How to do VLOOKUP in Excel with Two Spreadsheets: A Step-by-Step Guide

VLOOKUP is a handy function in Excel that allows you to search for a specific value in one spreadsheet and return a corresponding value from another spreadsheet. It’s like a digital detective, finding the information you need across different sets of data. In a few easy steps, you can master the art of VLOOKUP with two spreadsheets.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Do VLOOKUP in Excel with Two Spreadsheets

Before we dive into the steps, let’s understand what we’re aiming for. We want to use VLOOKUP to find data in one spreadsheet and use it to populate cells in another spreadsheet. Ready? Let’s go!

Step 1: Open both spreadsheets

Open the two Excel spreadsheets you want to use. One will have the data you want to look up, and the other is where you want the data to go.

When you have both spreadsheets open, you can easily switch between them. This will be crucial when setting up your VLOOKUP function.

Step 2: Identify the lookup value

In the spreadsheet where you want the data to go, click on the cell where you want the VLOOKUP result to appear. This cell will hold the lookup value—the piece of data VLOOKUP will search for in the other spreadsheet.

The lookup value can be any piece of data, such as a name or an ID number. It’s what links your two spreadsheets together.

Step 3: Start the VLOOKUP formula

In the cell you selected, type the following: =VLOOKUP(. This starts the VLOOKUP function, telling Excel that you’re ready to search for something.

The opening parenthesis is like telling Excel, “Hey, I’m about to give you some instructions, so pay attention.”

Step 4: Enter the lookup value

After the (, click on the cell that has the lookup value. Then, add a comma to separate it from the next part of the formula.

By clicking on the cell with the lookup value, you’re telling Excel, “Here’s the data I want you to find.”

Step 5: Go to the other spreadsheet

Now, switch to the other spreadsheet—the one that has the data you want to find. Click on the first cell of the column that has the data you want VLOOKUP to search through.

This is where the detective work happens. You’re guiding Excel to the place where it needs to search for the lookup value.

Step 6: Select the data range

After clicking on the first cell, drag your mouse down to select the entire column of data. Then, press F4 to lock the range, and add a comma after the range in the formula.

Locking the data range with F4 makes sure that Excel always looks in the same place, even if you move things around in the spreadsheet.

Step 7: Enter the column index number

Back in the first spreadsheet, after the comma, type the number of the column in the second spreadsheet that has the data you want to return.

The column index number is like telling Excel, “Once you find the lookup value, this is the specific information I want you to bring back.”

Step 8: Type ‘FALSE’ for an exact match

After another comma, type FALSE. This tells Excel that you want an exact match for the lookup value. Then, close the formula with a parenthesis and hit Enter.

Writing FALSE ensures that Excel will only give you data that exactly matches your lookup value, so there’s no room for error.

After completing these steps, Excel will search the second spreadsheet for your lookup value and return the corresponding data to the first spreadsheet. The VLOOKUP function will fill in the gaps, linking your data across two spreadsheets like a bridge.

Tips: How to Do VLOOKUP in Excel with Two Spreadsheets

  • Make sure your lookup value is unique to ensure accurate results.
  • Double-check that you’ve locked the data range with F4 to avoid errors.
  • Use clear, concise column headers to make it easier to identify the correct column index number.
  • If your VLOOKUP isn’t working, double-check for typos or mismatched data types.
  • Practice with sample data to become comfortable with VLOOKUP before applying it to critical work.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I want to do a VLOOKUP with more than one column?

You’ll just need to repeat the process for each column, adjusting the column index number to match the data you want to return.

Can I use VLOOKUP with more than two spreadsheets?

Yes, you can use VLOOKUP to link data across multiple spreadsheets. The process is the same; just ensure you’re referencing the correct data ranges and spreadsheets.

What does ‘FALSE’ mean in the VLOOKUP formula?

‘FALSE’ tells Excel to look for an exact match of the lookup value. If you use ‘TRUE’, Excel will look for an approximate match, which can lead to inaccurate results.

Why do I need to lock the data range with F4?

Locking the data range ensures that the range reference doesn’t change if you move or copy the formula. It keeps your VLOOKUP accurate and reliable.

Can I use VLOOKUP to return a value to the left of the lookup value?

No, VLOOKUP can only return values to the right of the lookup value. If you need to look left, consider using the INDEX and MATCH functions together instead.


  1. Open both spreadsheets.
  2. Identify the lookup value.
  3. Start the VLOOKUP formula.
  4. Enter the lookup value.
  5. Go to the other spreadsheet.
  6. Select the data range.
  7. Enter the column index number.
  8. Type ‘FALSE’ for an exact match.


Mastering how to do VLOOKUP in Excel with two spreadsheets can be a real game-changer. It’s a powerful tool that can save you tons of time and reduce errors in your data analysis. Remember, it’s all about linking the right pieces of information together. Like a puzzle, once you know where each piece goes, the bigger picture becomes clear. With this guide, you’re well on your way to becoming a VLOOKUP pro. So go ahead, give it a try, and watch how smoothly your data comes together. Who knows? You might just find that VLOOKUP becomes your new best friend in Excel.

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