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7 Ways To Generate Unique Values List In Excel

By Chris Newman •  Updated: 08/23/20 •  6 min read
How to create a unique value list and remove Excel Duplicates

There are many scenarios you may come across while working in Excel where you only desire unique values in a list. You might want to rid your data of duplicates to create summaries, populate drop-down lists, or remove duplicates that found their way into your spreadsheet.

Luckily, Microsoft Excel offers many ways to summarize values into a unique listing, and depending on your particular situation, you may use different methods to accomplish the task at hand.

In this article, we’ll cover a bunch of different ways to identify those unique values so you have a full set of tactics to handle anything thrown your way. Let’s dive in!


1. Use The UNIQUE Function

With the release of Dynamic Array functions in 2020, Excel now offers a powerful function right out of the box to provide a simple way to pull together a list of unique values. Simply input the range you would like to analyze inside the UNIQUE Function and you’ll have the unique results delivered in a Spill Range below the formula.

How to use the Excel Unique function to pull a list of unique values

If you’re looking for a more long-term solution, convert your data set into an Excel Table (ctrl + t) and point your UNIQUE function to read the table column. This will allow you to always have a more dynamic listing as your data grows or shrinks over time.

How to use the Excel Unique function to remove duplicate cells

Pro Tip: If you want your list in alphabetical order add the Sort Function to your formula:

=SORT(UNIQUE(Table1[State]))


2. Use An Array Formula

Before the UNIQUE function was released, Excel users were left using more complex methods to compile a list of unique values from a range. Pretty much all of these methods involved using array formulas (think Ctrl+Shift+Enter) to output the end result. The formula I will share in this post does not require keying in Ctrl+Shift+Enter to activate it, hence why I prefer it. The downside to using an Array formula over a Dynamic Array function is you have to carry it down manually, there is no Spill Range functionality that will automatically resize your list.

I won’t go into the details of how this formula works (if interested go here), just know if you set it up properly it will magically work. Make sure you pay close attention to your dollar signs at the beginning of the COUNTIF function. It does matter that the first cell reference stays static while the other one changes as you carry the formula down (ie $G$3:G3 in the below example).

Finally, after you setup the first formula, you’ll need to drag the formula down until you start seeing #N/As. You’ll want to monitor your list if your data will be changing in the future to ensure it is picking up all the unique results. As a rule, I always make note to ensure at least one #N/A is showing at the bottom of my list.

Example of using Excel Lookup formula to remove duplicate cells

Formula:

=LOOKUP(2, 1/(COUNTIF($G$3:G3, $B$3:$B$12)=0), $B$3:$B$12)


3. Apply A Filter

If you would like to see a list of unique values without necessarily needing to store the list, you can utilize a cell Filter (ctrl + shift + L). Apply a filter to your data and click the filter arrow to see a list showing all the unique values within that particular column of data.

How to use the Excel cell Filter

4. Pivot Table

A Pivot Table is another good way to list out unique values. Select your data range (ensuring every column has a unique header value) and go to Insert > Pivot Table. When the Insert Dialog box appears, simply hit the OK button and you can start pivoting your data.

How to remove Excel duplicate cells with a Pivot Table

Drag the name of the column you would like to see a unique list of values for into the “Rows” quadrant. You should instantly see your list populate within the Pivot Table.


5. Remove Duplicates

If you actually want to modify your data so it only has unique values, you can utilize Excel’s Remove Duplicate button. This feature can be used on a range of cells or within an Excel Table.

Example of How to remove duplicate cells with Excel Data Tool

Follow these steps to utilize this functionality:

  1. Select your range of data
  2. Navigate to the Data Ribbon tab.
  3. Click the Remove Duplicates button within the Data Tools button group
  4. Check the combination of columns you’d like to be unique
How to remove duplicate cells with Excel Data Tool

6. Highlight Duplicates With Conditional Formatting

You may run into situations where you want to quickly visualize if there are any duplicates in your data set. This is where you can apply a little bit of conditional formatting and luckily there is a preset to flag duplicate values!

Excel example of highlighting duplicates with conditional formatting

Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Highlight the cell range you want to analyze
  2. Navigate to the Conditional Formatting button on the Home tab
  3. Select Highlight Cells Rules
  4. Select Duplicate Values…
  5. Click OK
How to highlight duplicate cells in excel with conditional formatting

7. Use A Counting Formula

You might want to pursue utilizing a formula to flag your duplicate values. This can be done by using the COUNTIF() function. The below example shows how you can analyze each cell in the data range and understand if that value occurs more than once. If you have any count that is greater than 1, you know there’s a duplicate within your data set.

Example Formula:

=COUNTIF($D$4:$D$13, D4)

After you have implemented the formula, simply apply a filter and filter out all the “1” values.

How to create unique values in Excel with a counting formula

If you are more concerned with having a duplicate row across multiple columns, you can add a helper column (Column D in the below example) that joins the values of the columns you want to ensure are unique. After the helper column is created, point your COUNTIF function to it and repeat the steps in the prior example.

How to create unique values in Excel with a counting formula

Any Others I Missed?

Whew, that was a lot of techniques we went through to get pretty much the same result. Hopefully, you start to realize as you find yourself needing to pull together a list of unique values, how valuable knowing all the options available to you in Excel is. I’m sure there were other great methods that I overlooked or haven’t discovered yet. Please let me know if you have any tips in the comments section and I can grow this article even further!


I Hope This Helped!

Hopefully, I was able to explain how you can use a variety of methods to create unique lists of your data. If you have any questions about this technique or suggestions on how to improve it, please let me know in the comments section below.

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Chris Newman

Chris Newman

Chris is a finance professional and Excel MVP recognized by Microsoft since 2016. With his expertise, he founded TheSpreadsheetGuru blog to help fellow Excel users, where he shares his vast creative solutions & expertise. In addition, he has developed over 7 widely-used Excel Add-ins that have been embraced by individuals and companies worldwide.