Pivot Table Defaults to Count Instead of Sum & How to Fix It

Bottom line: Learn how to get the pivot table to default to a Sum calculation instead of Count when the source data field contains numbers.

Skill level: Beginner

Video: How to Default the Pivot Table Calculation Type to Sum

Watch in full screen HD or on Youtube.

Why does the Pivot Table Default to Count?

One of the most common questions I see on my free 3-part video series on pivot tables & dashboards is, “Why does the pivot table default to Count instead of Sum when I add a field to the values area?”

Why the Pivot Table Calculation Type Defaults to Count

Well, Pivot Tables have some rules on which calculation type will be selected when we add a field to the Values area.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • If ANY cell in the column (field) contains text, blanks, or errors (#N/A, #REF!, #VALUE!, #NAME?), then the calculation type will default to COUNT.
  • If ALL cells in the column (field) contain numbers, then the calculation type will default to SUM.

Now that we know the rules, we can prevent this error by cleaning up our data.

How to Prevent the Default Count Calculation Type

Let's take a look at 3 ways to make sure the calculation type defaults to Sum.

1. Replace Blank Cells with Zeros

In the video above I show a data set that contains blanks in the Revenue column.  Since there are blanks in this column, the pivot table calculation type defaults to Count.

Replace Blank Cells with Zeros in Excel to Fix Pivot Table Default to Count Sum Issue

One quick way to fix this is to replace the blank cells with a zero (0) value.  Here are instructions on how to find & replace all blanks in a column.

  1. Select all cells in the column or Table (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+Space Bar).
  2. Open the Replace Window from the Home tab on the Ribbon in the Find & Select menu (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+H).
  3. Delete everything in the Find What text box so it finds blank cells.
  4. Type a zero 0 in the Replace With box.
  5. Press the Replace All button (keyboard shortcut: Alt+A).
  6. Refresh the pivot table (keyboard shortcut: Alt+F5).
  7. Add the field to the Values area of the pivot table.

The calculation type should default to a Sum calculation if all cells in the data source column are numbers.

2. Replace Errors with Zeros

Blank cells are the most common cause that I see for calculation type defaulting to Count.  However, cells that contain text or errors can also cause this problem.

If the source data column contains a formula that is returning errors, we can use an IFERROR function to return a zero instead of the error.  Of course we will want to determine why the error is occurring in the first place.

My free 3-part video series on the lookup formulas has an entire video dedicated to learning how to prevent and fix errors with formulas like VLOOKUP and INDEX/MATCH.

Lookup Formula Errors

3. Convert Text to Numbers

Sometimes values in cells look like numbers, but the numbers are stored as text.  This is a common issue when you are importing data into Excel from another system.  In this case we will need to convert the text to numbers first.  Checkout my article on keyboard shortcuts to convert text to numbers to learn more about these techniques.

Number Stored as Text Error

PivotPal's Auto Sum/Count Feature

At the end of the video I also explain how PivotPal can save time with this issue.  PivotPal has it's own rules for adding a field to the values area, and does NOT default to count if the column contains blanks.

If the column contains numbers and blanks, PivotPal will default the calculation type to Sum when we add the field to the values area using the PivotPal window.  This is one way to get around this annoying issue without having to modify the source data.

The PivotPal Add-in is packed with features that will save you time when working with pivot tables in Excel.  Please click the link below to learn more and give PivotPal a try today.

Click here to learn more about The PivotPal Add-in

Free Webinar on Pivot Tables

Right now my good friend John Michaloudis from My Excel Online has a pivot table webinar going on.  This is a free hour long training on how to get started with pivot tables in Excel.

Here are some of the Excel skills you will learn:

  • How to set up your data and create a Pivot Table in less than 3 minutes which will increase your efficiency!
  • How to put your key business metrics like Year to Date Sales, Monthly Variations and Top 10 Customers in an interactive Pivot Table, taking your analytical skills to another level;
  • How to create an Interactive Dashboard with Slicers & Pivot Charts that will WOW your boss and get you noticed by top Management;
  • Pivot Table tips & special Bonus attendee material that you can keep and use to become better at Excel straight away which will skyrocket your personal development!

Click the link below to register for the free webinar and pick a time that works for you.

Click here to register for the free webinar on pivot tables

What Other Issues Cause the Calculation to Default to Count?

Is your calculation type still defaulting to Count?  This is typically due to one or more cells that are NOT numbers.  Please leave a comment below with any other issues that I might have missed, or any questions you have.  Thank you! 🙂

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Jon Acampora

Welcome to Excel Campus! I am excited you are here. My name is Jon and my goal is to help you learn Excel to save time with your job and advance in your career. I've been an avid Excel user and VBA developer for 10+ years. I am also a Microsoft MVP. I try to learn something new everyday, and want to share this knowledge with you to help you improve your skills. When I'm not looking at spreadsheets, I get outdoors and surf. :) more about me

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 11 comments
Amin - May 16, 2018

thank you so much you helped me to save a huge problem 🙂

Ian - January 4, 2017

Hi Jon,

This article is a very helpful and well-assembled tutorial on solving this most intractable and irksome of pivot table issues that often pops up several hours in to assembling a complex report. Thank you very much for collecting and arraying all of this info in one single very useful source, most appreciated!

    Jon Acampora - January 5, 2017

    Thanks Ian! I’m happy to hear you found it useful. Excel has a lot of little quirks like this that can be somewhat of a mystery sometimes.

Asif - December 23, 2016

Dear Jon,

All of your videos that I have watch are very informative and easy to understand. You are really doing great service to all Excel users.

    Jon Acampora - December 27, 2016

    Thank you Asif. I really appreciate that. 🙂

Tom Fontanella - December 22, 2016

Another Excel annoyance explained … thanks. I don’t know if you have covered this topic before, but tips on cleaning up a pivot table – e.g. formatting, fixing column width, etc. – would be helpful.

    Jon Acampora - December 27, 2016

    Thanks Tom! I will add that to the list. 🙂

Dan Shaffer - December 20, 2016

This is useful. I had this problem a few weeks ago. Eventually, I identified the issues as having to do with blank cells, but didn’t go about fixing it.

Brian Kerester - December 20, 2016


Thank you for sharing your knowledge regarding excel – very helpful and greatly appreciated. I have a question for you:

I am seeking to clean up my CRM data base which includes approximately 9,000 company names. I have exported the data into an excel file so I can quickly identify various issues. I want to identify and eliminate duplicates and near duplicate entries. I have used the duplicate function within the Conditional Formatting function and it has color coded various duplicates. However, it only identifies exact text duplicates, which is understandable and valuable. I would like to use a Fuzzy Logic Duplicate Finder function to find near approximates for entries which are similar, yet different only by a character, a period or coma or abbreviation. I saw that this function is available for the Windows version of excel 2016. I am using a mac and have the 2016 version of excel. Can you provide me with guidance on how I can locate near duplicate – with with an established function or through a series of steps? Many thanks, Brian Kerester

    Jon Acampora - December 20, 2016

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for nice feedback! I don’t know of an add-in for the Mac that does this. However, there is a fuzzy match add-on for Google Sheets. I have not tried it, but might be worth a shot. I hope that helps.


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