How to Count Distinct Values in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Counting distinct values in Excel can be a piece of cake once you get the hang of it. It’s all about using the right formula to get the job done. If you’ve got a bunch of data and you want to count how many unique items you’ve got, Excel has got your back. So let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how to tally up those one-of-a-kind values in your spreadsheet!

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Count Distinct Values in Excel

Before we jump into the steps, let’s understand what we’re trying to achieve. Counting distinct values means we’re looking for the number of unique entries in a list. That means if a value is repeated, we only count it once. Ready? Let’s get started.

Step 1: Select the cell where you want the count to appear

Click on the cell where you want the final count of distinct values to show up. This is where your formula will go.

Selecting the right cell is crucial because this is where your result will be displayed. Make sure it’s not a cell that already contains data because the formula will replace any existing content.

Step 2: Type the formula =SUM(1/COUNTIF(range, range))

In the selected cell, type in the formula =SUM(1/COUNTIF(range, range)), replacing ‘range’ with the actual range of cells you want to count.

This formula might look a bit complicated, but here’s what it does: COUNTIF counts how many times each value appears in the range. Then, 1/COUNTIF gives us the reciprocal of that count. When we sum up all those reciprocals, voila! We get the count of unique values.

Step 3: Press Enter to get the count

After typing in the formula, hit the Enter key on your keyboard. The cell will then display the count of distinct values.

By pressing Enter, you’re telling Excel to do its magic. It will calculate the formula you’ve entered and give you the number you’re looking for – the count of unique values in your specified range.

After completing these steps, you’ll have the count of distinct values right in your spreadsheet. It’s a handy way to quickly see how many unique items you’re working with, whether it’s a list of names, products, or any other data.

Tips for Counting Distinct Values in Excel

  • Ensure your data is clean and without blank cells to avoid skewed results.
  • If your dataset is large, consider using a table for better performance.
  • Familiarize yourself with the COUNTIF function as it’s incredibly useful for various tasks in Excel.
  • Double-check your range selection to make sure you’re counting the correct data.
  • Remember that Excel formulas are case-insensitive, so ‘apple’ and ‘Apple’ will be considered the same value.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my range includes blank cells?

Blank cells will be counted as a unique value. To avoid this, clean your data before applying the formula.

Can I count distinct values in non-adjacent cells?

Yes, you can use a combination of the COUNTIF and SUM functions across non-adjacent cells by defining each range separately within the formula.

Does this method work for text and numbers?

Absolutely! This method is not limited by the type of data. It works for counting distinct text, numbers, or a mix of both.

Can I use this formula in Excel Online?

Yes, this formula works in Excel Online as well as the desktop version of Excel.

What if I want to count unique values with multiple criteria?

You can expand the COUNTIF function to COUNTIFS to include multiple criteria for counting distinct values.


  1. Select the cell for the result.
  2. Type the formula =SUM(1/COUNTIF(range, range)).
  3. Press Enter to get the count.


Mastering the art of counting distinct values in Excel is a game-changer for anyone juggling data. It’s about being savvy with formulas and understanding how to make Excel work for you. Whether you’re a student crunching numbers for a project, a professional analyzing data for insights, or just someone who loves being organized, knowing how to count unique entries efficiently can save you time and hassle.

Remember, Excel is more than just a spreadsheet application; it’s a powerful tool that, when wielded correctly, can make sense of even the most daunting datasets. So the next time you’re faced with a mountain of repetitive data, don’t despair. With this nifty trick up your sleeve, you’ll be counting distinct values like a pro in no time.

Feeling empowered to tackle your data with confidence? Go ahead, give it a try, and watch as Excel transforms your data into meaningful information. Happy counting!

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