Why does Excel say “The value you entered is not valid”?

This is a question we’re asked surprisingly often. You’re editing a workbook, you enter a value into a cell, and Excel responds:
The value you entered is not valid. A user has restricted values that can be entered into this cell.

Recent versions of Excel have changed this message, so you might also see:
This value doesn’t match the data validation restrictions defined for this cell.

If you’re an expert user, you probably already know; this is happening because somebody has applied a Validation to the cell that only allows certain values to be entered.

Validations can apply all kinds of restrictions, including restricting the amount of text that can be entered, ranges of numbers, ranges of dates and even only allowing specific values.

Note that if someone has applied validation rules, they usually have a good reason for it, so removing them isn’t always the best thing to do, but if you think a validation rule has been applied in error you can remove it by following these steps:

  1. Select the cell or cells that you want to remove validation from.
  2. Click Data > Data Tools > Data Validation.
  3. Click the Clear All button.
  4. Click OK.

Of course, rather than removing the rules, you should ideally enter a value that complies with the rules, or modify the rules if they aren’t allowing you to input a correct value.

Session 3 of our Expert Skills course covers validation rules in great depth, and would be very worthwhile for anyone who often needs to work with validation rules.

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