What can cause slow copy and paste in Excel?

Normally copy/paste operations in Excel are pretty instantaneous. You copy data from one place and then paste into a cell in Excel. Pretty straightforward. But what do you do if you notice that copy/paste seems to take an excesseively long time when doing a paste in Excel? There are several things you can look for to resolve a situation like this.

 1. If you are copying from a web page and pasting straight HTML into Excel there can sometimes be a delay during the paste operation. It depends on how much data you are pasting. the cause of the slowness is the formatting of the data itself. One thing you can do is paste the data into a notepad document , then copy and paste the data into Excel. This will strip out formatting and paste raw ASCII into Excel. Excel will then make a determination on the format of the data based on what gets pasted. You can also choose to Paste Special > Values into Excel which just pastes in the value of the data and none of the formatting.

2. Excessive amounts of custom styles can also cause the copy/paste to be slow. If you click on the Home tab in the Ribbon and look under Styles you will see a drop-down (see below pic) that when clicked will display all of your styles. Custom styles show up at the top and can be removed by right clicking the style and left clicking Delete.

3. Memory over-allocation is another cause of slow copy/paste. To check this, in your workbook hit the END button on your keyboard and then the HOME button. If your cursor drops down past the millionth row or to the last column this is an indication of memory over-allocation. To work around this problem you would need to remove all blank and unused rows and columns. After removal, click File > Save to save the changes to the workbook. This is necessary for the new memory allocation to take effect.

4. Finally, a large number of shapes, conditional formatting and pivot tables can also result in slow copy/paste behavior. If you have a large number of autoshapes or shapes in the workbook you can try removing a portion of these to see if the copy/paste time improves. A large number of conditional formatting can also cause slow copy/paste behavior. To check, click the 'Conditional Formatting' drop down under the Styles section of the Home tab and then click Manage Rules. This will open the Conditional Formatting rules manager. You can try deleting unused rules or removing a number of rules to test making the workbook more responsive. Lastly, a large number of pivot tables can cause copy/paste slowness. To work around that problem you can try moving a portion of your pivot tables to separate sheets or even other workbooks.

Comments (24)

  1. John says:

    I found copy-paste very slow leading to hanging program [copying from adobe to excel in this case].  It is now fixed, and I think this link below is the fix that fixed it, which related to another problem of double clicking on desktop shortcut giving error that file was not found, but file could only be opened from within excel.  This fix is to re-register excel in your system - http://www.naffziger.net/.../fix-error-when-double-clicking-an-excel-file-windows-cannot-find-the-file

  2. goten tee says:

    I wonder what idiot even came up with the idea that when copying something you want the same formatting the place you insert it.

    This functionality have been around for years, and every single time I've used it, I've had to click the little annoying arrow and select "Use the same format as destination"...

  3. jcw says:

    Regarding item 1, part of the delay in copying from an HTML page in Internet Explorer is caused by either IE or Excel accessing the internet to get a fresh version of the web page.  This slowdown is noticable even on fast internet connections.  

  4. Ali E. says:

    Excel is one of the worst programs ever full of stupid problem like you mentioned copy-paste...Unfortunately, there is no clear alternative.

  5. John Y says:

    I've noticed that if I use the keyboard shortcuts (ctrl+c or ctrl+v) there is a lag and excel freezes for about 2-3 seconds (just enough to irritate me). However, if I use the right-click copy and right-click paste method, there is no delay and it works instantaneously. I have no idea why this is but it would be great if this could be resolved. I prefer the keyboard shortcuts because its faster. I use excel everyday pretty much all day, so I lose a lot of time just waiting for it to respond.

  6. Andrew says:

    Correct Tee,

    Clearly the Paste with destination formats should have been the default paste option.

    None of the 4 options above have solved the slow copy-paste problem I have (2-3 minutes per cell on a 16Gb RAM i7 Alienware !!)

  7. Amie says:

    Thanks for the advice re fixes for slow copy-paste.  We use medium size spreadsheets that some times work fine and other times just crash at the slightest command.  Have removed all the conditional formatting and fingers crossed seems to have done the trick.

    However can you advise how to use conditional formatting so that the rules don't multiply?

  8. Juan says:

    File-option-Under General tab - Uncheck Enable live preview. This fixed all slow copy and paste issues for me.

    1. John says:

      This work for me. thx

  9. Audox says:

    Just a simple...! open new excel sheet copy all data from problematic sheet in new excel sheet and now save it. That's it..

  10. Louis says:

    I found the solution!!! (For me anyway) Go to File Options. Select the "Advanced" tab. Go to the "Cut, copy, and paste" section. Uncheck "Show Paste Options button when content is pasted" and "Show Insert Options buttons"

    1. saif says:

      Hey lewis, that worked for me man. Thank you

  11. V B says:

    I had the problem of very slow copying of cells in Excel.

    The cause was a program called PhaseExpress which kept a record of recent copies to clip board. I use PhaseExpress to enable me to have keyboard shortcuts to phrases I use regularly, like my email address.

    I excluded Excel within PhaseExpress.

    Copying in Excel is now instantaneous.

  12. Denise says:

    i have copied and pasted a worksheet several times but now when working on that sheet it is really slow. who do i delete everything including text boxes and still save spred sheet

  13. aregeepee says:

    Thanx Louis "works like a charm"

  14. Raj says:

    Juan's Solution worked for me. Thanx Juan

  15. Griff2 says:

    SOLVED FOR ME. This might not work for you but I spent 3 weeks trawling the net for an answer without any luck. For me it was some formatting issue. I stripped down the workbook tab by tab and column by column cutting and pasting each time until the issue went away. That showed me the cells that were causing the issue and I took a cell from a new tab and used format painter to reset all the formatting and the issue went away. I went back to my original file, format painted clean formatting over the offending cell and all was good. I hope this helps.

  16. Martin Jacobsen says:

    Had the same problem today, after just copying a single cell (with short text) Excel freezes and becomes not responding:
    Solution: Shut down TeamViewer program, which was somehow causing the problem.
    So it might be worth a look on your PC if you have other programs running that might cause this!

  17. Ake Kolm says:

    Why does MS fix these bugs, at least some of them?
    I did get some in Office 365.

  18. TerryP says:

    I had this problem... I removed corrupted fonts and tried other fixes... in the end it seems quite simple. I have a couple of simple conditioning formatting rules set up, (<0 then red text etc), and somehow whilst copying and pasting the rules have been
    multiplied... I seemed to have at least 30 identical rules associated with a single cell. By removing all rules from the worksheet, and then reapplying the ones I want this problem seems to have been fixed!

  19. Neutral says:

    Why would you want to copy/paste into excel, use word.

  20. John F says:

    My problem was when I copied a table containing conditional format form sheet to successive sheet, it repeats the rules each time. Hence when I analysed the rules using the process described it reveal a very long list. Clearing the formatting through the
    sheet ( and all proceeding ones ) then reapplying a fresh set of formatting solved the problem. The workbook now runs at normal speed and does not hang up.

  21. Niels says:

    Disabling "live preview" under the general user interface options will also prevent excel from crashing when pasting copied cells. However, when you use ctrl+z to undo the action, it will freeze again.

    On MicroSoft forums everywhere I often read that people like to blame this issue due to corrupt user profiles but I have a user in my organisation who recently experienced this problem on our domain. He is a terminal server user and uses Office 2010 and I asked
    this user to present me the excel file so I could simulate his problem on a stand alone computer with Windows 8.1 and office 2013. Guess what, the problem occurs on this machine as well.

    It is a real problem situated within Excel programming and is a serious issue that is not being resolved by MicroSoft. It's hopeless.

  22. scott says:

    I had similar problem in Excel 2007 on Win 7 Pro 64 bit. Oddly enough, it was linked to a corrupt audio driver (RealTek High Definition Audio). To test, navigate to your device manager and disable audio device. Then open Excel and test for slow copy action. If it fixes the problem, reinstall audio driver from device manager. It took my system a few minutes to re-discover the new driver. Hope this helps.

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