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Data Validation in Excel

Data Validation in Excel

In this blog, we will learn about data validation in Excel, from the essential steps in validation to understanding the Data Validation dialog box. You will discover settings for validation, input messages, and error alerts. Learn to edit, copy, and remove rules, mastering data integrity for efficient Excel usage.

Table of Contents

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What is Data Validation in Excel?

Data validation in Excel refers to the process of setting up rules to control the type, format, and range of data that can be entered into a cell or a range of cells. It ensures that the input data meets specific requirements. It helps to minimize errors, which ensures accuracy in spreadsheets. This feature allows users to create drop-down lists, restrict numeric or text inputs, apply date constraints, etc. Data validation in Excel enhances data quality and consistency within Excel workbooks.

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Steps to Validate Data in Excel

In Excel, data validation controls are tools that help set rules or limits on what kind of data can be entered into cells. These controls allow users to create drop-down lists, specify numeric ranges, apply date restrictions, or enforce specific text inputs.

Let’s understand every step of data validation in Excel in detail:

Data Validation Dialog Box

Choose single or multiple cells for validation. Navigate to the Data tab > Data Tools group and select the Data Validation button.

Alternatively, you can access the Data Validation dialog box by pressing the keys Alt > D > L, pressing each key separately.

Settings Tab

In Data Validation’s Settings tab, you can specify rules for the data entered into cells. Here, you can choose the type of validation criteria, such as whole numbers, decimals, dates, or text lengths. You will set conditions, like allowing specific values or creating a drop-down list for users to select from. This tab also enables you to manage error alerts for invalid data entries, helping maintain accuracy in your Excel sheet.

Input Message Tab

In Excel’s Data Validation, the Input Message tab lets you create a pop-up message that appears when a cell is selected. It is a helpful way to tell users what kind of data is expected in that cell. You can set a title and input a message providing instructions or information about the data that should be entered, making it easier for users to understand and input the correct information.

Error Tab Alert

In Excel’s Data Validation, the Error Alert tab manages responses to data entries that do not meet specified rules. Here, you choose the alert style, such as a warning or a stop message, when the data is incorrect. You can give customized alert messages, assisting users in understanding the issue and prompting them to input the correct data.

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Examples of Data Validation

In Excel, Data Validation empowers precision by enforcing rules on the type and quality of information entered. Discover how this tool offers a range of practical applications, from dropdown lists and numeric constraints to date limitations and custom formulas, ensuring accuracy and reliability within your spreadsheets.

Let us understand each example in detail:

Whole Numbers and Decimals

In Excel, data validation allows for precise control over numeric inputs. Let us learn how to set validation criteria to accept only whole numbers or specific decimal ranges within cells. By enforcing these constraints, you can maintain data accuracy and integrity, ensuring that your spreadsheet contains the right numerical information for your needs.

  • For whole numbers,
    •       Choose Whole number in the Allow drop-down.
    •       Define criteria like between, equal to, greater than, less than, etc.
    •       Enter the specific criteria details (e.g., between 1 and 100).
  • For decimals,
    •       Choose Decimal in the Allow drop-down.
    •       Specify criteria such as between, equal to, greater than, less than, etc.
    •       Enter the criteria details (e.g., between 0.1 and 5.0).

Text Length

Text length data validation in Excel allows you to limit the number of characters entered into a cell. By setting text length restrictions, you can ensure that users input data within a specific character limit. This feature is helpful when you need consistent text sizes, such as limiting a comment box to a certain number of words or characters. It prevents overflows and maintains the desired format within your Excel sheet.

In the Settings tab of the Data Validation dialog box,

  • Choose Text length from the Allow drop-down menu.
  • Specify criteria like equal to, less than or equal to, greater than or equal to, etc.
  • Enter the desired character length in the box (e.g., 10 for a maximum of 10 characters).

Date and Time Validation in Excel

Validating dates and times in Excel ensures accurate data entry. Within Excel’s data validation, you can set rules for specific date formats, allowing only dates within a defined range or certain day, month, or year combinations. Similarly, time validation restricts entries to specific time formats or ranges, ensuring consistency and accuracy in your spreadsheet’s temporal data.

Excel Data Validation List (Drop-Down)

Excel’s Data Validation feature allows you to create drop-down lists, a popular form of validation. These lists restrict cell entries to a predefined set of options. By setting up a list of choices, users can select from these options, enhancing accuracy and consistency in data entry. This is a valuable tool for ensuring standardized inputs in various Excel sheets and simplifying data input processes.

  • In Settings, select List from the dropdown under Allow.
  • Source: Specify the source of your list. You can either type the list directly into the Source field or select a range of cells where the list is located.


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How to Find Cells with Data Validation in Excel

In Excel, finding cells with data validation can be done using these steps:

  • Go to the Home tab on the Excel ribbon.
  • This option is usually located in the Editing group.
  • In the drop-down menu, select Go To Special.
  • In the Go To Special dialog box, choose Data Validation and click OK.
  • Excel will highlight all cells with data validation in the selected range or the entire worksheet, making it easy to identify and work with these cells.

How to Edit Validation Rules in Excel

To change an Excel validation rule, perform these steps:

  • Click on the cell or range with the existing validation rule you want to change.
  • Go to the Data tab and click on Data Validation in the Data Tools group.
  • In the Data Validation dialog box, review the current settings under the Settings tab.
  • Make changes to the validation criteria as needed. You can adjust the type of data allowed, such as whole numbers, decimals, dates, times, or lists.
  • Modify prompts or error messages if necessary under the Input Message or Error Alert tabs.
  • Click OK to apply the updated validation rules to the selected cells.
  • Enter data into the cells to ensure that the modified validation rules work correctly and restrict entries according to the new criteria.

How to Copy the Validation Rule from Another Cell

In Excel, you can copy a validation rule from one cell to another by following these steps:

  • Select the cell with the validation rule you want to copy.
  • Use the copy command (Ctrl + C) or right-click and select Copy.
  • Select the cell or range of cells where you want to apply the same validation rule.
  • Paste the validation rule:
  •   Right-click on the selected destination cell(s).
  •    Choose Paste Special.
  •    In the Paste Special dialog box, select Validation and click OK.

Shortcut to paste the validation rule: Ctrl + Alt +V, then N.

How to Remove the Data Validation Rule in Excel

To remove a data validation rule in Excel:

  • Click on the cell or range of cells from which you want to remove the validation rule.
  • Go to the Data tab, and click on Data Validation in the Data Tools group.
  • In the Data Validation dialog box:
    • Select the Settings tab.
    • Choose Clear All to remove all validation criteria.
  • Once you have chosen the appropriate option, click OK. This will remove the data validation rule from the selected cell(s).


Data validation in Excel ensures data accuracy by setting rules for permissible data entry. It controls input types, formats, and ranges, reducing errors and enhancing spreadsheet accuracy. Utilizing various validation options like text length, date/time constraints, and drop-down lists ensures consistent and reliable data. Understanding, applying, and editing validation rules allows for efficient data entry, which facilitates accurate spreadsheet management. 

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What is data validation in Excel, and why is it important?

Data validation is a feature in Excel that sets rules to control what kind of data can be entered into cells. It’s crucial because it ensures accuracy by restricting entries to predefined criteria, reducing errors, and maintaining consistency within spreadsheets. This helps in data quality management and prevents incorrect inputs.

How can I create a drop-down list using data validation?

To create a drop-down list, select the cells where you want the list, go to the Data tab, and click on Data Validation. Under Allow, choose List, and then input the source of the list in the Source box. This source could be a range of cells or directly typed values.

Can I set numeric constraints or limit text length with data validation?

Absolutely. You can restrict numeric inputs by specifying ranges or conditions such as greater than, less than, or equal to certain values. Similarly, you can limit text length by setting criteria like the maximum number of characters allowed within a cell.

Is it possible to remove data validation rules once they are set?

Yes, you can remove data validation rules by selecting the cells with validation, going to Data Validation, and then choosing Clear All under the Settings tab. This action removes all validation rules applied to those cells.

Does data validation work for date and time entries in Excel?

Data validation is versatile and supports setting rules for date and time entries. For dates, you can specify formats, date ranges, or specific valid dates. Similarly, for times, you can define acceptable formats or valid time ranges, ensuring consistency and accuracy in temporal data input within Excel.

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About the Author

Principal Data Scientist

Meet Akash, a Principal Data Scientist who worked as a Supply Chain professional with expertise in demand planning, inventory management, and network optimization. With a master’s degree from IIT Kanpur, his areas of interest include machine learning and operations research.