How to Remove Duplicates but Keep First Instance in Excel: A Guide

Removing duplicates in Excel while keeping the first instance is a task that comes in handy, especially when dealing with large datasets. It’s a simple process that involves using Excel’s built-in tools to filter and remove the extra entries, leaving you with a clean, duplicate-free list.

Step by Step Tutorial: Remove Duplicates but Keep First Instance in Excel

Before jumping into the steps, it’s important to know what we’re aiming for here. The goal is to eliminate all the duplicate entries in your Excel sheet, but we’ll ensure that the first instance of each entry remains. This is crucial when you’re looking to maintain a record of all unique entries without losing any data.

Step 1: Select Your Data Range

Click and drag to highlight the cells that contain the data you want to clean up.

When you’re selecting your data range, make sure you include all the columns that have the data you want to check for duplicates. If you only select one column, Excel will only look for duplicates within that column.

Step 2: Go to the Data Tab

Navigate to the Data tab on the Excel ribbon at the top of the screen.

The Data tab is where you’ll find all the tools you need for sorting and filtering your data, including the ‘Remove Duplicates’ feature.

Step 3: Click on ‘Remove Duplicates’

In the Data tab, look for the ‘Remove Duplicates’ button and click on it.

A new window will pop up where you can specify which columns you want to check for duplicate information. If you want to keep the first instance of each duplicate, make sure the ‘My data has headers’ box is checked if your data includes headers.

Step 4: Select the Columns

In the Remove Duplicates window, select the columns you want to remove duplicates from.

If you have multiple columns and you want to remove duplicates based on the combined data from those columns, make sure to check all relevant columns.

Step 5: Press OK

After selecting the columns, press OK, and Excel will remove the duplicates.

Excel will then display a message telling you how many duplicates were found and removed and how many unique values remain. If you’re satisfied with the changes, you can press OK to close the message.

After completing these steps, you’ll have a cleaned list where each duplicate entry is removed, except for the first instance. You can now use this list for your analysis, safe in the knowledge that each entry is unique.

Tips: Remove Duplicates but Keep First Instance in Excel

  • Always make a backup of your data before removing duplicates, just in case you need to revert back.
  • Use the ‘Undo’ feature (Ctrl + Z) if you remove duplicates accidentally.
  • If you have a header row, ensure the ‘My data has headers’ option is checked to avoid removing your headers.
  • Double-check your selected columns before pressing OK to avoid removing data you intended to keep.
  • Use the ‘Clear’ button in the Remove Duplicates window if you need to reselect your columns.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I ensure I only remove duplicates from specific columns?

In the Remove Duplicates window, only check the boxes next to the columns you want to remove duplicates from.

What if I accidentally remove duplicates I wanted to keep?

You can use Excel’s ‘Undo’ feature (Ctrl + Z) to revert your sheet back to its state before the duplicates were removed.

Can I remove duplicates based on just one column but keep the rest of the row data?

Yes, you can. You would only check the column you want to remove duplicates from in the Remove Duplicates window.

Will removing duplicates reorganize my data?

No, it won’t. The remaining data will stay in the same order; only the duplicate values will be removed.

Can I remove duplicates from multiple sheets at once?

No, the Remove Duplicates feature only works on one sheet at a time. You’ll need to repeat the process for each sheet.


  1. Select your data range
  2. Go to the Data tab
  3. Click on ‘Remove Duplicates’
  4. Select the columns to remove duplicates from
  5. Press OK


Mastering the art of removing duplicates in Excel while keeping the first instance is a valuable skill that can save you a lot of time and ensure the integrity of your data. Whether you’re managing a client database, organizing a mailing list, or analyzing survey results, knowing how to efficiently clean your data is crucial. With the straightforward steps outlined in this article, you can quickly remove unwanted duplicates and maintain a pristine dataset.

Remember, always double-check your selections before executing the process to avoid any mishaps. Practice with different datasets, and soon this task will become second nature to you. Moreover, keep exploring Excel’s robust features, as there’s always more to learn and discover that can further enhance your data management capabilities.

So, go ahead, give it a try, and watch as your Excel skills continue to grow. And remember, removing duplicates but keeping the first instance in Excel doesn’t have to be a chore—it can be a quick and easy step towards data accuracy and reliability.

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