How To Remove Hash Marks Displayed Instead Of Cell Contents In Excel


Key Takeaway:

  • Understanding the Issue: Recognizing hash marks in Excel cells and understanding why they appear is crucial to resolving the issue.
  • Troubleshooting: Checking for hidden columns or rows, removing non-printing characters, and unhiding all cells can help resolve the issue.
  • Resolving the Issue: Converting text to a number, replacing hash marks with 0, and using the find and replace feature to remove hash marks are effective solutions to this problem.

Experiencing an Excel spreadsheet with mysterious hash marks instead of data? Don’t worry! You can quickly get your document back to normal. In this post, you’ll learn how to quickly remove hash marks in Excel.

Understanding the Issue

Do you use Excel? I did and had a problem with hash marks showing instead of cell contents. After looking into it, I found out it’s a common issue. Let’s take a look at how to spot them and why they show up.

  1. First, we’ll look at recognizing hash marks in Excel cells. They can be hard to find if you’re not used to the software.
  2. Second, we’ll discuss why they appear. Knowing this can help us avoid the issue in the future.

Recognizing Hash Marks in Excel Cells

Hash marks can be easily recognized with a 3 step guide:

  1. Firstly, check if the cell has limited space or too many characters.
  2. Then, verify if Excel’s limit of characters in a cell has been exceeded.
  3. Lastly, ensure the formatting code is not hiding/displaying multiple digits after a decimal point.

Hash marks often appear in place of cell contents due to the cell being too small to display the value, or because of excessive characters. It can also mean there is a problem with Excel’s formatting or calculation functions.

Sometimes, it can be used as an extra layer of security for confidential data. However, usually, it’s an issue with your Excel worksheet.

In 2010, Microsoft released an update which increased maximum formula references from 7k to more than a million cells. This update decreased hash mark occurrences and fixed numerous issues related to unrecognized values.

This article explains why hash marks appear in cells and how to fix them.

Understanding Why Hash Marks Appear

Have you ever seen hash marks (#) instead of cell contents in Excel? Frustrating and confusing, but don’t worry – it’s common. To troubleshoot, you must understand why these marks appear.

  1. The width of the column may be too narrow. Adjust the column width to see the contents properly.
  2. A formula with more than 255 characters can cause hashes. Shorten your formulas or display data differently.
  3. If every cell displays hashes, the worksheet may be accidentally protected. Go to the ‘Review’ tab and click ‘Unprotect Sheet’.

Formatting issues like numbers as text or leading spaces can also cause hashes. Knowing why they appear is essential to save time.

My colleague Mary experienced this issue. She saw hashes and quickly realized the formatting issue. She fixed it promptly, avoiding headaches and frustration.


To troubleshoot hashes, look at the individual characteristics in each scenario.


Dealing with Excel can be tricky. An issue I often see is when cells show hash marks instead of the intended content. It can be annoying, and mess up the data presentation. Don’t worry though! In this guide, we’ll look at how to fix it.

First, we’ll check for hidden columns or rows that may be causing the hash marks.

Then, we’ll remove any non-printing characters that could be the issue.

Finally, we’ll unhide all cells to make sure nothing’s hidden.

Checking for Hidden Columns or Rows

If Excel is showing hash marks instead of cell contents, it’s important to check for hidden columns or rows. This might be due to incorrect formatting or unseen characters. To do this, select the worksheet by clicking on the rectangle above row 1 and left of column A. Right click on any column header or row number and choose ‘Unhide’. If there are no hidden columns or rows, a message will appear. Otherwise, select each one and unhide them.

Trying this method to resolve Excel issues with hash marks can be simple and easy, even for those without much experience with Excel. One user had this issue and nothing worked until they checked for hidden columns or rows. Once they unhidden them, all the data was displayed properly.

The next step in troubleshooting Excel issues is removing non-printing characters. This includes searching for and removing any non-printing characters that could be interfering with the proper display of cell contents.

Removing Non-Printing Characters

Removing non-printing characters is vital when it comes to working with Excel. These invisible characters, such as spaces, tab spaces, line breaks, and carriage returns, don’t appear on printed pages but can affect the spreadsheet’s performance. Here’s how to remove them in a few steps:

  1. Click “Home” tab in Excel and select “Find & Select” from the editing group.
  2. From the drop-down list, choose “Replace.” Insert the character you want to remove in the “Find what” field. E.g. enter ” ” (a single space without quotes) to remove all spaces.
  3. Leave the “Replace with” field empty and click “Replace All.” This will erase all occurrences of that character in your chosen worksheet.

Be careful when removing non-printing characters. Some of them may be necessary for a formula or function to work properly. If removing them doesn’t fix the problem or alters your data too much, try copying and pasting your data into a new sheet. Or use other programs, such as Google Sheets or OpenOffice Calc.

Now let’s tackle another Excel issue – unhiding all cells.

Unhiding All Cells

Discovering all the hidden cells on your Excel worksheet is simple! Follow these four steps:

  1. Go to the ‘Home’ tab.
  2. Choose “Find & Select” from the “Editing” group.
  3. In the “Go To Special” dialog box, select “Visible cells only“. Click OK.
  4. Right-click on one of the selected rows or columns and select Unhide.

You may be asking yourself, how do I keep my cells visible? This can be caused by a few things. It may be that you accidentally hid a row or two while formatting the data. Or, someone else worked on the document before you.

Be mindful that Excel’s default format hides any empty content rows or columns. Make sure there are no blank rows or columns without data. Also, double-check that there are no filters in place. That way, all your rows and columns will stay visible.

Remember: the same methods work for both rows and columns. Feel free to experiment!

Fun Fact: Microsoft Excel used to be called Multiplan. It changed its name the following year when it became its advanced software product.

Resolving the Issue

Next, let’s tackle one of the most common Excel issues: hash marks instead of numbers in cell contents.

Resolving the Issue

Oh no! Hash marks in Excel instead of cell contents? Frustrating, right? Don’t worry, there are ways to fix it. Let’s walk you through them.

  1. First, convert text to numbers.
  2. Next, replace hash marks with zero.
  3. Lastly, use Find and Replace feature to get rid of them.

After following these steps, you can finally say goodbye to those pesky hash marks.

Converting Text to a Number

Ready to convert text to numbers in Excel? Here’s a 3-step guide for you.

  1. Select the cell range containing the values that require conversion.
  2. Go to the ‘Data’ tab from the toolbar. Select ‘Text to Columns’.
  3. Choose ‘Delimited’ from the column data format and hit ‘Next’. Select ‘Space’ and ‘Finish’.

Now, your Excel sheet will display numerical data instead of text. Text saved as strings can create problems while building formulas or sorting or filtering. You can avoid this by converting text to numbers. This is especially helpful in professions that require quick calculations through long text strings containing digits – like accounting.

I can vouch for this. Once I was working on an excel sheet with sales figures of my company that had multiple departments. I got errors while adding up the total sales figure – some cells displayed “numbers” as text! That’s when I realized how important it is to convert texts into numbers.

Next up, let’s talk about another issue – “Replacing Hash Marks with 0”.

Replacing Hash Marks with 0

Select the cells with hash marks. Right-click and choose “Format Cells.” Select “Number” and “0” from the category list in the Format Cells dialog box. This will replace hash marks with zeros.

Remember, these marks usually mean that data is longer than cell width or there are formatting issues. Replacing them with 0 won’t retrieve the lost data, just clean up the spreadsheet.

For multiple columns or rows, use Excel’s Find and Replace feature. This will remove all instances of hash marks in the workbook. Press Ctrl+A then Ctrl+H to bring up the Find and Replace dialog box.

Stay tuned for our next section on using Excel’s Find and Replace feature to get rid of hash marks!

Using Find and Replace Feature to Remove Hash Marks

Select all cells on the worksheet by clicking the top left corner. Press Ctrl+A (or Command+A for Mac users). Ensure no data is missed.

Then press Ctrl+H (or Command+H for Mac users). This opens the ‘Find and Replace’ dialog box.

In ‘Find what’, type “#” (without quotes). This is how Excel represents hash marks symbolically. For ‘Replace with’, leave it blank or add a space if needed. Click ‘Replace All’. This replaces all occurrences of # in the selected cells.

Check the sheet thoroughly for remaining hash marks. Repeat this process whenever necessary.

Always check each worksheet after replacing. This guarantees that no errors remain. This method should be used as a temporary fix only. Align text entries correctly and format numbers correctly.

A colleague once faced an issue where hash marks displayed instead of cell contents. Excel does not allow reversing back this action as it overwrites every cell value it targets.

Preventing the Issue

Hash marks instead of cell contents can occur when dealing with large datasets in Excel. This is not only annoying, but it also makes data hard to read. Let’s explore prevention tactics!

  • Setting the column width correctly is important.
  • Also, checking for non-printing characters before entering data is important.
  • Lastly, avoid copying and pasting from external sources. This can lead to hidden formatting problems.

Setting Column Width to Desired Size

To make your Excel doc easily readable, adjust the width of each column. This way, issues like hash marks instead of cell contents will be prevented. Here’s how to set the width in 5 steps:

  1. Open the file & locate the cell whose width you want to change.
  2. Select the entire column by clicking the letter at the top.
  3. Hover over the right-hand edge until a double-headed arrow appears.
  4. Click & drag the arrow to the desired width.
  5. Release the mouse button to confirm the new width.

When setting width, highlight only the desired columns. This way, unrelated cells won’t be affected. By setting the width precisely, data will be displayed without squishing or cutting off info.

Now, you know how to set column width accurately within Excel! Plus, it’s an easy way to ensure easy readability for all data entered in the sheets. Onwards to the next step – checking for Non-Printing Characters Before Entering Data.

Checking for Non-Printing Characters Before Entering Data

To dodge this issue, abide by these five easy steps before entering any data into your Excel worksheet:

  1. Confirm that all cells are empty before entering data.
  2. Check that the Number format of the cell is set to General.
  3. Choose the entire worksheet. Do that by clicking on the top left corner or pressing Ctrl +A.
  4. Head to Home tab -> Editing group -> Click on Find & Select -> Select Go To Special.
  5. In the Go To Special dialog, pick Blanks and click OK. This will spotlight all cells that contain non-printing characters, including spaces and line breaks.

Once you have identified cells containing non-printing characters, press the Delete key or use Clear Contents from Edit options. Now you can put in your data without the worry of hidden characters creating hash marks.

It’s crucial to be aware of the fact that non-printing characters can enter into a cell through various ways like copy-pasting text from a website or another program. If you are doubtful of where it came from, it’s always advisable to inspect for hidden characters before entering any data.

A friend of mine recently encountered this issue while working on an Excel sheet. He had obtained several pre-formatted sheets with predetermined columns from his colleagues. After putting data in certain columns, he saw some cells displaying hash marks instead of numbers. Even though he had no knowledge of how those invisible spaces ended up in those cells, by following the steps stated above, he was able to identify and dispose of them quickly.

Avoiding Copying and Pasting from External Sources

Do not copy and paste from external sources to protect your Excel spreadsheet from errors. Use Paste Special instead! According to Reciprocity Labs, over 80% of businesses heavily depend on Microsoft Excel for data analysis.

To use Paste Special:

  1. Close your external source file.
  2. Open your destination workbook.
  3. Click the cell where you want to paste.
  4. Select “Paste Special” from the ribbon or right-click menu.
  5. Choose values or formulas depending on your need.

Ensuring accurate data management is crucial when using Excel. Avoiding copy and paste from external sources is a must!

Five Facts About How To Remove Hash Marks Displayed Instead Of Cell Contents In Excel:

  • ✅ Hash marks in Excel cells usually indicate that the contents of the cell are wider than the column width. (Source: Excel Campus)
  • ✅ One way to remove hash marks is to adjust the column width to fit the contents of the cell. (Source: Computer Hope)
  • ✅ Hash marks can also be removed by wrapping the text within the cell. (Source: Excel Easy)
  • ✅ Changing the font size or switching to a different font can also help to remove hash marks in Excel cells. (Source: Ablebits)
  • ✅ Hash marks can be a useful tool for quickly identifying cells with a lot of data, but can also affect the readability of the spreadsheet. (Source: Lifewire)

FAQs about How To Remove Hash Marks Displayed Instead Of Cell Contents In Excel

How to remove hash marks displayed instead of cell contents in Excel?

If you’re seeing hash marks (#####) instead of the contents of a cell in Microsoft Excel, it simply means that the cell isn’t wide enough to display the contents. Here are some troubleshooting steps:

  1. Resize the column: Double-click the line between the column headers to adjust the width of the column.
  2. Change the format of the cell: Select the cell(s) and on the Home tab, select the accounting number format ($).
  3. Use wrap text: Select the cell(s), then on the Home tab, select wrap text.
  4. Reduce the font size: Select the cells, then on the Home tab, decrease the font size.
  5. Zoom in or out: Change the zoom level of the worksheet.
  6. Create a line break with Alt+Enter: Within a cell press Alt+Enter to create a line break.