Author: Oscar Cronquist Article last updated on January 09, 2019

This article describes how to highlight duplicate records arranged into a column each, if you are looking for records entered in a row each then go to this article: Highlight duplicate records. The image above shows one record in each column, cell range B2:E5.

The array formula and conditional formatting formula in this article contain the COUNTIFS function, a function introduced in excel 2007. The COUNTIFS function evaluates conditions on cells across multiple ranges and counts the number of times all are met.

Conditional formatting formula:

=COUNTIFS($B$2:$E$2, B$2, $B$3:$E$3, B$3, $B$4:$E$4, B$4, $B$5:$E$5, B$5)>1

How to add conditional formatting formula

  1. Select cells A1:C30
  2. Click "Home" tab
  3. Click "Conditional Formatting" button
  4. Click "New Rule.."
  5. Click "Use a formula to determine which cells to format"
  6. Type =COUNTIFS($B$2:$E$2, B$2, $B$3:$E$3, B$3, $B$4:$E$4, B$4, $B$5:$E$5, B$5)>1 in "Format values where this formula is TRUE" window.
  7. Click "Format.." button
  8. Click "Fill" tab
  9. Select a color for highlighting cells.
  10. Click "Ok"
  11. Click "Ok"
  12. Click "Ok"

Explaining Conditional Formatting Formula in cell B2

Step 1 - Count columns that match the current column

In order to explain how this formula works you need to understand absolute and relative cell references. The dollar sign makes the cell reference locked, however a cell reference has both a column and row part and both may have a dollar sign depending on what you want to happen.

The COUNTIFS function allows you to counts duplicate records, make sure you create a condition for each row in your record. There are four rows in this example, the first argument is $B$2:$E$2 and doesn't change when the conditional formatting moves on to the next column.

The second argument is B$2 and is locked to row 2, however, the column is a relative cell reference (not locked) and changes when the CF moves to next column.

If there are columns that match all four conditions B$2, B$3, B$4 and B$5 then the COUNTIFS function returns the number of rows that match.

COUNTIFS($B$2:$E$2, B$2, $B$3:$E$3, B$3, $B$4:$E$4, B$4, $B$5:$E$5, B$5)

returns 1.

Step 2 - Check if the number is larger than 1

If there is more than one column matching we know the record is a duplicate.

COUNTIFS($B$2:$E$2, B$2, $B$3:$E$3, B$3, $B$4:$E$4, B$4, $B$5:$E$5, B$5)>1

becomes

1>1

and returns FALSE. Cell B2 is not highlighted.

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