MS Office File Repair

Filter Not Working Error in Excel [Fix 2024]

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    Summary: The filter is not working issue in Excel can occur due to several reasons, like blank rows, hidden rows, merged cells, corrupted data, etc. In this post, we will mention the reasons why the filter is not working correctly in Excel and several fixes to resolve the issue. We will also mention an advanced Excel repair tool to repair the Excel file if corruption in file is the cause of the issue.

    You can use the Filter function in Excel to filter data in large-sized Excel files quickly. While using Excel filters, sometimes, you face a situation where the filter is disabled or may fail to function properly.

    Filter Option Disabled

    The Excel filter usually fails to work if you have not selected the complete and correct range of data. Let’s learn more about the “Sort and Filter not working in Excel” issue and look at the possible methods to fix it.

    Why the Filter is not Working in Excel?

    You can face the “filter is not working” issue if you are applying the filter on a protected worksheet or trying to find the data from a hidden row. Besides this, there could be many other reasons contributing to this issue, such as:

    • The data you are trying to filter is in merged cells.
    • The Excel file automatically selected the data up to the first empty cell, excluding the remaining rows.
    • Grouped sheets in Excel file.
    • Blank row in the Excel sheet.
    • You are trying to apply a filter on an invalid data range.
    • The workbooks in which you’re facing the filter issues are corrupted.
    • You are specifying incorrect criteria in the filter columns.

    Solutions to Resolve the Filter is not Working Issue in Excel

    There might be two scenarios: the Excel filter option is disabled/grayed out or the filters fail to function properly. You can follow the given troubleshooting solutions to resolve the issue based on the scenario you’re facing.

    Scenario 1 – Filter Option is Disabled or Grayed Out

    Method 1: Check and Un-group the Worksheet

    When you apply filters to a single sheet in a grouped set, Excel disables the filter option in other sheets within the group. You can check the grouped sheets and try ungrouping them to enable the filter option. Here’s how to do so:

    • In the Excel file, go to the Group section.
    Excel file navigation: Accessing the Group section
    • Right-click on the Ungroup Sheets.

    Alternatively, you can press the Shift + Alt + Left keys to ungroup the sheets.

    Method 2: Unprotect Worksheet

    The “disabled Excel filter” issue can also occur if your worksheet is protected. You can unprotect the worksheet to enable the filter option. To do so, go to the Review tab and then select Unprotect Sheet.

    Excel file: Navigating to Group section, resolving 'disabled Excel filter' issue with worksheet protection, unprotecting sheet from Review tab for filter activation.

    Method 3: Check and Uninstall Excel Add-ins

    Sometimes, the Excel filter gets disabled due to faulty or corrupted Excel add-ins. You can run the Excel in Safe mode to check whether the issue has occurred due to add-ins. To do this, type excel /safe in the Run window and click OK.

    Troubleshooting disabled Excel filter caused by add-ins: Running Excel in Safe mode with 'excel /safe' in Run window

    In safe mode, if you see the filter option, it indicates some problematic Excel add-ins were causing the issue. In such a case, you can check and uninstall the faulty Excel add-ins to fix the issue.

    Scenario 2 – Filter is not Working

    Method 1: Try Clearing Filters

    Sometimes, the Excel filter fails to work correctly if some filters from the previous sessions are still active. In such a case, you can clear the applied filters. Follow the below steps:

    • In Excel file, click Sort & Filter option.
    • Select clear.
    Excel: Clicking 'Sort & Filter' and selecting 'Clear' option.

    Method 2: Select Entire Data

    The filter not working issue in Excel can occur when the range selected for filtering is incomplete or incorrect. You need to make sure that you’ve selected the entire data range in Excel. You can use the Ctrl+A keys to select the entire content in the worksheet.

    Method 3: Check and Delete Blank Cells from the Table’s Columns

    When you apply a filter to the data, Excel expects data to be in a continuous range. Excel filters do not consider the blank cells, thereby resulting in incorrect functioning of the filter. To resolve this issue, check and delete all blank cells. In case your Excel file is too large to delete the blank cells, then you can add a “Serial number” row as an alternative. Adding serial number row creates a data continuity, thus helping in fixing the filter-related issue.

    Method 4: Unhide Hidden Rows and Columns

    Hidden rows or columns in worksheets can also affect the filter functionality. You can check and unhide rows/columns to troubleshoot the issue. Here is how to do so:

    • In the affected Excel file, go to Home.
    • Click on Format > Hide & Unhide.
    Excel file: Navigating to Home, accessing Format > Hide & Unhide.
    • Click Unhide Rows or Unhide Columns (as required).
    Selective unhiding in Excel: 'Unhide Rows' or 'Unhide Columns' as needed.

    Method 5: Unmerge Cells

    You can experience the filter in Excel is not working issue if you are using the filter to extract data from merged cells. Ensure to unmerge the “merged cells” before applying a filter in Excel. Follow the below steps to unmerge the merged cells in Excel:

    • Navigate to the Home option.
    • In the toolbar, select the Merge & Center option.
    • Click Unmerge Cells.

    Method 6: Repair the Workbook

    Sometimes, the Filter Not Working in Excel issue can occur due to inconsistencies in file structure. If these issues occurred due to corruption in the worksheet, you can repair it using the Open and Repair tool. It is an in-built tool in Excel that is used to repair corrupted Excel files. Here are the steps to use this tool:

    • In the Excel application, navigate to the File option.
    • Click Open and then click Browse to choose the Excel file.
    • In the Open dialog box, click the problematic Excel file.
    • Click the arrow next to the Open option and select Open and Repair.
    • Click Repair to recover as much data as possible.
    • The application prompts a message after the repair process is complete. Click Close.

    In most cases, the Open and Repair tool can easily fix corruption issues in the Excel file. However, for any reason, if the open and repair tool doesn’t work you can consider repairing the file using a professional Excel Repair tool. Stellar Repair for Excel is one such advanced and secure tool to repair Excel files. With this tool’s powerful scanning capabilities, you can repair highly corrupted Excel files and recover all their objects with complete integrity. The tool is compatible with all Windows editions, including the latest Windows 11.


    Several reasons are associated with the filter not working issue in Excel. The filter option may not work as expected if you have not selected the complete and correct range of data or for many other reasons. You can follow the troubleshooting methods discussed above to fix the issue. If the filter fails to work due to corruption in the workbook, then try Stellar Repair for Excel. It is an advanced tool that can even repair severely damaged files. It also helps to recover all the data from corrupted files without changing the original formatting. You can check the tool’s functionality by downloading its demo version. It allows you to preview all the repairable objects in the corrupted Excel file.

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    About The Author

    Monika Dadool linkdin

    Monika Dadool is a Technical content writer at Stellar who writes about QuickBooks, Sage50, MySQL Database, Active Directory, e-mail recovery, Microsoft365, Pattern Recognition, and Machine learning. She loves researching, exploring new technology, and Developing engaging technical blogs that help organizations or Database Administrators fix multiple issues. When she isn’t creating content, she is busy on social media platforms, watching web series, reading books, and searching for food recipes.

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