How to Randomize the Contents of a Column in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Randomizing the contents of a column in Excel involves using a randomizing function like RAND or RANDBETWEEN to shuffle the order of the data. After completing this process, the original order of the data in the selected column will be mixed up in a random manner.

After you complete the action, the data in the selected column will be displayed in a new, random order. This can be useful for various tasks such as creating random samples, anonymizing data, or just shaking things up a bit for a fresh perspective.


Excel is a powerhouse when it comes to managing and analyzing data. One of the lesser-known tricks up its sleeve is the ability to randomize the contents of a column. You might wonder why you’d want to do that. Well, randomizing data can be incredibly useful! For example, maybe you’re a teacher looking to randomly pick students for a project, or a researcher aiming to create a random sample from a larger dataset. Perhaps you’re running a raffle and need to mix up entry numbers. Whatever your reason, Excel’s got you covered.

This task might seem daunting at first, but it’s simpler than you think. Plus, knowing how to randomize data can save you time and effort in the long run. It’s a skill that’s not just limited to data analysts or Excel wizards; anyone who uses Excel could benefit from knowing how to shuffle data around. So, whether you’re a student, an accountant, or just someone who loves organizing (and occasionally scrambling) lists, this guide is for you.

Step by Step Tutorial to Randomize Column Contents

The following steps will guide you through randomizing the contents of a column in Excel. By the end of it, you’ll have a column of data in a completely random order.

Step 1: Insert a new column

Insert a new, blank column next to the column you want to randomize.

This new column will be used to generate random numbers that will dictate the new order of your data.

Step 2: Use the RAND function

Type =RAND() into the first cell of the new column, then drag down to fill the entire column.

The RAND function generates a random number between 0 and 1 in each cell. These numbers will act as a sort of ‘lottery’ for each corresponding data point in your original column.

Step 3: Sort both columns

Select both the original and the new random number column, then sort by the random number column.

Sorting both columns ensures that your original data follows the random numbers, effectively shuffling the column.

Step 4: Delete the random number column

Once sorted, you can delete the random number column, leaving you with just the randomized data column.

Deleting the random number column tidies up your spreadsheet, leaving you with only the data you need in its new, randomized order.


FairnessRandomizing ensures that all data points have an equal chance of appearing in any given position.
SimplicityThe process is quick and easy, making it accessible for users of all skill levels.
VersatilityThis method can be used for a variety of purposes, from research to event planning.

Randomizing the contents of a column provides a level playing field, especially important when selecting samples or assigning tasks. It eliminates any potential bias or patterns that may have existed in the original order.

The simplicity of the randomizing process in Excel is one of its main pros. It doesn’t require any complex functions or formulas, and even those new to Excel can follow the steps with ease.

Randomization in Excel is not limited to any one use-case. It can be applied across various fields and scenarios, making it an incredibly versatile tool for anyone working with data.


IrreversibleOnce data is randomized, it’s challenging to revert back to the original order without an initial backup.
Limited ControlThe randomness is complete, meaning users can’t influence the outcome or control ‘how random’ the process is.
Potential for ErrorsRandomizing can lead to mistakes if not done carefully, particularly in complex datasets.

Randomizing data in Excel is a one-way street; if you don’t have the original order saved, you might not be able to get it back. Always make sure to back up your data before you shuffle it.

When you randomize data, you’re at the mercy of chance. You can’t specify criteria for the randomization or influence the results, which can be a downside if you need more control over the process.

Randomizing data, especially in large or complex datasets, can lead to errors like mismatched data if you’re not careful. Always double-check your work to ensure the integrity of your data post-randomization.

Additional Information

One thing to note when randomizing data in Excel is that every time the worksheet recalculates, the RAND function will generate new random numbers, which means your data will get shuffled again. To prevent this, once you’ve randomized your data and removed the random number column, you might want to copy and paste the randomized column as values only. This way, you keep the randomized order static.

Also, while RAND is a great function for randomization, sometimes you might need a random integer instead of a decimal. That’s when the RANDBETWEEN function becomes handy, allowing you to specify a range (for example, 1 to 100) and generating a random number within that range.

Lastly, remember that Excel’s randomization is not suitable for cryptographic purposes. It’s great for everyday uses but not for situations requiring high levels of security.


  1. Insert a new column
  2. Use the RAND function
  3. Sort both columns
  4. Delete the random number column

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I randomize multiple columns at once?

Yes, you can. Simply generate random numbers for each column and sort them all simultaneously. Ensure the rows correspond correctly across columns.

Will the randomization be the same every time?

No, the randomness is different each time you generate it, thanks to Excel’s algorithm. However, it can be replicated if you set a specific seed number for the random number generator.

Can I use this method to randomize rows?

Absolutely. The process is essentially the same, but you would insert a row and use the random numbers to sort horizontally instead of vertically.

Is there a way to make the randomization permanent?

Yes. Once you’ve randomized and removed the random number column, you can copy the randomized column and paste it as values only. This action will remove the formula, keeping the order static.

What if I need to randomize within specific criteria?

For more controlled randomization, you might need to use more complex formulas or even delve into VBA scripting to set specific conditions for your randomization.


Randomizing the contents of a column in Excel is a straightforward process that can be valuable in many contexts. Whether you’re conducting research or organizing a game night, Excel makes it easy to mix things up. Remember to back up your original data before you start, and consider the pros and cons to ensure this process suits your needs. With this guide, you now have one more Excel trick up your sleeve to make your work with data more dynamic and fair. Keep experimenting with Excel’s functions, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

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