External links may be calculated when you open a workbook that was last saved in an earlier version of Excel

Applies to: Microsoft Office Excel 2003

For a Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Microsoft Excel 2010, or Microsoft Excel 2013 version of this article, see 925893 .


When you open a workbook that contains external links in Microsoft Excel 2000 or a later version, you are prompted to update the links. If you choose not to update the links, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
  • The links in the workbook are calculated against the external link table in the workbook and may be different than what was previously calculated.
  • Formulas that include or refer to external links to other workbooks that do not have values stored in the external link table may display one of the following errors:
    • #REF!
    • #Value!
    • #NAME!


This scenario occurs if the workbook that you open was last saved in a version of Excel that is earlier than the version that you are currently using to open the workbook. This scenario occurs because Excel forces a complete recalculation of all open workbooks that were previously saved in an earlier version of Excel, regardless of the link update status. To fully recalculate a workbook, Excel gets the currently stored value of all external references from the workbooks external link table. This behavior occurs even if you decide not to update those links when you are prompted. Excel updates the workbook calculation chain to the current version of Excel. If the values of the external link sources are not available in the external link table in the workbook, Excel cannot calculate correctly. Therefore, Excel returns #REF! errors. This is also true of DDE links that are unavailable during the recalculation process. By default Excel saves a hidden table of the link values for calculation purposes. In some scenarios the values for the external links may not be the same as what was last calculated in the formulas. It is also possible to turn off the feature to store the external link values on an individual workbook basis in Excel options.

For more information on a related issue with external link tables see
312188 Multiple workbooks with links to the same source update each other


To work around this problem, use one of the following methods.

Make sure that external link sources are available before you open the file

If you open the file and have errors in external link formulas but you have not saved the file yet, follow these steps:
  1. Close the workbook without saving to leave the workbook unchanged.
  2. For each different external link source in the file that you want to open, confirm that the source file is available at the path that is specified in the link formula. If any link sources are no longer available, you must change the link formula to point to an alternative source or remove the link formula permanently to break the link. Follow the steps in the next section to edit or to remove links.
  3. After you confirm that all the link sources are available at their defined locations, open the linked file in Excel and let Excel update external links to the file when it is prompted to.
  4. When you open the linked file and confirmed that all external links have updated successfully and that the workbook has been successfully recalculated in the current Excel version, save the file. The file should now open and update links as expected in the current version of Excel.

Update or remove links

If you already saved the file with errors in the external link formulas, or if the link source files are no longer available, you must locate the original linked source or alternative linked sources and then restore the links to these sources. To look at the external link sources and to restore or remove any broken links, follow these steps:
  1. To temporarily prevent the recalculation of files last saved in an earlier version of Excel so that you can update or remove external links, set the calculation environment to Manual. To temporarily set the calculation mode to Manual, follow these steps:
    1. Close all the workbooks that are open.
    2. Create a new workbook.
    3. On the Tools menu, click
    4. Click the Calculation tab, and then click
    5. Click to clear the Recalculate before savecheck box, and then click OK.
    6. Open your saved workbook.
  2. On the Edit menu, click
  3. Click Check Status to update the status for all the links in the list. Wait for the status of all links to be updated.
  4. Examine the status in the Status column, click the link, and then take one of the following actions:
    • OK. No action is required. The link is working and is current.
    • Unknown. Click Check Status to update the status for all links in the list.
    • Not applicable. The link uses OLE or Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE). Microsoft Excel cannot check the status of these types of links.
    • Error: Source not found. Click
      Change Source, and then select the appropriate workbook for the link.
    • Error: Worksheet not found. Click
      Change Source, and then select the appropriate worksheet in the appropriate file. The source may have been moved or renamed.
    • Warning: Values not updated. Click
      Update Values. The link was not updated when the workbook was opened.
    • Warning: Source not recalculated. Click Open Source, and then press F9 to calculate the workbook. The workbook may be set to manual calculation. To set to automatic calculation, click Options on the Tools menu, and then click Automatic on the Calculation tab.
    • Error: Undefined or non-rectangular name. Some names cannot be resolved until you open the source workbook. Click Open Source, switch back to the destination workbook, and then click Check Status. If this does not resolve the issue, make sure that the name is not misspelled or missing. Switch to the source workbook, point to Name on the
      Insert menu, click Define, and then look for the name.
    • Warning: Open source to update values. Click Open Source. The link cannot be updated until you open the source.
    • Source is open. The source is open. No action is required unless you receive worksheet errors.
    • Values updated from file name. No action is required. The values have been updated.
    • Error: Status indeterminate. Excel cannot determine the status of the link. The source may contain no worksheets, or may be saved in an unsupported file format. Click Update Values.
  5. After you resolve all link references, reset calculation to automatic so that Excel can fully recalculate the workbook in the new version. To do this, follow these steps:
    1. On the Tools menu, click
    2. Click the Calculation tab, and then click
    3. Click OK.
    Excel should calculate the file at this point. If the calculation is successful, save the file. The file should now open and update links as expected in the current version of Excel.
For more information about how the calculation environment is determined, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

214395 Description of how Excel determines the current mode of calculation

Permanently remove the link formula and replace it with the value

If you do not need the formulas that refer to external links, copy these formulas, and then paste the values only in the target cells.

Note When you replace a formula with its value, Excel permanently removes the formula.

To copy the formulas and paste the values, follow these steps:
  1. Open the workbook in the version of Excel where it was last saved. When you are prompted to update the links, click No. Because the file was last saved in this version, links are not forced to update, and calculation can occur with the last known value of the link.
  2. Right-click the cell or range of cells that contains the formula that refers to an external link, and then click Copy.
  3. Right-click the same cell, and then click Paste Special.
  4. Under Paste in the Paste Special dialog box, click Values, and then click
After you remove all the unwanted links in this manner, save the file. You can then open the file in the new Excel version without updating those links because they no longer exist.


This behavior is by design.