its own cell, either directly or indirectly. For example:

A | B |
---|---|

1 | =A1+B2 |

=B1+1 |

In this case, cell B1 is referencing itself indirectly via cell A2. Excel doesn’t allow circular references by default, so it will not automatically calculate these formulas.

To fix this, you can either change the formula to remove the circularity, or enable iterative calculation in Excel Options under the Formulas category.

### Volatile Functions

Some Excel functions are volatile, meaning they recalculate every time anything in the spreadsheet changes, even if their arguments haven’t changed. Examples of volatile functions include:

- RAND
- NOW
- TODAY
- OFFSET
- INDIRECT

If your formula contains one of these volatile functions, it may not calculate automatically even with automatic calculation enabled. In this case, the solution is to restructure your spreadsheet to avoid volatile functions wherever possible.

### Formula Errors

If your formula contains an **error**, such as #DIV/0! or #VALUE!, it will not calculate automatically. To fix this, you’ll need to find and correct the source of the error in your formula.

Some common formula errors include:

**#DIV/0!**: Occurs when a formula tries to divide by zero. Check for cells with a value of 0 that are being used as divisors.**#VALUE!**: Occurs when a formula contains the wrong type of argument, such as text instead of a number. Check that your formula arguments are the correct data types.**#REF!**: Occurs when a formula references a cell that no longer exists, usually because it was deleted. Update your formula to reference the correct cells.

By identifying and fixing these errors, you can get your formulas calculating automatically again.

## Tips for Working with Excel Formulas

Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind when working with **formulas in Excel**:

### Use Cell References Instead of Hard-Coded Values

Whenever possible, try to use cell references in your formulas instead of typing in actual values. For example, instead of typing =A1+100, type =A1+B2 and put the value 100 in cell B2. This makes your formulas more flexible and easier to update.

### Use Named Ranges for Clarity

If you find yourself referencing the same range of cells frequently in your formulas, consider giving that range a name. This can make your formulas much easier to read and understand. To create a named range:

- Select the cells you want to name
- Type a name in the Name Box in the top-left corner
- Press Enter

Now you can use that name in your formulas instead of cell references, like =SUM(Sales) instead of =SUM(A1:A100).

### Double-Check Your Formulas

It’s always a good idea to double-check your formulas before relying on their results. Some good ways to check your formulas include:

- Spot-checking a few calculations by hand
- Using the Formula Auditing tools to trace precedents and dependents
- Comparing your results to expected values or historical data

Catching **formula errors** early can save a lot of time and headaches down the line.

### Use Absolute and Relative References Appropriately

When copying formulas in Excel, it’s important to understand the difference between relative and absolute cell references:

**Relative references**change when you copy the formula to a new location. For example, if you copy a formula with the reference A1 from row 1 to row 2, the reference will automatically update to A2.**Absolute references**do not change when copied. To make a reference absolute, add a $ sign before the column and/or row. For example, $A$1 will always refer to cell A1, no matter where the formula is copied.

In most cases, you’ll want to use relative references so that formulas can be easily copied and pasted to apply to new data. But there are times when an absolute reference is needed to keep a reference constant. Mixing relative and absolute references appropriately is key to building powerful, flexible formulas.

## Final Thoughts

Excel formulas are a powerful tool for automating calculations and analyzing data. By understanding how Excel’s calculation settings work and how to troubleshoot common issues, you can ensure that your formulas are always working as intended.

Remember to enable automatic calculation in Excel Options, watch out for circular references and volatile functions, and double-check your formulas regularly. Use cell references and named ranges to make your formulas more readable and flexible, and make sure to use absolute and relative references appropriately when copying formulas.

## FAQs

### Why do my Excel formulas not update automatically?

By default, Excel is set to calculate formulas manually to improve performance, especially when working with large, complex spreadsheets. This means that formulas won’t update until you press Enter or click on another cell after making changes.

### How do I enable automatic calculation in Excel?

To enable automatic calculation in Excel, go to File > Options > Formulas, and under Calculation options, select Automatic. Click OK to close the Excel Options window, and your formulas should now calculate automatically.

### What are some reasons my formulas might not calculate automatically even with automatic calculation enabled?

There are a few reasons your formulas might not calculate automatically even with automatic calculation enabled, including:

- Circular references, where a formula refers to its own cell directly or indirectly
- Volatile functions, such as RAND, NOW, or TODAY, which recalculate every time a change is made
- Formula errors, such as #DIV/0! or #VALUE!, which prevent the formula from calculating

### How can I troubleshoot formulas that aren’t calculating automatically?

To troubleshoot formulas that aren’t calculating automatically, you can:

- Check for circular references and remove or resolve them
- Avoid using volatile functions when possible, or restructure your spreadsheet to minimize their impact
- Identify and fix any formula errors by checking for incorrect cell references, data types, or division by zero

### What are some best practices for working with formulas in Excel?

Some best practices for working with Excel formulas include:

- Using cell references instead of hard-coded values to make formulas more flexible
- Naming ranges of cells to make formulas more readable and easier to understand
- Double-checking formulas by spot-checking calculations, using Formula Auditing tools, or comparing to expected values
- Using absolute and relative references appropriately when copying formulas to new locations

Vaishvi Desai is the founder of Excelsamurai and a passionate Excel enthusiast with years of experience in data analysis and spreadsheet management. With a mission to help others harness the power of Excel, Vaishvi shares her expertise through concise, easy-to-follow tutorials on shortcuts, formulas, Pivot Tables, and VBA.