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I have an Excel sheet containing the results of 66000 test cases. Or, at least it should...

Now, because I was running the tests asynchronously and kept stopping and starting I had the foresight to make sure the test numbers were put in the output. Now, having used Excel 2007's Remove Duplicates feature based on those test numbers I find I have 65997 rows of data. So three of them are missing.

The job here is to locate the missing task numbers.

The test numbers are in column A, in ascending order, and there are guaranteed to be no duplicates. Other data is placed in other columns, and these must remain with their test number.

  |    A
1 | testNum
2 | 1
3 | 2
4 | 3
5 | ...

Assume there are too many test cases to do this search manually, as I have another data set of closer to a million items that I'm going to have to do a similar job on soon.

I could solve this with VBA, but wonder if there's a more straightforward solution that I'm missing?

share|improve this question
IMO, VBA is the straight forward method. You don't have just jump through 10 dialog boxes, and click 5 checkboxes to get it done. Just type. – surfasb Nov 8 '11 at 9:56
A formula will work too, without any clicking. See my answer below. – kopischke Nov 9 '11 at 0:23
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Assuming your data is in Column A and begins on row 2, select a range in a free column starting on row 2 and including at least as many rows as you should have results (this is important: if your range includes less cells than your total sequence, the listing of missing results will be truncated)1. In the formula bar – not directly in the cells! – insert the following formula:


– note this needs to be written on one line; the indentation is just for the sake of readability here. Store it as an array formula by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Enter. If you did this correctly, the formula will display enclosed in braces and Excel will complain when you try to edit single cells in the array range.

For the values in column A of the screenshot below, the formula stored as an array formula in B2:B21 (20 rows because the complete sequence would be 1 to 20) will return the following values in column B:

Screenshot of the formulaic listing of missing values in a sequence

As you can see, these are the numbers missing in the sequence (highlighted in the screenshot).

  1. you can err on the generous side when selecting the range to apply as long as the ROW(A1:AXXXXX) reference includes exactly a number of rows equal to your total sequence (66000 rows in your example, hence A1:A66000).
share|improve this answer
This works, +1 and tick. However, a warning to all those who try to use this; the calculation are very slow on my 66000-size data set, we're talking several minutes for four cells of array formula to return to me my three missing test case numbers. Still, I'd rather drop the formula and go check my email, etc while Excel chews up a single CPU core for several minutes than do it by hand, so Win!. Also, you can (as I did) do this a cell at a time, instead of via a large range. Given the slow speed, I'd probably recommend this approach. – DMA57361 Nov 9 '11 at 19:24
Yup, performance of array formulas is abysmal on large datasets. Seeing this is a once and done operation, though, I thought that would be acceptable (should have added a disclaimer, tho). – kopischke Nov 9 '11 at 20:17

In an empty column (lets assume Z) starting at row 2 put a formula, and copy down for all used rows


Search in column Z for FALSE. will find the test on the row after the missing number

Also you can try


share|improve this answer
This will return FALSE for every single row. – kopischke Nov 9 '11 at 0:22
@kopischke thx, too I was fast on the typing – chris neilsen Nov 9 '11 at 2:45

This solution requires two helper columns. In Column B, fill down consecutive numbers from 1 to 66,000. In C2 (in the first row of data), enter


In C3, enter


Fill down C3 to C66001.

From here you can filter B:C to for records with a value of 1 in Column C. This will show the missing numbers.


If you want to get fancy on the last step, you can use this array formula and fill down as far as you require:


Enter the formula with Ctrl+Shift+Enter. This example was entered in Row 2. You will need to adjust the ROW()-1 in the formula such that this is equal to 1 for the first entry. For example, if you start your list of missing numbers at E5, you'll need to change it to ROW()-4. [Thanks to @kopischke for this method: link]

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the link :). Your formula, however, will only correctly return the first gap. It doesn’t take multi-value gaps into account either. For an improved variant, see my answer. – kopischke Nov 8 '11 at 12:38
@kopischke Ah, you're right about it missing out on consecutive missing numbers. That's what I get for using test data that's not general enough. :-/ – Excellll Nov 8 '11 at 22:12

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