Yes, Excel has maximum row limits! According to Microsoft Support (latest version): Excel's maximum row limit is 1,048,576. Columns are limited to 16,384. This applies to Excel for Microsoft 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, and Excel 2007. If you're searching for a workaround keep reading.
Back in 2007 just over a million rows seemed like a lot of data. Fast forward to today, and it seems like almost nothing. Over the last 15 years the cost of storage and compute power has plummeted, while access to these resources via the cloud has never been easier. Today we're able to log and store data on just about everything - nearly every click, mouse movement and system transaction is logged - and one million rows ain't much.
The latest versions of Excel (Office 365) are cloud-based, so why can't Excel exceed these limitations? Here are a few likely reasons:
Optimization - as a fully functional and powerful spreadsheet application, it unlikely that Excel could support all of it's current features with such large files, on what is likely a largely pre-cloud code base. Excel is optimized to use your local system resources; not the resources of the cloud. It's good for small amounts human generated data, but woefully limited when it comes to massive machine logs. As anyone who's used Excel knows, once you exceed a few hundred thousand rows, performance begins to become painfully slow.
General Use vs Purpose Built - Excel started as a desktop financial analysis tool and has been expanded upon greatly over the years. While it's become an all-purpose analysis tool, it's had to sacrifice efficiency at scale. As the old adage says, you can't be all things to all people. Or perhaps more to the point, you can't be good at everything. Gigasheet by contrast is a system built to analyze huge datasets, so we can optimize our software for these use cases. Excel on the other-hand is built to cater to many different use cases from finance, to basic statistics, to organization and project management.
Excel Isn't A Database - Today's modern data stores scale incredibly well, and most newer databases were built with cloud architecture in mind (i.e., they can scale horizontally). While Excel offers many database-like features, it really isn't a database. Microsoft would much prefer you use one of their fully featured databases like Microsoft SQL Server or even Access, along with Power BI for your big data analysis needs.
How to get around Excel's max row limit?
There are plenty of solutions that are likely to help you solve your row problem. We detail popular approaches in our blog on How To Open Big CSV files, but most of them involve setting up a database, coding or other wonky workarounds. What if you don't want to do that, or can't? If you need to exceed the max Excel rows, give Gigasheet a try (it's free)! If you can use Excel, you can use Gigasheet...and it scales to millions and even billions of rows 🤩...and you don't even need to know how to use a database.
Check out this short video to see how it works: How To Open A Big CSV The Easy Way