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What to do when your Excel worksheet won’t scroll

I have a monster Excel spreadsheet with tens of thousands of rows, correlated. Its gigabytes of data taught me a lot. Including things it wasn’t supposed to, like what to do when Excel won’t scroll.

This thing is pretty fragile. Among other things, the largest of the sheets will stop scrolling. The scrollbar on the right scrolls, but the display doesn’t move. And the arrow keys don’t work either. I can’t scroll down, I can’t scroll right, or do anything useful with the data because I can’t see the whole worksheet.

But I stumbled on two tricks that provide a quick solution.

When Excel won’t scroll, it’s probably Freeze Panes

Excel won't scroll

When Excel won’t scroll, the solution is hiding in the Freeze Panes options under this button on the ribbon.

I regularly freeze the top row on an Excel spreadsheet, so I know what I’m looking at. But this problem sometimes happens even when I don’t have the top row frozen. For some reason, Excel randomly freezes the panes on these worksheets from time to time.

So, when I click on a tab and the screen won’t scroll when I press my arrow keys or use the scrollbar or scroll wheel on my mouse, the solution is to click on View, select Freeze Panes, and select Unfreeze Panes. Now you’ll be able to scroll in Excel again, like magic.

Then, since I want the top row frozen, I scroll to the top, click on the top row, click Freeze Panes again, and select Freeze Top Row.

For the record, I don’t think avoiding use of frozen panes really prevents this problem. It’s a useful feature; it’s just that sometimes it gets enabled with goofy settings that cause a problem. Once you know the workaround, it’s still annoying but not a terribly big deal. If you have the same problem, hopefully this solves it for you. This solution has been working for me for nearly 8 years.

Check your scroll lock key

When it’s not frozen panes, it’s usually the obscure Scroll Lock or SCRLK key. Sometimes it’s even just marked Scroll. Microsoft Excel may be the only commonly used program that still has any use at all for the scroll lock keypress. When SCRLK is enabled, there’s usually an indicator on the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Press your scroll lock key to toggle the scroll lock feature and that will usually fix it.

If you have a laptop computer with a smaller keyboard that doesn’t have a scroll lock or scrlk button, it’s usually the FN-K key combination on Lenovo laptops, or FN-C on HP laptops. Who needs standards? Here’s some advice on finding scroll lock on various laptop keyboards. MacOS users with a Mac extended keyboard can hold the shift key and hit F14. If that doesn’t work, try Command-F14.

If you have a Windows computer, you can also use the Windows on screen keyboard. Press your Windows key on your keyboard, then type in on-screen keyboard and hit enter. That should launch the on-screen keyboard applet. Click on the scroll lock key to toggle off that option, then close the app to go back to Excel.

If this tip helped you, I have a collection of a few dozen more Office tips and fixes I’ve collected over the years here.

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