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How To Use Solver In Excel?

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Reviewed by: Sara Madsen
How To Use Solver In Excel?

As businesses continue to grow and evolve, the need for effective data analysis becomes increasingly crucial. One of the best tools for analyzing data is Excel, which has been widely used for decades, and its Solver feature in particular, is a powerful resource that can help you solve complex optimization problems efficiently. Solver is a free add-in tool in Excel that allows users to find the best solution to a problem by changing specific input values. In this article, we will explore the essential steps required to use Solver in Excel efficiently, so you can save time and maximize your productivity. Whether you are an accountant, analyst or a business owner, this guide will provide you with the tools you need to make data-driven decisions that can help improve your bottom line.

1. Understanding Solver in Excel: A Brief Introduction to Optimization

Solver is a powerful tool for optimization in Excel which helps users find the best possible solution for a specific problem. By using Solver, users can easily find the optimum solution to problems with multiple variables and complex relationships between them. It is an add-in program in Excel that provides a set of special functions to solve problems involving linear and nonlinear programming, integer programming, and global optimization.

Optimization involves finding the best solution to a problem among a set of alternatives available. In business and finance, optimization problems are common, such as minimizing costs, maximizing profits, minimizing risk, or maximizing efficiency. Solver is a tool that is widely used to solve these problems, and it works by adjusting the values of the input cells or variables, subject to constraints, to achieve the desired outcome.

With Solver, users can quickly optimize complex models with multiple constraints and variables. Solver can be used for a wide range of applications, including financial modeling, project management, resource allocation, and production planning. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to set up and use, even for those who are not familiar with optimization techniques.

2. How to Install Solver in Microsoft Excel and Enable it

Before diving into how to use Solver in Excel, it’s important to ensure you have it installed and enabled. Solver is an add-in feature in Excel, which means you have to activate it manually. Here’s how to install Solver and enable it in Excel:

Step 1: Install Solver Add-in

  • Go to the File tab in Excel and select “Options.”
  • In the Excel Options window, select “Add-Ins” on the left sidebar.
  • At the bottom of the window, in the “Manage” dropdown, select “Excel Add-ins” and click “Go.”
  • In the “Add-Ins” window, check the box next to “Solver Add-in” and click “OK.”

Step 2: Enable Solver

  • Go to the “Data” tab in Excel and click on “Solver” in the “Analysis” section.
  • If Solver is not visible in the “Analysis” section of the “Data” tab, you may need to customize the ribbon by right-clicking on the ribbon and selecting “Customize the Ribbon.” In the Excel Options window, under “Choose commands from,” select “All Commands.” Scroll down until you see the “Solver” option, select it, and click “Add,” then “OK.”

Once Solver is installed and enabled, you can start using it to optimize solutions to complex problems in Excel. In the next section, we’ll look at defining the problem by setting objectives, constraints, and variables in Solver.

3. Defining the Problem: Setting the Objective, Constraints, and Variables in Solver

In Solver, defining the problem involves deciding what needs to be optimized, what constraints exist and what are the variables involved. The objective of the problem is the desired outcome, which can be maximizing or minimizing a certain value. Constraints refer to the limits in which the problem needs to be worked through.

The first step to defining the problem in Solver is to identify the objective. This can be the profit of a business, cost of a project, or any other measurable factor. Once the objective is defined, the next step is to identify the constraints. This includes any limitations on resources, time, or other factors that can affect the outcome. These constraints need to be in place in order for the Solver to provide an optimal solution.

Next, the variables involved in the problem need to be identified. These are the factors that can be changed in order to optimize the objective. Variables can include anything from product prices to employee schedules. In Solver, these variables are transformed into cells on the worksheet.

Overall, setting the objective, constraints, and variables correctly is crucial for Solver to provide an accurate solution. It is important to analyze the problem thoroughly and gather all necessary information in order to avoid errors in the Solver output. In the next section, we will guide you through the steps of configuring Solver options and running the Solver to get optimal solutions.

4. Solving the Problem: Configuring Solver Options and Running the Solver

After defining the problem and setting up the objective, constraints, and variables, it’s time to configure the Solver options and run it. In this step, we will be adjusting the Solver’s settings to ensure it delivers accurate results. Below are the steps outlined to configure Solver options and run the Solver in Excel.

4.1 Configuring the Solver Options

To configure Solver Options in Excel, go to the Data tab and click on Solver. In the Solver Parameters dialog box, ensure that all the parameters are set as per the defined problem. The changing cells’ ranges should be the variable cells, which were specified in the previous step. The constraint cells should also be inputted.

Under the Options tab, you can adjust the iteration and precision levels. It’s best to start with the default settings unless the problem requires more precision or iterations. When testing Solver, it’s recommended to tick “Save model in” option so that the Solver can save the results for future analysis or modifications.

4.2 Running the Solver

Once the Solver parameters are set up, click on the Solve button to start the optimization process. The Solver will analyze all the possible combinations of the variables and constraints to achieve the best possible result. Sometimes, the Solver may not find the optimal solution or may take too long to solve the problem.

If this happens, you can stop the Solver, refine the input data, and run it again. When Solver finds the solution, you will receive a Solver Results message box containing the optimized values of the variable cells.

In conclusion, Solver is a powerful tool in Excel that enables users to find the optimal solution to complex problems. With Solver, users can save time and make data-driven decisions by getting the best possible outcome. By understanding Solver’s different settings and running it correctly, users can maximize its potential and unlock its full functionality.

5. Analyzing the Results: Interpreting the Solver Output and Making Decisions

After running Solver in Excel, you’ll want to analyze the results to ensure that they’re accurate and meet your goals. This requires interpreting the output and making decisions based on the information presented to you. Here are some steps to follow:

Step 1: Evaluate the Solver Output

When Solver completes, it provides a summary of the optimal solution. The output includes the variable values, the objective value, and any other information you requested. Take some time to carefully review this information and ensure that it makes sense.

Step 2: Assess Sensitivity

Solver can also provide sensitivity analysis to determine how changes in the constraints or variables affect the optimal solution. Sensitivity analysis is important for assessing the robustness of your solution and identifying any unexpected consequences of changes.

Step 3: Make Decisions

Once you have analyzed the Solver output and assessed sensitivity, you can make decisions based on the results. If the solution meets your objectives and is robust to changes, you can implement it confidently. Alternatively, if you’re not happy with the results, you’ll need to revise your objective, constraints, or variables, and run Solver again.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you’re interpreting the Solver output correctly and making informed decisions based on the provided information. With practice, you’ll become more comfortable with optimization and utilizing Solver in Excel to improve productivity in your organization.

6. Troubleshooting Common Issues with Solver in Excel

After installing and enabling Solver in Microsoft Excel, you may encounter a few common issues when using this optimization tool. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you overcome these issues.

Solver Results Not Changing

If your Solver results are not changing, it could be due to the following reasons:

Issue 1: Solver is not set up correctly – Ensure that you have defined the problem correctly including setting the objective, constraints, and variables.

Issue 2: Solver is stuck in a loop – To overcome this, try changing the solution method, iteration limit, or convergence value.

Issue 3: Incorrect data input – Check if all data input is correct including checking for typos or mistakes.

Solver Not Finding a Solution

If Solver is not finding a solution, it could be due to the following reasons:

Issue 1: Unsolvable problem – Ensure that the problem is solvable within the given constraints.

Issue 2: Incorrect Solver options – Try different Solver options such as changing the algorithm or using different solving methods.

Issue 3: Infeasible solution – Check if the constraints are not conflicting or unrealistic.

By following these tips, you can troubleshoot common issues that may arise when using Solver in Excel and ensure that you are maximizing your productivity by being able to find the optimal solutions for your problems.

People Also Ask

What is Solver in Excel?

Solver is an add-in tool in Microsoft Excel that can help you find the best solution for a particular problem by modifying the values of selected cells to meet specific criteria or constraints.

How do you activate Solver in Excel?

To activate Solver in Excel, you need to go to the Data tab and click the Solver button in the Analysis group. If Solver is not installed, you can download it under the Add-ins tab in the Excel Options.

What problems can Solver solve in Excel?

Solver can solve various types of problems, including linear and nonlinear optimization problems, constraint-based problems, and decision-making problems.

What are the steps to use Solver in Excel?

The basic steps to use Solver in Excel are: 1) Define the problem, 2) Set up the worksheet, 3) Configure Solver, 4) Run Solver, and 5) Interpret the results.

What are the limitations of Solver in Excel?

Solver in Excel has some limitations, such as limitations on the number of decision variables and constraints, limited support for nonlinear and non-smooth problems, and sensitivity to starting values and constraints.


Solver in Excel is a powerful tool that allows you to find optimal solutions for various types of problems. By following the right steps and configuring Solver properly, you can easily tackle complex optimization and decision-making problems. However, it’s important to keep in mind the limitations of Solver and how to work around them to achieve accurate and reliable results.



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