How To Anchor Cells In Excel

Anchoring cells in Excel sounds complicated, but in short, it just refers to the process of making one cell a constant presence in one calculation, and all calculations are duplicated out from it. To anchor a cell in a calculation is actually super easy, so let’s take a look at how it’s done.

To learn how to anchor cells in Excel, simply follow our step-by-step tutorial below. For all other information, or if you have any other queries, just head to our FAQ section at the end of this article.

How to anchor cells in Excel calculations

  1. Open Microsoft Excel on your device and open the document you’re working on
  2. First, let’s create a calculation in a blank cell, which includes the cell we’re going to want to anchor. For example, if A1 is the cell we want to anchor for future calculations, then let’s type =A1+B1 and press Enter
  3. Our calculation will now present itself in the cell we’ve just entered it into, but if we were to try and duplicate it now, we’d find that A1 was replaced time and again by other cells. So we must anchor A1 in the calculation. Double-click in the cell with the =A1+B1 formula
  4. Now, in the formula bar up at the top of the page, let’s click and drag to highlight cell A1
  5. Here’s the anchoring part: press F4 on your keyboard (or FUNCTION/FN+F4)
    1. The appearance of two $ (dollar signs), before the letter and before the number, tell you that this cell has been anchored within the formula no matter where in your spreadsheet you copy/duplicate the formula
    2. Press F4/FN+F4 again and you’ll see just one $ between the letter and number, meaning the cell is only anchored in calculations duplicated within the same column
    3. Press F4/FN+F4 once more and the single $ will move before the letter, indicating the cell is only anchored in calculations duplicated within the same row
    4. Press F4/FN+F4 a last time, and your cell will become unanchored

And there you have it, that’s all you need to know about how to anchor cells in Excel! If you have any other queries or require additional information, please see our FAQs below.


What does it mean to anchor cells in Microsoft Excel?

Microsoft Excel is one of the premier software programs used in finance and accountancy, data entry and manipulation, all around the world. It’s used by millions of people every day, and yet few are trained in Excel to a point at which they never experience any error messages.

Because Excel is dealing with (at times) humongous amounts of data, it’s very easy for wires to be crossed, calculations to be miscalculated, and inputs to be misinterpreted, provided you’re not skilled in a few key areas.

One such area is the ‘anchoring’ of cells. To anchor, a cell refers to the process by which you can duplicate a calculation many times over, with reference made to many different cells, but throughout which one part of the calculation remains constant. It is, in other words, anchored in position, and the calculation will always refer back to it

Why would I want to anchor cells in Microsoft Excel?

Performing complex calculations and maneuvers in Excel can be done pretty swiftly when you’re aware of the shortcuts, and yet sometimes a shortcut will throw up an error message. 

This can often happen, for example, when trying to take the data from one cell and include it in sums duplicated across many other cells. If we simply seek to duplicate the calculation A1xB1 which we’ve written into C1, for example and then dragged to duplicate this calculation across C2 and C3, we would quickly find that the formula in C2 and C3 has been duplicated as A2xB2 and A3xB3.

But what if we want B2 and B3 to both be multiplied by A1? Well, that’s where ‘anchoring’ comes in. If we ‘anchor’ A1 in our first formula/calculation, then no matter how many times we duplicate it across however many cells, A1 will remain constant in the calculation.

How does anchoring cells in Microsoft Excel affect the alignment of other cells?

It doesn’t. This is a common misinterpretation of the term ‘anchor’. Rather than fixing the cell in geographical position on the spreadsheet, to ‘anchor’ a cell is simply to fix it as a constant in a variety of duplicated calculations. Thus, to answer the question: anchoring a cell will have no bearing on the ‘alignment’ of the other cells on your spreadsheet.

Can I unanchor cells in Microsoft Excel if I change my mind?

Yes, absolutely, by repeating the step at which you press F4 to anchor the cell in the calculation, you can actually adjust the type of anchoring applied (either total anchor, column anchor, or row anchor – i.e. applying the constant in calculations all calculations, calculations within that column, or calculations within that row). However, if you press F4 once more, it will remove the anchor completely, thus ‘unanchoring’ your cell from your equation/formula.