How to Remove Hidden Links in Excel

This guide will explain how to remove hidden links from your Excel worksheet.

External links may cause Excel to pull data from outside sources. Because of threats such as viruses and data leaks, all external links must be handled carefully.

In Excel, cells can be formatted to link to a particular file or web page. While these cells are often formatted in blue, it’s still possible for some links to appear as if they were regular text.

Another type of hidden link is the external reference. These refer to cells that have values that are linked to another workbook. For example, the formula =SUM([data.xlxs]Sheet1!A5:A15) is trying to find the total range of values outside the current workbook.

Since it’s not directly obvious that these cells use external data, we may consider them a hidden link.

Why should we be cautious of hidden links?

There is a reason why Excel alerts the user when there are external references in a document. The presence of possible hidden links to other worksheets may be a vector for macro viruses.

These viruses are a type of computer malware that uses the same language as macros in Excel.

Because of this threat, it’s best to remove links to external sources if you believe that there should be no reason for data to be pulled from outside the sheet.

Now that we have a grasp on when to remove hidden links in Excel, let’s learn how to use it and work on an actual sample spreadsheet.



The following section provides several examples of how to remove hidden links in Excel. We will also go into detail about the formulas and tools used in these examples.

First, let’s take a look at an example of a spreadsheet with unnecessary hyperlinks.

In the example below, we have a dataset with fields containing emails and URLs. Some of these cells have a hyperlink format already. The user can use the Remove Hyperlink feature to undo the hyperlink formatting.

remove hidden links in Excel


In the example below, we have a hyperlink that links to an external file. Excel may notify the user with a security notice if it finds hyperlinks connected to external sources.

external links in Excel are a security concern


In the example below, we have a table that contains external references to the file unknown_file.xlsx. The user can use the Break Links option to convert these external references into text or numerical data.

remove hidden links in Excel


Do you want to take a closer look at our examples? You can make your own copy of the spreadsheet above using the link attached below. 

Use our sample spreadsheet to look at examples of external links. If you’re ready to try removing these links yourself, head over to the next section to read our step-by-step breakdown on how to do it!



This section will guide you through each step needed to remove hidden links in Excel. You’ll learn how we can use the Remove Hyperlink option, and the Break Links feature to remove external links in your spreadsheet.

Follow these steps to remove hidden links in Excel:

  1. First, let’s try to remove hyperlinks from your Excel spreadsheet. Select the cell with the hyperlink you want to remove. In this example, we’ll remove the link found in cell D2.
    cells with links
  2. Right-click on the selected cell and click on the option Remove Hyperlink found at the bottom of the context menu.
    use remove Hyperlink in Excel
  3. The hyperlink should now be removed from the cell.
    hyperlink remove
  4. Let’s try removing all hyperlinks in our dataset. Select any cell in your dataset and type the shortcut Ctrl+A to select the entire dataset.
    select all to remove hidden links in Excel
  5. Right-click on the range and click on the option Remove Hyperlink found at the bottom of the context menu.
    again use the remove hyperlinks button
  6. Your dataset should now be clear of unnecessary hyperlinks.
    remove hidden links in Excel
  7. For cases where cells are referencing other workbooks, we will have to break the link using a different process. In the Data tab, click on the option Edit Links.
    click on Edit links button
  8. In the Edit Links dialog box, you will find a list of sources that are linked to your current worksheet. In the example below, we’ve discovered that we have several formulas referencing cells in another worksheet. Select the source from the table view and click on the option Break Link.
  9. A prompt will appear, warning that the action will permanently remove the formulas in the affected sheets. Click on Break Links to proceed with the action.
    remove hidden links in Excel
  10.  The affected cells should now have the actual numerical values rather than using a link to another worksheet.
    external reference to numerical data

These are all the steps you need to remove hidden links in Excel.



This step-by-step guide should provide you with all the necessary information to begin using this function.

This guide has explained how to remove hyperlinks and external references from your sheet. Removing unnecessary links from your sheet can help protect your device from harmful malware.

These methods are just one example of the many Excel functions you can use to improve your spreadsheets. Our website offers hundreds of other functions and methods to help you get more out of Microsoft Excel.

With so many other Excel functions available, you can find one that works best for your use case.

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