How to Compare Two Columns in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Comparing two columns in Excel can be a breeze if you know the right steps. Whether you’re looking to find duplicates, mismatches, or simply want to see how two lists stack up against each other, Excel has got you covered with its built-in functions and features. So grab your data, fire up Excel, and let’s get started on making those comparisons!

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Compare Two Columns in Excel

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to note that comparing two columns can help you identify differences or similarities, which can be useful for data analysis or cleaning up your spreadsheet.

Step 1: Select Your Data

Select the two columns you want to compare by clicking on the header of the first column and dragging your mouse to the second column.

Selecting the data correctly is crucial because if you select the wrong range, your comparison won’t be accurate. Make sure you don’t include any headers or irrelevant cells in your selection.

Step 2: Use Conditional Formatting

With both columns selected, go to the ‘Home’ tab, find the ‘Styles’ group, and click on ‘Conditional Formatting.’

Conditional Formatting is a feature in Excel that allows you to apply formatting to cells based on certain criteria. In this case, we’ll use it to highlight differences or similarities between the two columns.

Step 3: Choose Highlight Cell Rules

From the dropdown menu, select ‘Highlight Cell Rules’ and then choose ‘Duplicate Values’ or ‘Unique Values’ depending on what you want to compare.

‘Duplicate Values’ will highlight cells that are found in both columns, while ‘Unique Values’ will highlight cells that are unique to one column.

Step 4: Set Formatting Options

Choose the formatting style you prefer for the highlighted cells, then click ‘OK.’

You can choose from various options such as different colors, font styles, or cell fill to make the comparisons stand out.

Step 5: Analyze the Results

Review the highlighted cells to analyze the differences or similarities between the two columns.

The highlighted cells will give you a visual representation of the data you’re comparing, making it easier to spot any discrepancies or matches.

After completing these steps, you’ll have a clear visual representation of how the two columns compare. This can help you make informed decisions based on the data in front of you.

Tips: Enhancing Your Column Comparison in Excel

  • Always ensure your data is clean and formatted correctly before comparing columns to get accurate results.
  • If you’re looking for exact matches, consider using the ‘Exact’ function in Excel which compares text strings.
  • To compare more than two columns, use the ‘AND’ function to extend the comparison across multiple columns.
  • Use ‘Find & Select’ to quickly navigate through highlighted discrepancies or matches.
  • Combine Conditional Formatting with Excel’s sorting and filtering features to further analyze your data after comparison.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I compare two columns for exact matches?

Use the ‘Exact’ function by typing ‘=EXACT(cell1, cell2)’ into a new column next to the ones you’re comparing. Drag the formula down to compare the entire columns.

Can I compare two columns from different Excel sheets?

Yes, you can. Simply reference the cells from the different sheets in your comparison formula or Conditional Formatting rules.

Is it possible to compare text and numbers in Excel?

Yes, Excel can compare both text and numbers. Conditional Formatting and comparison functions like ‘Exact’ work with both data types.

How do I remove duplicates after comparing two columns?

Use the ‘Remove Duplicates’ feature under the ‘Data’ tab after you’ve identified duplicates using Conditional Formatting.

What if my comparison formula is not working?

Double-check your formula for any typos or incorrect cell references. Also, ensure that the data types you’re comparing are consistent (e.g., text vs. text, number vs. number).


  1. Select the two columns you want to compare.
  2. Use Conditional Formatting from the ‘Home’ tab.
  3. Choose ‘Highlight Cell Rules’ from the dropdown menu.
  4. Set your preferred formatting options.
  5. Analyze the highlighted results.


Comparing two columns in Excel is a straightforward task that can provide valuable insights into your data. Whether you’re looking to find duplicate entries, identify unique values, or simply assess the similarities and differences between two lists, Excel’s built-in features make it easy to achieve your goal. Remember to use Conditional Formatting to visually highlight the results, and don’t forget the additional tips to enhance your comparison process. With a little practice, you’ll become an Excel comparison pro in no time. Happy comparing!

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