how to compare 2 excel files

Copper Contributor

After a crash, I save an excel file with a new name.  Then later on I used the old file with the original name and then the file saved with the new name, when I should have used only the newly named file.  So there are entries missing or wrong in the newly named file.  Is there a way to compare them other than side-by-side going line by line?  I have over 2000 lines.

5 Replies
best response confirmed by Hans Vogelaar (MVP)


Comparing two Excel files can be a bit tricky, especially when dealing with large datasets.

Comparing 2 different Excel files in this link you will find a solution proposal.


Here's a more detailed solution using a third-party tool called "Beyond Compare." Beyond Compare is a powerful file comparison tool that can be used to compare Excel files effectively. Please follow these steps:

  1. Download and Install Beyond Compare:
  2. Open Beyond Compare:
    • Launch Beyond Compare after installation.
  3. Load Excel Files:
    • Click "File" > "Open" in Beyond Compare.
    • Browse and select the two Excel files you want to compare.
  4. Compare Files:
    • Beyond Compare will display the two files side by side. It will highlight differences between the files.
  5. Review Differences:
    • You can navigate through the differences using the interface.
    • Beyond Compare provides options to merge or copy content from one file to another.
  6. Save Merged File:
    • After comparing and resolving differences, you can save the merged file as a new Excel document.

Please note that Beyond Compare is not a free tool, but it offers a 30-day trial, which should be sufficient for your needs. If you find it valuable, you can purchase a license.

Using Beyond Compare or similar comparison tools can significantly speed up the process of comparing and merging Excel files, especially when dealing with a large number of records.


If you prefer not to use third-party tools, you can perform a basic comparison of two Excel files using built-in features like conditional formatting. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Open Both Excel Files:
    • Open the two Excel files you want to compare.
  2. Select the Target Sheet:
    • Choose one of the Excel files as your target, and this is where you will highlight the differences.
  3. Conditional Formatting:
    • Go to the target sheet, select the range of cells you want to compare, typically one column or multiple columns. For your case, it could be the entire dataset.
  4. Conditional Formatting Rules:
    • In Excel, go to the "Home" tab.
    • In the "Styles" group, click on "Conditional Formatting."
    • Choose "New Rule."
  5. New Formatting Rule Dialog:
    • In the "New Formatting Rule" dialog box, select "Use a formula to determine which cells to format."
  6. Compare Cells:
    • In the "Format values where this formula is true" field, enter a formula to compare cells between the two files. You'll want to use a formula that highlights cells where differences exist. For example:


This formula will highlight cells in the target sheet where the content in the same cell in the other file is different.

  1. Choose Formatting:
    • Click the "Format" button to choose how the highlighted cells should appear. For example, you can set the font color or cell fill color to something that stands out, like red or yellow.
  2. Apply Rule:
    • Click "OK" in the "Format Cells" dialog to set the formatting rule.
  3. View Differences:
    • Now, the cells with differences will be highlighted according to the formatting rule you set.
  4. Review and Resolve:
  • Go through the target sheet, and you'll see differences highlighted. You can then review and resolve them manually.

This method is basic and will help you visually identify the differences between two Excel files. However, it won't provide a side-by-side comparison like third-party tools do, and you'll need to resolve differences manually. For very large datasets, a third-party tool might be more efficient.

The text was created with the help of AI.


My answers are voluntary and without guarantee!


Hope this will help you.


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@NikolinoDE THANK YOU!!!!!!  You saved me more hours than you can imagine.  I used the third party Beyond Compare program and it worked very well.  I had a little trouble because both excel files also have multiple sheets and it took a while to get it to compare the same sheet in each file.  Once I did, it was great.


If you're using an enterprise version of office (Work version), you could enable Inquire and use Compare Files.


Turn on the Inquire add-in - Microsoft Support

Thanks Patrick. I am not using an enterprise version. Luckily Beyond Compare worked.


I have the Inquire tool installed.   How do I ask it to look at only certain tabs -- or only certain columns.   Working with a huge spreadsheet - where i get daily updates.  I'm looking for the changes in specific columns