Excel isn’t returning the sum of cells: Troubleshooting guide

Calculations play a large part in many Excel worksheets, so it’s important to know how to fix any problems should they occur. The SUM function in particular can be quite problematic, so we’ll show you how to fix Excel when it isn’t returning the sum of selected cells.

Calculations are set to manualConfigure your calculations to be automatic
One or more cells do not possess the correct dataEnsure the cell’s content type is a numeric one
Language options are causing conflictsRevert back to English or account for your change

In this post, we’ll be instructing you how to go about fixing each of the causes for SUM to operate incorrectly. First off, resolving a potential calculation configuration mistake, second updating a cell’s content type, and lastly, changing the Windows display language.

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Setting up automatic calculations in Mircosoft Excel to use to sum function.

Step 1 – Open your Excel worksheet

  • From there we can begin attempting fixes. If this fix does not work, keep the sheet open to attempt the other potential fixes.

Step 2 – Search for calculation

  • Using the search bar above the tab ribbon, search for calculation (or calc) and look for the Calculation options dropdown. Click the dropdown and select Automatic as your option.

Step 3 – Check if your calculations were updated

  • With automatic calculations enabled, it will not be required to trigger calculations yourself. As such, simply updating your data should prompt an automatic calculation. As you can see below, our calculations have been updated.

Setting up cell content data types in Microsoft Excel

Step 1 – Open your Excel worksheet

  • From there we can begin attempting fixes. If this fix does not work, keep the sheet open to attempt the other potential fixes.

Step 2 – Select each cell involved with the calculation

  • Click and drag to select cells, or alternatively hold ctrl and click each cell one by one. After producing your selection, you may proceed.

Step 3 – Set your selection’s data type to Number

  • Click and drag to select cells, or alternatively hold ctrl and click each cell one by one. After producing your selection, you may proceed.

Step 4 – Check if your calculations were updated

  • Assuming the data within your cells can be read as numbers, no error should occur and your calculation should work.

Changing your Windows display language to return the sum of cells

Step 1 – Open settings

  • Press the Win/Start key and type Settings into the search bar. Press enter or click Open on the application card to continue.

Step 2 – Enter Time & Language settings

  • From the Settings application homepage you are able to access a series of setting categories. To change your display language, you’ll need to access Time & Language.

Step 3 – Access your Language options

  • From the Time & Language left side-panel, select the Language setting to access your language options.

Step 4 – Select a different display language

  • Using the Display language dropdown, select a different language you are competent with- preferabbly native.

End note


Using Excel, you may at times find yourself unable to sum cells. This issue arises from a number of causes such as: automatic calculations being disabled, lack of data type settings, and even using particular display languagaes with certain quirks (like French using “,” for decimal points instead of “.”).

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Jack Mitchell

Jack Mitchell has been the Operations manager at telecoms and MSP Optionbox for more than 4 years. He has played a crucial role in the company, from marketing to helpdesk, and ensures that the IT requirements of over 300 clients are continuously met. With his innate passion for technology and troubleshooting and a particular interest in Apple products, Jack now delivers the most comprehensive tech guides to make your life easier. You can connect with Jack on LinkedIn.

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